Countering Islamophobia: AGM 2021

an anti-racism initiative to showcase Islam and the Muslim population of Canada

Our Annual General Meeting for 2021 on the theme of “Countering Islamophobia” is scheduled to be held online on Thursday, 2 December, at 7:00 pm. VMS Chair, Dr John Borrows, will act as our MC for the evening. Please register early with EventBrite .

The first part of the AGM will be devoted to our theme, with a guest presentation by May Shihadeh. May is a Masters student at Royal Roads University in Intercultural and International Communication, a member of more than ten organizations in Greater Victoria, a Community Advocate representing the Muslim Community, and a Refugee expert, Settlement Worker, Interpreter, researcher and entrepreneur.

The second part of the meeting will be devoted to a short review of VMS activities and plans, and confirmation of the appointment of several new Directors. 

The Zoom link will be sent closer to the date to all those registered with EventBrite.

Indigenous Health: A Call to Action

Video presentation, 32 min.

VMS presented its first anti-Indigenous racism workshop, in collaboration with our Interfaith Liaisons Network, on October 25, 2021. Special thanks go out to Karen Pruden Shirley whose presentation is featured in the above video.

The online event looked at the 6 Truth & Reconciliation Commission Recommendations regarding health, briefly assessing challenges and progress, with discussion questions addressed in small groups.

Prepared by VMS for the workshop:  6 Health-related TRC Calls to Action  (Video, 2:44 min.)

Over 100 people registered, with 60 attending. Many expressed appreciation for the material, with several emphasizing the need for education for youth and adults across Canada on this and other Indigenous issues, to promote awareness and healing.

The workshop is one of a series being developed on various aspects of racism, including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Asian, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. The series is due to be released in early 2022 and can be used independently by small or large groups, either in person or online. Please sign up at victoriamultifaith@gmail.com to receive notification.

Anti-Indigenous Racism Workshop

VMS is happy to offer this innovative workshop that takes a look at Indigenous racism in Canada through the lens of health, rights, spirituality and social change.

The 90-minute interactive workshop uses video, presentation and discussion to appeal to all ages and backgrounds. It will be held online from 3:30 to 5 pm on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, offered free of charge through the Interfaith Liaisons Network of the Victoria Multifaith Society. Register here through EventBrite.

Karen Pruden Shirley

We’re very fortunate to have Karen Pruden Shirley to facilitate the workshop. Karen is a member of the Métis Nation from a large extended family with roots deep in the Red River Settlement in what is now known as Winnipeg.
Karen was the first Indigenous woman graduate of UBC Law School to be called to the Bar in British Columbia. In 1986, she and Sq’ewqeyl First Nations member and former BC Lieutenant Governor Steven L. Point founded the first BC law firm having both all-Indigenous lawyers and all-Indigenous staff. She later served for almost 25 years with the Department of Justice Canada, retiring in 2015.

The workshop is part of an anti-racism resource series currently being developed by VMS in conjunction with a collaborating organization in Montreal, the Centre for Civic Religious Literacy, with funding through the Vancouver Foundation and BC Multiculturalism. 

Changes to VMS board

There have been several recent changes in membership to the board of the Victoria Multifaith Society, with three members having been added since our last AGM.

David BatterhamOra StefanicJagir Virk
Sheila Flood

Thanks go out to several members who have served on the board: Sharon Kobrinsky, who has stepped down and been replaced by Ora Stefanic in the Jewish seat, and Parminder Virk, replaced by Jagir Virk in the Sikh seat. David Batterham currently occupies the Bahá’í seat, replacing Sheila Flood, who has been named the Society’s first Executive Director. The process of board membership is normally by recommendation of the outgoing members combined with board interviews and ratification at the following AGM. We are currently seeking Buddhist and Hindu nominees if VMS supporters would like to put names forward.

The board’s email address is victoriamultifaith@gmail.com Terms are typically 4 years. Present officers are: Chair, John Borrows; Secretary, Henri Lock; Treasurer, Ora Stefanic.

To our Indigenous and Muslim Neighbours

The Victoria Multifaith Society was shocked and saddened at the horrific revelation of the mass graves of Indigenous children in Kamloops. We have now been again deeply dismayed at the news of the hate-motivated act of violence against an innocent Muslim family in London, Ontario.

No words are adequate in times of such pain. As members of the Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, New Thought, Bahá’í, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Indigenous communities, we would like our Indigenous and Muslim neighbours to know that we stand with them in solidarity and shared humanity.

We wish to call these acts of racism, past and present, what they are. They have underlined the need to work all the harder in our anti-racism work and increase our efforts to create a healthier society that celebrates both our essential unity and our immense diversity.

We all need to look at our hearts, our speech, our actions, to be constantly vigilant against hatred or prejudice towards any group or individual, instead seeking in whatever large or small ways we can to heal these social ills.

In many of our sacred teachings, the Creator is the source of all love. The sentiment is not uncommon that “…love is light, no matter in what abode it dwelleth; and hate is darkness, no matter where it may make its nest”. No matter what our personal beliefs, may we all draw strength from our common spiritual values and seek to reflect that love.

VMS Receives Grants for Anti-Racism Projects

VMS was pleased to learn recently that we’ve been awarded a BC Multiculturalism grant for our provincial Anti-Racism project. MLA Murray Rankin called to announce the news personally, speaking online with several board members. The goal of the year-long project is to work with a group of about 10 diverse community leaders to adapt or co-create an anti-racism tool that can be used by a wide variety of communities and age groups.

This follows up on our Victoria-based project, Discussing Racism in Multifaith Spaces, begun in January and funded by the Vancouver Foundation. Both projects are being done in collaboration with the Montreal-based national non-profit Centre for Civic Religious Literacy (CCRL). VMS is very appreciative of both the Vancouver Foundation and BC Multiculturalism for their support, and happy to be given the opportunity to address this important issue.

Support for Jewish Community

In a recent incident at the Jewish Chabad near Topaz Park vandals left hateful anti-Semitic graffiti on the synagogue sign, on Holocaust Memorial Day. Our Jewish board member, Ora Stefanic, sent news of the graffiti, soon followed by the heartwarming photo below of the notes of support spontaneously left following the incident by concerned citizens. As Rabbi Meir Kaplan said, “The best response to darkness is to increase the light and so we plan to do.” VMS would like to express solidarity and support for our Jewish neighbours as they continue to live the spiritual values that contribute so much to our community.

AGM Guest Presentation

The Global 911 Call, Dr Mary-Wynne Ashford

Special thanks go to this year’s guest speaker at our AGM, Dr Mary-Wynne Ashford, for her presentation, “The Global 911 Call”. Below are links to the book mentioned and two websites recommended. Mary-Wynne will also be offering a weekly course on the same subject, A Just Global Order, on Monday evenings 26 April to 31 May, with Eventbrite registration.

Book: Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century

Websites: Global Governance Forum and UNPA Campaign: Giving the World’s Citizens a Voice