Premier commits to strong, diverse communities; Opposition says “Danielle Smith and the UCP have failed cultural communities in Alberta, and the late establishment of a council in the weeks before an election won’t conceal those years of failure”

News Release

Premier commits to strong, diverse communities

Premier Danielle Smith has created the Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism, a council aimed at promoting multiculturalism in Alberta.

Alberta is home to people from different backgrounds, faiths and cultures. Alberta’s government believes that this multiculturalism is an intrinsic part of the fabric that knits the province together. The new Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism will provide advice to government to ensure that Alberta’s communities become stronger and more welcoming for everyone.

The new council will advise on ways to best support, inspire and promote cultural diversity, social inclusion and educational exchanges. This work will continue to help build inclusive communities where people feel appreciated, valued and respected.

“Alberta’s diversity is one of our greatest strengths and is a key pillar in building a brighter future for everyone in our province. Our goal is to continue shaping the province where everyone feels they belong, where a person’s culture, language and religion are not only respected but also valued. I’m looking forward to the work of the new council in helping us achieve this.”

Danielle Smith, Premier
Led by two co-chairs, Sumita Anand and Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika, the 30-member council will help guide Alberta’s government in efforts to build stronger relationships with the diverse communities represented in the province. By creating cross-cultural awareness, understanding and appreciation, Albertans will be better able to build new and stronger relationships.

“I am proud to announce the creation of the Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a key pillar of Alberta’s social and economic fabric. The community leaders on this council will leverage their valuable insights and experiences to better articulate the needs, issues and concerns of the diverse communities in our province. Alberta is a beacon of opportunity and hope. We attract people from all over the world to make this province their home. This announcement is a step towards ensuring Alberta continues to be a welcoming, inclusive and safe community for all Albertans.”

Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism
“Immigrant communities value their culture and heritage. I applaud Premier Smith and Minister Sawhney for creating this council so multicultural communities feel included to create government policies that would help assimilate them in Alberta’s society.”

Sumita Anand, co-chair, Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism
“As a scholar, an immigrant of African descent, a female elder and the vice-chair of Alberta’s largest Black-led organization, the Africa Centre, I take this call to action seriously and look forward to working with the co-chair and members of the council to support the Government of Alberta as it takes the necessary, deliberate and intentional steps to build a safe, vibrant and welcoming Alberta for us all. “

Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika, co-chair, Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism
Alberta Anti-Racism Action Plan
Alberta’s government categorically condemns all forms of racism and hate. Continuous engagement and actions will be taken to ensure multiculturalism remains a pillar of Alberta’s society and that everyone can call Alberta their home, free from discrimination and hate.

The Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism will help supplement the work of the Alberta Anti-Racism Advisory Council (AARAC), which was created in 2022.

In 2022, the AARAC released their report Alberta Anti-Racism Action Plan: Strengthening Diversity and Inclusion, which identified 28 action items for Alberta’s government to take to encourage Albertans to be more accepting of one another. To date, seven of the action items have been completed,12 are underway and nine are ready to be looked into and actioned. In addition to these items, Alberta’s government has taken action, including ending the practice of carding, reforming the Police Act, creating the Alberta Hate Crime Coordination Unit and the Community Liaison on Hate Crime, creating the Security Infrastructure Grant program, establishing anti-racism and ethnocultural grants, and providing ethnocultural grants for trade skills and job training.

In recognition of the importance of each initiative identified in the Alberta Anti-Racism Action Plan, Premier Smith has directed the relevant ministers to complete each action item by the end of fiscal year 2023-24. To accomplish this goal, Premier Smith has committed that full funding will be made available where necessary to complete the initiatives.

“Alberta has long been known as a multicultural mosaic made up of people from different cultures, languages and ethnicities. A land of opportunity, but one that still comes with challenges for racialized people in our province. Addressing racism, discrimination and inequality requires dedicated focus, and I am pleased that the Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism will be working alongside Alberta’s Anti-Racism Advisory Council to secure a brighter future for the next generation of Albertans.”

Kaycee Madu, Minister of Skilled Trades and Professions
Quick facts
Of the 4,177,720 people in Alberta:
27.8 per cent (1,161,420) are visible minorities
23.2 per cent (970,975) are immigrants
6.8 per cent (284,465) are Indigenous
The share of Albertans from different cultural backgrounds (visible minority population) has more than quadrupled to 1,161,420 in 2021 from 269,280 in 1996.
Full Council membership includes:
Sumita Anand (co-chair)
Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika (co-chair)       
Ali Eltayeb
Ali Rakka
Alphonse Ahola
Buta Singh Rehill
Charles Yang
Charlie Wu
Dahlia Mostafa
Ebenezer Asare
Erick Estrada
Hussein Warsame
Rekha Gadhia
Sherrisa Celis
SunJong Chun
Tariq Khan
Thomas Cheuk
WaLe Balogun
Basir Saleh
Gurbachan Singh Paul
Holly Mah
Jackie Halpern
Jibril Ibrahim
Justin Jimmy
Payman Esmaili
Rick Walters
Rolando Inzunza
Thomas Eapen
Virginia Sumalinog
Sheliza Kluge
Council members will explore ways to:
promote cross-cultural understanding and celebrate 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
help implement steps outlined in the Alberta Anti-Racism Action Plan
introduce anti-racism legislation to address disaggregated race-based data collection to combat workplace and job-related discrimination
continue work with the federal government to improve hate crime legislation
establish mentorship programs for internationally trained professionals
Comments from council members
“I feel incredibly honoured and humbled to be appointed to the Premier’s Council for Multiculturalism.  It is a privilege to be part of this wonderful council that represents the diversity of Alberta and provides a platform for communities to voice their concerns. I will work diligently with my fellow council members to ensure that all Albertans can integrate and thrive in this province. I look forward to working with Premier Smith and the council to build a more prosperous and inclusive Alberta.”

Tariq Khan
“Alberta embraces diversity and multiculturalism, understanding that many cultures helped build this province. The creation of the Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism promotes collaboration among Albertans regardless of colour, language or gender and will implement innovative and inclusive initiatives. This significant endeavour will have a positive effect on Alberta’s ability to attract great talents so we remain the best province in the country to live and work.”

Sherrisa Celis
“It is a great honour for me and the Korean community to participate in the Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism. It is a great opportunity for the Korean community to introduce Korean culture to all Albertans. I hope that our community’s contribution to Alberta will continue to help grow Alberta’s economy.”

SunJong Chun
“I feel honoured to be a member of this council and be a voice for Alberta’s multicultural communities. Being an immigrant and working with vulnerable populations in settlement and domestic violence sectors, I understand the needs, unique challenges and cultural barriers faced by these individuals, families and communities. By being a member of this council, I hope to leverage my experience to work towards bringing a positive change.”

Rekha Gadhia
“As lead admission advisor and lead liaison coordinator at Columbia College for 16 years, most of my students are from multicultural communities. This experience has given me knowledge, understanding and cultural sensitivity. Playing a role in society is crucial to the growth and development of the community, building self-confidence, passion and connections.”

Ali Rakka
“This council will play an important role in creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all Albertans, regardless of their background or identity. I hope that the outcomes will help strengthen social cohesion and foster a sense of belonging for all residents of Alberta.”

Charles Yang
“I am honoured to have been chosen to be a part of the Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism. I believe in having a council of individuals of various backgrounds and experiences working together towards a common goal of enriching Canadian community as a whole.”

Buta S. Rehill
“As a Mexican-Canadian living in Alberta, the opportunity to participate in this council is a great honour. I am dedicated to supporting multiculturalism and inclusion by helping build intercultural understanding and awareness to support business, trade and enhancing economic potential.”

Erick Estrada
“This council recognizes the role that Canadians by choice play in our province. I believe this is a step forward that will empower and acknowledge our different communities and their needs. Such a vision from our Premier will make our communities feel that they are not left behind. I am proud to live in Alberta and proud to raise our three children in a province that values multiculturalism and diversity.”

Ali Eltayeb
“Black francophone ethnocultural communities add significant cultural wealth in our province. They also face disproportionate barriers to being included in the civic community by virtue of their minority within minority status. These challenges extend beyond the current mandate of service-providing organizations and yet negatively impact on the health, social and economic outcomes of Black francophone communities. This council provides a tangible opportunity to highlight, advise on and support highly impactful initiatives/approaches that foster enhanced social cohesion and inclusion efforts leading to a better province for us all, where all Albertans are celebrated.”

Alphonse Ahola
“Former prime minister of Canada, honourable Joe Clark, once opined that ‘Canada is a community of communities.’ So is Alberta. The Somali, African and Muslim community that I am a member of wishes that its culture is accepted, respected and valued by the wider Albertan and Canadian communities. In turn, my community and I would strive to reciprocate that respect and appreciation and connect with the wider community. I hope that the Premier’s Advisory Council on Multiculturalism would serve as a vehicle to facilitate that connection.”

Hussein A Warsame
“Throughout most of my adult life, I had the opportunity to live and work in different parts of Canada. I have witnessed the transformation of our province and country over the past many decades. I strongly believe Alberta’s economic success is because of how we embraced multiculturalism and made our province a welcoming home to people from around the world. This council demonstrates our commitment to continue our efforts to ensure equitable participation of all Albertans in that continuing evolution and assists in the elimination of any barriers to that participation.”

Thomas Cheuk
“This is a really good initiative, especially with the mandate of the council. I am a pharmacist and an immigrant. I have been through the detailed process of making Canada my home and living a life and I believe this is a step in the right direction to ensure equal opportunities as well as identify unique needs that will not only increase awareness for First Nations and Immigrants but ensure equity as well as access to needed resources for an overall better life. I believe community members will have the voices heard and through this council, outcomes that are reflective of the ordinary Albertan will be attained.”

Ebenezer Asare


Media Statement

Jasvir Deol, Alberta NDP Critic for Multiculturalism, made the following statement in response to Danielle Smith’s comments on multiculturalism:

“Danielle Smith and the UCP have failed cultural communities in Alberta, and the late establishment of a council in the weeks before an election won’t conceal those years of failure.

“The UCP has delayed the implementation of the recommendations of the Alberta NDP-created Anti-Racism Advisory Council for the past two years after they delivered their report, and cut anti-racism grants by $4.3 million over the past four years.

“The UCP refused to even debate the Anti-Racism Act, an Alberta NDP bill that would have established the collection of race-based data to improve public policy and services.

“Danielle Smith has still refused to apologize for her dismissal of so many Albertans’ lived experience of prejudice by claiming that unvaccinated people ‘were the most discriminated against people I’ve seen in my lifetime’ or her attempt to erase the history of colonialism in Alberta.

“An Alberta NDP government will include members of many cultural groups, and we will continue to work closely with communities to address discrimination and celebrate the diversity of Alberta.”



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