Part of Heritage

Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism

The council will provide advice on ways to support, inspire and promote cultural diversity and inclusion in Alberta.

Overview

The Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism will advance government’s ongoing work in building welcoming, diverse and inclusive communities.

The council is comprised of up to 30 members, including 2 co-chairs, who represent the diversity of Alberta. Council members will engage in respectful dialogue with individuals and organizations to better understand the needs and concerns of Alberta’s diverse communities.

Members will be appointed for terms of up to 3 years and are eligible for reappointment up to a maximum of 7 consecutive years of service.

The council will be established for 7 years, after which time it will be reviewed.

Role and responsibilities

The council will explore ways to:

  • promote cross-cultural understanding and celebrate Indigenous and multicultural communities
  • support innovative cultural initiatives and opportunities for diverse social interactions
  • increase educational initiatives and public awareness about the importance of diversity
  • increase opportunities for Indigenous people and newcomers to share their skills and talents and contribute to the growth of Alberta’s economy
  • create a province where everyone feels they are included and their cultures and heritage are valued

Council members

  • Sumita Anand – co-chair
  • Dr. Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika – co-chair
  • Alphonse Ndem Ahola
  • Ebenezer Sakyi Asare
  • WaLe Balogun
  • Sherrisa Celis
  • Dr. Thomas Ping Keung Cheuk
  • SunJong Chun
  • Thomas Eapen
  • Dr. Dahlia ElShafie-Mostafa
  • Ali Eltayeb
  • Dr. Payman Esmaeili
  • Erick Estrada
  • Rekha Gadhia
  • Jackie Halpern, KC
  • Jibril Ibrahim
  • Rolando Inzunza
  • Justin Jimmy
  • Sheliza Kluge
  • Dr. Holly Mah
  • Ali Rakka
  • Basir Saleh
  • Dr. Gurbachan Singh Paul
  • Buta Singh Rehill
  • Dr. Virginia Sumalinog
  • Rick Walters
  • Dr. Hussein A. Warsame
  • Charlie Wu
  • Bo Yang

Council member biographies

Read the council members' biographies.

  • Council co-chair biographies

    Sumita Anand, Co-Chair

    A marketing, consulting and project management professional with over 20 years experience, Sumita is currently vice president of infrastructure and business development with Above and Beyond Care in Calgary. She co-founded the South Asian Division of the Lions Club International in Calgary and is an Alberta Centennial Award winner. She holds has a bachelor of science from the University of Kolkata and a master of business administration from the Indian Institutes of Management.

    Dr. Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika, Co-Chair

    An elder, activist and resource person to community, service and government agencies, Philomina is also a professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Alberta. She champions initiatives that enhance the well-being of Black people, immigrants and the broader public. Additionally, Philomina was also a founding member of the Women Advocacy Voice of Edmonton, a Norquest College board member, and currently serves as vice-chair of the Africa Centre’s governing board. Philomina holds a doctorate in the foundations of education from Dalhousie University.

  • Council member biographies

    Alphonse Ndem Ahola

    Alphonse is the executive director of La Francophonie Albertaine Plurielle, which is the primary francophone settlement agency serving Edmonton, Fort McMurray and Red Deer. He serves on numerous boards and committees, including the Comité consultative national en éstablissement francophonie, a review panel at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, and the Canadian Council for Refugees. He holds master of arts degrees in cultural anthropology and sociology of development, and has been recognised for his work enhancing inclusion and human rights.

    Ebenezer Sakyi Asare

    A pharmacist serving Brooks and Medicine Hat, Ebenezer is also a Medicine Hat College board member. He is passionate about leadership, giving back to his community as a youth mentor. Eben holds a pharmacy degree from Ghana.

    WaLe Balogun

    WaLe has worked in engineering, international business management, financial services, and planning for over 30 years. Through this work, WaLe has become well versed in strategic planning; diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; and financial leadership through transitionary phases. As a financial fiduciary, WaLe has built partnerships with several corporate clients. He holds a bachelor of science, graduate diploma in business administration, and a master of business administration.

    Sherrisa Celis

    A program manager with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, Sherrisa has been working with immigrant seniors since 2006. She is a respected community leader who serves in multiple board roles, including civilian co-chair of the Calgary Police Service Asia Advisory Board. Sherrisa holds a bachelor of science (accountancy) from Concordia College, Philippines; a bachelor of laws from the University of the East, Philippines; and completed an immigration practitioner certificate course at Bow Valley College. In 2022, Sherrisa received the Minister’s Seniors Service Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal.

    Dr. Thomas Ping Keung Cheuk

    Thomas is the founding president of the Alliance of Calgary Community Ethnic Support Society, a non-profit organization that helps visible minorities. He is also a co-chair of Diversecities, a charitable organization dedicated to supporting newcomers and vulnerable populations. An active member of the community, Thomas’s work extends to the Lions Club International where he is a Progressive Melvin Jones Fellow and the Chair of Global Causes – Hunger for District C2. He holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Manitoba and is a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal recipient.

    SunJong Chun

    After a career in Canadian food exports and the oil and gas industry, including Husky Energy and the Korea National Oil Company, SunJong is now the chief executive officer at Calgary’s CKBC Inc. He holds a bachelor of commerce from the Korea University Business School.

    Thomas Eapen

    Thomas has volunteered with numerous agencies in Edmonton, including his current roles as president of both the Canadian Kerala Cultural Association of Alberta and the Heritage Seniors Stop-In Centre. Thomas’s career spans more than 40 years, during which time he has worked in management and human resources, and as CEO of several companies, primarily in the commercial finance field. He holds designations in power engineering from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and telecommunications engineering from India.

    Dr. Dahlia ElShafie-Mostafa

    Dahlia is president and chief executive officer of Canadian Life Transformation Academy and president and chief executive officer of CLICK Coaching & Counselling Inc. She is a motivational public speaker and social change and influential community leader with extensive volunteer experience in the community, including for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Maskan women’s shelter, and the Rotary Club of Calgary Downtown. She has served on boards in Canada and Egypt, including her post as the elected vice-president academic and university affairs for the Post-Graduate Students’ Society at McGill University. Dahlia holds bachelor and master of science degrees in electronics and communications engineering from the Arab Academy for Science and Technology in Egypt and a doctorate in leadership, policy and change with a focus on counselling psychology from Walden University in Baltimore. Dahlia is the recipient of 57 national and international awards, including the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from the Governor General of Canada on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2018, the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal in 2022, and the Egyptian Embassy International Women’s Day Leadership Award in 2023.

    Ali Eltayeb

    Ali is an active member of the Africa Centre in Edmonton and helped found the Albrdi Association for Women and Children Advancement and the Sudanese Cultural League of Edmonton. Ali has served on the board of several not-for-profit organizations, as well as federal and provincial political boards. An entrepreneur, Ali is owner of several Liberty Tax Canada franchises in Edmonton. He earned his undergraduate degree and postgraduate from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario.

    Dr. Payman Esmaeili

    Payman is a senior research advisor in Calgary’s oil sector with over 20 years’ experience in industrial research, technology development and process engineering. In addition to over a decade in community service and fundraising for Alberta non-profits and charitable organizations, Payman is co-founder and president of a non-profit organization with 300 members. Payman holds a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Alberta and is a member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta.

    Erick Estrada

    Erick Estrada is an accomplished professional with experience in non-profit management, community leadership and advocacy. As executive director of the Alberta Avenue Business Association, Erick oversees events and activities that promote more than 200 diverse businesses in Edmonton. Passionate about promoting multiculturalism and inclusion, Erick has served as president of the Mexican RedGlobal in Alberta and Saskatchewan as well as operations director and board member for the Mexican Society of Edmonton. He holds a business administration diploma from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and a certificate in management information systems from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Rehka Gadhia

    Rekha is the chief program officer with FearIsNotLove (formerly Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter) that supports all people to live free from fear, neglect, violence and abuse. She has extensive experience working with immigrants and refugees through her work with Calgary Immigrant Women's Association and the Immigrant Education Society. Rekha holds a bachelor of science, a master of arts, and a master of business administration. In 2023, she received an International Women's Day – Woman of Distinction award.

    Jackie Halpern, KC

    A partner at McLeod Law LLP and King’s Counsel appointee, Jackie has been a leading practitioner in personal injury law for over 30 years. She has served as chair of the Canadian Bar Association Personal Injury Section and as president of the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association. Jackie is a member of the Calgary Jewish Community Foundation Board and previously sat on the board of Jewish Family Services and the Calgary Jewish Academy. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel by the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta in 2011 and received the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

    Jibril Ibrahim

    A leader within the Somali, Afro Canadian and Muslim communities in Edmonton, Jibril currently serves as president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society. He is a professional engineer who has worked in diverse industries in Canada and the United States. Jibril holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Windsor.

    Rolando Inzunza

    Rolando is a social innovator who immigrated to Canada as a political refugee in the 1970s. With over 25 years experience in philanthropy, communications and leadership, he has received numerous awards and honours for his work building and managing businesses and non-profit organizations. Rolando has also worked with many Indigenous communities and organizations across Canada on business development, communications and engagement activities. He has served on multiple boards to continue his passion for creating positive change.

    Justin Jimmy

    Justin has worked with First Nation groups across western Canada in different aspects of strategic governance. Throughout his career, Justin has gained knowledge of cultural protocols within First Nation governments and extensive experience as a board director. Justin’s work serving on various sub-committees has brought increased awareness to barriers faced by Indigenous people seeking higher education, including areas like accountancy and finance. He holds a bachelor of management from the University of Lethbridge and is a Certified Aboriginal Financial Manager.

    Sheliza Kluge

    As senior legal counsel, corporate and commercial Law at Enbridge Inc., Sheliza has years of experience working in the oil and gas sector. She is currently a member for both the Ismaili Council for Edmonton and the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation’s Future Impact Council. Additionally, Sheliza serves in Enbridge’s Legal Mentorship and Engineering Futures Mentorship Programs with a focus on diversity and inclusion. She holds a bachelor of law and master of business administration from Dalhousie University and a bachelor of commerce from the University of Alberta.

    Dr. Holly Mah

    An optometrist and community volunteer, Holly is the current past chair of the Chinatown and Area Business Association. She is also a director of the Mah Society and Foo Fung Cultural Society. Holly received a bachelor of science from the University of Alberta and a Doctor of Optometry with Distinction from Oregon’s Pacific University. She is owner of Luxe Eye Care, which employs 2 optometrists and 8 other staff.

    Ali Rakka

    Ali is the lead advisor and community liaison coordinator at Columbia College in Calgary. In that role, he supports more than 300 students annually in achieving their academic and career goals. Ali holds a human services professional diploma from Columbia College, a child development worker certificate from the Government of Alberta, and a career and academic advising certificate from University of Calgary Continuing Education. He is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal.

    Basir Saleh

    A dedicated community volunteer, Basir has extensive experience managing, directing, and leading diverse teams and initiatives. He has been involved with different charitable societies, helping newcomers integrate into Alberta, preserve their culture, and find meaningful employment. A practicing professional engineer and a recognized leader within the engineering industry, Basir has a bachelor of science in civil engineering from the University of Calgary.

    Dr. Gurbachan Singh Paul

    Retired from his position as associate professor of sociology at the University of Alberta, Gurbachan has served as an executive member of the Heritage Council of Alberta, chairman of the National Association of Asians in Canada, associate chairman on the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s Board of Governors, and a member of the Canadian Multicultural Council. Gurbachan was also a member of the team that advocated to former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to include multiculturalism in the preface of the revised British North America Act. He holds a bachelor of commerce from Punjab University, a master of business administration from the University of California, and a doctorate from the University of Oregon.

    Buta Singh Rehill

    Over the past 35 years, Buta has led numerous community-based initiatives, including sports tournaments and annual blood drive campaigns. Buta was also instrumental in the establishment of the Khalsa School Calgary where he served as founding director. The janitorial business Buta started in Edmonton in 1988 has grown considerably and now serves communities throughout Alberta.

    Dr. Virginia Sumalinog

    Virginia is a board member and officer of various organizations, including the Filipino-Canadian National Congress, Philippine Business Society of Alberta, and the Vismin Association in Alberta. Her work with these organizations has earned her awards from the Filipino Champions of Canada, Golden Balangay and the Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. A long-time teacher, Virginia has worked with Edmonton Catholic Schools, the American International School of Lagos in Nigeria, Sturgeon Lake School, and the Edmonton Islamic Academy. Along with her husband, Virginia is the owner and manager of the Ellwood Daycare and Out-of-School Care in Edmonton, which serves families from different nationalities and backgrounds. Virginia holds a doctorate in philosophy from Southwestern University.

    Rick Walters

    A Grey Cup champion, Rick gives back to his community by supporting numerous charities and youth sporting organizations. Born in Jamaica, Rick moved to Canada when he was six years old. He attended Simon Fraser University on a football scholarship, competing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, then played 11 seasons with the Canadian Football League (CFL). In 2002, Rick received the prestigious Tom Pate Memorial Award as CFL Man of the Year for outstanding contributions to the community. He holds a bachelor’s degree in general studies from Simon Fraser University.

    Dr. Hussein A. Warsame

    A former refugee from Somalia, Hussein has enjoyed a successful career in education. He is professor of the accounting area at the Haskayne School of Business and CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) Fellow in Taxation at the University of Calgary. Previously, he was director of Master of Public Policy at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy. Hussein has served in both the Senate and the General Faculty Council at the University of Calgary and on other boards. He has won awards for research and teaching, as well as the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal.

    Charlie Wu

    In his role as president of the Calgary Chinese Union Association, Charlie helps members and other Canadians create a better life for themselves and for Canada. Charlie has extensive experience working with government and non-profit organizations. In 2022, Charlie received a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal. He has a bachelor of science degree in nuclear physics for Tsinghua University in China and is a recently retired information technology professional.

    Bo Yang

    Bo is president of E.R. Bridge Express Logistics Ltd. Since 2017, he has served as the board president for the Henan Association of Alberta. From 2018 to 2020, he was a Chinese Professional and Entrepreneurs Association of Calgary board member. Bo holds a bachelor of management degree from the University of Lethbridge. In 2022, he received a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal for his valuable contributions to the province.

Compensation disclosure

Public sector bodies are required to post online the names and compensation paid to:

This is a requirement under the Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act. The postings are required by June 30 each year and will be maintained for 5 years.

News

Contact

Connect with council members, ask questions or provide comments:
Email: [email protected]

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