40 Years of Making Multiculturalism Matter
On November 22, 1975, the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS) was founded. This was the commencement of 40 years of making multiculturalism matter in Saskatchewan. The first Board included President, Klaus Burmeister; Vice-President, Ernie Chan; Treasurer, Mike Matich; Secretary, Adele Leia and Directors, Vijay Khakhar; Emy Kupsch and Tom Lawrence. MCoS became fully incorporated on August 11, 1976.
MCoS replaced the then defunct Saskatchewan Folk Arts Council with the role of providing a strong constitution with clear aims and objectives in order to represent the best interests of the regional multicultural councils in Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Yorkton and District, Saskatoon, Swift Current and Regina.
In its early days, MCoS was instrumental in developing the provincial motto From Many Peoples Strength. This motto expresses Saskatchewan’s multicultural heritage, the contributions of First Nations and Métis cultures, and the key role of immigration in the province.
In the years since its inception, MCoS has become a charitable non-profit organization committed to promoting, fostering, improving and developing multiculturalism in the cultural, economic, social and political life of Saskatchewan while working to achieve equality of all residents. We represent over 60 members, including regional multicultural councils, ethnocultural organizations, multifaith groups and other non-profits, municipalities and individuals who value multiculturalism.
Today, MCoS’ programming and investments include Strategic Initiatives, Intercultural Connections, Multicultural Education Initiatives, Sponsorships and various MCoS Initiatives such as Arrêt/Stop Racism Youth Leadership Workshops, and provincial campaigns for Saskatchewan Multicultural Week, Black History Month and March 21st. All programming and investments reflect the four multicultural values: Respect for Diversity, Recognition and Rejecting of Racism, Intercultural Connections and Integration and are rooted in the five streams of multicultural work: Cultural Continuity, Celebration of Diversity, Anti-Racism, Intercultural Connections and Integration.
40th Anniversary Gala
Bruno Kossmann, President of MCoS, commenced the Gala by bringing greetings on behalf of MCoS. He also introduced Nelson Bird, who we were fortunate to have as our Master of Ceremonies. Many people know Nelson Bird from his work with CTV as a host, producer, anchor and reporter for news and Indigenous Circle. Most recently, he became the assignment editor for CTV Regina.
We were honoured to have The Honourable Mark Docherty, Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, MLA and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Trent Wotherspoon and SaskCulture President, Pat Grayston attend the Gala and provide remarks. We were also grateful to have Senator Panna Merchant, MLA Laura Ross and Regina City Councillor Barbara Young in attendance.
It is important to recognize and appreciate the historical and current contributions of Saskatchewan’s indigenous people that are foundations for a respectful and harmonious shared future. In that vein, we acknowledged that we were meeting on land which is the traditional territory of the Cree, Saulteaux and Métis and part of Treaty 4 land. It is essential to remember that we are all treaty people – part of the relationship agreed to over 150 years ago.
Earlier in the day, MCoS held its annual general meeting where the 2015-16 Board of Directors was elected. At the Gala, the board members were introduced to the guests where they were recognized for their contributions to MCoS. The current board is President: Bruno Kossmann; Past President: Darlene Stakiw; Vice-President: Theo Tibo; Treasurer: Asit Sarkar; Secretary: Neeraj Saroj and Directors at Large: Renata Cosic; Muna DeCiman; Harvey Knight; Meka Okochi; Julio Torres Recinos and Xiao Feng Zhang. MCoS has strong leadership in this board to help fulfill its strategic plan. View the board bios and photos here: http://mcos.ca/board-of-directors/
The Gala planning committee, Titilayo Omolola, Justin Waldrop, Darlene Stakiw and Rhonda Rosenberg, was also acknowledged for all their hard work. One of the tasks this group undertook was to sift through hundreds of archived photographs and documents finding gems. The photos and documents were compiled into a special video presentation that took the audience on a 40 year journey of MCoS. View the 40th Gala Video here: http://mcos.ca/40years/
Special invitations to attend the Gala went to people who gave their time and great ideas to shape MCoS in each decade of the past 40 years. To our delight, many of them made the time to come to the Gala where they enjoyed the opportunity to reunite, reminisce and feel gratified in the ongoing success of MCoS even through some turbulent times over the years. It was a powerful and emotional event for most and they were grateful to be part of the celebration.
A Multicultural Meal
Saskatchewanians enjoy the flavours available in the province that comes with increasing diversity. It is interesting to note the evolution, window into history and cross-cultural influences of so many of these dishes. Food is an important part of culture and MCoS worked with numerous restaurants, caterers and others to provide an authentically multicultural meal. We provided the menu and explanations of each dish on sheets provided at all the tables. Guests thoroughly enjoyed the meal and appreciated the meal explanations.
We Are SK PSAs
We took the opportunity to showcase the We Are SK public service announcements (PSAs). We Are SK is a partnership between seven organizations – The Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan (AFCS), Conseil Culturel Fransaskois (CCF), the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS), the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, the Saskatchewan German Council (SGC), the Saskatchewan Organization for Heritage Languages (SOHL), and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Saskatchewan Provincial Council (UCC-SPC).
These PSAs showcase the contributions of the multicultural community to Saskatchewan culture and highlight the process newcomers have undergone in several generations to settle in Saskatchewan and integrate into their communities. It is important to demonstrate that people of many cultures contribute to the vibrancy of the cultural life in the province. The project however, does not exclusively focus on new arrivals; it includes stories of immigrants from years past, recollections shared by grandparents, experiences of immigrants or their descendants in First Nations communities, or stories of First Nations or Métis people making connections beyond their own cultural communities. Learn more and view PSAs here: http://www.wearesk.ca/
Honouring Four Decades of Past, Present and Future Trailblazers
In celebration of 40 years of making multiculturalism matter in Saskatchewan, we chose to honour several people who made a very significant difference in each decade of MCoS’ existence (see photo gallery at end of story).
1975-1984: Getting Started – these volunteers and an early Executive Director brought many regional councils together for common action. It was particularly exciting to have Ivy Stout In attendance, who was not only active from the beginning of MCoS, but was also on the committee that created the 1974 Saskatchewan Multicultural Act. In this decade, MCoS honoured Ivy Stout, Sandra Kerr, Hamid Javed, Nayyar Javed and Terry Mountjoy.
1985-1994: Growing Roots – The four very impressive volunteers we honour in the second decade not only built a solid foundation for this organization, but are still active today. In this decade, MCoS honoured Herman Slotsve, Krishan Kapila, Stan Ganczar and Shakeel Akhtar.
1995-2004: Building Community – This was an era of reaching out, trying new things and cultivating connections. In this decade, MCoS honoured Vivian Meikle, Orest Warnyca, Mavis Ashbourne-Palmer (who was in Jamaica and her award was accepted by Winnie and Barry Rodgers), Satpal Singh Virdi and Joan Meyer.
2005–2014: Making a Difference – This period saw a great deal of change for MCoS and we honoured people in roles including board members, staff and a stalwart supporter who supported building a new foundation to enable effective leadership. In this decade, MCoS honoured Jay Kalra, Darlene Stakiw, Heather Robison and Reggie Newkirk.
2015 & Beyond: Diversity is our Future – We chose to honour 6 individuals who are facilitators for our Arrêt/Stop Racism Youth Leadership Workshops. Not only are they taking leadership, but they are using it to nurture younger people to understand racism and see and find ways to deal with discrimination more positively. In this decade, MCoS honoured Madeeh Rehman, Kelsey Lindsay, Jebunnessa Chapola, Dwayne Drescher and Deanna Baje.
There are also a number of people we have lost along the way that we honoured in a short video entitled In Memoriam: Alex Balych, Betty Szuchewycz, Bryant Brouet, George Stushnoff, Jean Sternig, Marge Nainaar and Peter Saganski. These Trailblazers will never be forgotten for their contributions to MCoS and to multiculturalism. View the 40th Gala In Memoriam Video here: http://mcos.ca/40years/
MCoS has also greatly benefitted from staff working in other organizations and as consultants who have championed our important role and supported us. We took time to honour these external staff who have made significant contributions to MCoS over the years: Bob Friedrich, Dinesh Kashyap, Margaret Morrissette, Rose Gilks, and Dawn Martin.
Performance Highlights Intercultural Connections
The final part of our program was definitely a matter of “last, but not least”. Terrance Littletent is a world champion hoop dancer who never ceases to amaze audiences. Chancz Perry is a multidisciplinary artist renowned for his talents. Several years ago, they came together to create something new; something that grew from the cultural roots of each and took on its unique Saskatchewan beauty. They created a performance piece called Hip Hop Hoop Dance. This particular performance also featured award-winning drummer Brandon Key. The memorable performance included the two dancers teaching each other and finding cultural and dance commonalities and differences. The audience loved it and hope it can be shared with many more people.
Thank you to Our Supporters
MCoS was fortunate to have four Gala sponsors:
Their investment in MCoS, the gala event and multiculturalism is greatly appreciated and we hope to continue to work with them in the future.
MCoS also received overwhelming advertising support in our 40th Gala Program. We want to thank the following organizations and individuals who purchased ads in the Gala program:
- The AfricanNext Project Inc.
- African-Canadian Resource Network Saskatchewan Inc.
- Ambassadors for Christ Ministries Incorporated
- Association of United Ukrainian Canadians
- City of Humboldt
- Do It With Class Young People’s Theatre
- Igbo Cultural Association of Saskatchewan
- India Canada Association of Canada
- International Women of Saskatoon
- Kinmara Home Care
- Language Assessment and Referral Centre (LARC)
- Liberal MP Candidate, Louis Browne
- MLA Don Morgan
- MLA Laura Ross
- MP Ralph Goodale
- MWC Chartered Professional Accountants LLP
- NDP Caucus Regina
- NDP Caucus Saskatoon
- Ness Creek Music Festival
- Next Up Sask
- North American Interfaith Network
- Regina AfroFest
- Regina Immigrant Women Centre
- Regina Jazz Society Inc.
- Regina Public Library
- Saskatchewan African Heritage Museum Inc.
- Saskatchewan Archaeological Association
- Tim Otitoju of Platinum Realty
- Tomas Cook
- Uganda Canadian Association of Saskatchewan
- Wilkinson Communications & Consulting
- Yoruba Canadian Community Association
MCoS appreciates their support of our 40th Gala. You can view the program and ads here: http://mcos.ca/40years/
Last but never least, we are eternally grateful for the ongoing support from SaskCulture who is funded through Saskatchewan Lotteries – and this funding is a result of the people of Saskatchewan who support the lottery system year-in, year-out. Thank you. This funding and overall support is the cornerstone of MCoS’ existence on which we build our strategy and fulfill our mandate.
The Next 40 Years
While it is tough to match the fervour and grandiosity of a 40th anniversary celebration, the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan is not one to rest on its laurels. We have a Vision, Mission and Aims and Objectives to realize and use strategic plans to guide us.
The 2016-19 Strategic Plan was presented at the annual general meeting. It represents the next steps in moving forward to achieve our vision. The Board of Directors will finalize the plan in September with input provided from members at the AGM. Staff will then work on its implementation from April 2016 to March 2019.
Our office is undergoing an expansion that will increase its capacity and allow for growth. An Education Coordinator will start in September and greatly expand our programming and services. Our current Administrative Assistant and Communications Coordinator will continue their work to help achieve the ends of the strategic plan. Our Executive Director will continue building relationships and forming partnerships that enhance MCoS’ capacity in all areas and help it achieve its strategic plan.
Part of the new strategic plan will be a focus on building relationships between indigenous people, newcomers, and established people who came to Saskatchewan decades or generations ago. Another major element of the plan will be a comprehensive advocacy and public education strategy for multiculturalism. Needless to say, MCoS will not rest. There is much work to be done yet in the area of multiculturalism and diversity and we will lead the way with honour and gratitude for the opportunity to do so.
All photos were taken by Morris (Moe) Stakiw, husband of Past President, Darlene Stakiw. We are extremely lucky to have had his talent to capture memories of our 40th Gala. If you ever need a professional photographer, please consider Morris. Contact: (306) 621-7954 or email@example.com