First Nation storyteller:
The son of Eli and Mary Gosnell, he was born at Arrandale Cannery and grew up in the village of Gitlakdamix where he still lives. A commercial fisherman and active in the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, of which he eventually became chairman, he was elected President of the Nisga’a Tribal Council in 1992 and lead the Nisga’a Nation to conclude the first modern treaty between a British Columbia First Nation, Canada, and British Columbia. In November, 2000 he was elected President of the new Nisga’a Lisims government. Sim’oogit Hleek has received four honorary Doctorates, and the Canadian Labour Congress Humanitarian Award. He holds the Order of British Columbia and is a Companion of the Order of Canada and has received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation.
In 2012, he became Vancouver School of Theology’s first Visiting Distinguished Indigenous Scholar in Residence.
Palbinder Shergill is a lawyer and mediator with a private practice based in Surrey, BC. As General Legal Counsel for the World Sikh Organization, Palbinder has appeared in landmark decisions addressing accommodation of religious beliefs. Palbinder also volunteers her time as a guest lecturer for various educational and not-for-profit organizations, on issues related to law, politics, and human rights.
Shoshana Litman is Canada’s first ordained Maggidah, www.maggidah.com a female Jewish storyteller, teacher and writer. She tells inspiring stories at diverse venues in Victoria (including CBC Radio), the Lower Mainland and in Montreal for the TD Canadian Children’s Book Tour in May 2012. Shoshana (also known as Suzanne Kort) is an administrator with The Mussar Institute of Vancouver as well as a published author, columnist, blogger and poet with a degree in Environmental Science.
Meharoona Ghani holds a Master of Arts degree in Gender and Development from the University of Sussex, Institute of Development Studies. Her MA thesis focused on how government creates policy when religion or culture is used to justify violent acts towards women. She was the former Director of the provincial multiculturalism and anti-racism program in British Columbia. Currently, she is a Board member and Director of Community Engagement and Outreach for a non-profit organization called Reel Causes Society (www.reelcauses.org). Her spiritual journey is a path filled with self-discovery where she describes herself as ‘Interfaith’ – a Muslim who practices aspects of Islam that resonates with her values, but also connects deeply to other faiths because in the end all faiths have a similar outcome: a belief in a Divine, peace, compassion and love.
Stephen Farris is the Dean of St. Andrew’s Hall on the campus of UBC and the Acting Principal of VST. He is the author of three books, many articles, dictionary and commentary entries, reviews and one murder mystery short story. He was President of the Academy of Homiletics, the international society of teachers of preaching in 2002 and served on the Executive Committee of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. He has spoken widely in Canada and in many other countries.
Dr. Gira Bhatt was born and raised in Mumbai, India, she completed her MA in Clinical Psychology from the University of Bombay. Dr. Gira Bhatt received her second MA and PhD from the Simon Fraser University. She traces her interest and scholarly pursuit of Hindu philosophy and spiritual traditions such as Yoga and narration of Hindu mythology stories to her family roots. Currently she is a faculty in the Applied Psychology degree program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, BC. The history and philosophy of psychology is one of her research interests, which includes comparative study of the Western and Eastern perspectives on the nature of human beings.
Jelana Bighorn is a member of the Ft. Peck Sioux Reservation. At the age of fifteen she declared her belief in Baha’u'llah and the Baha’i Faith. The sincere and earnest initiatives that the Baha’is undertake to build community on a spiritual foundation is what makes her life so fulfilling.
Dr. Michael Ling was initially trained in cultural anthropology, he came to his interest and involvement in contemplative practices through a mentor and professor in his undergraduate years, back in the late 1970s. He introduced Dr. Ling to a particular strand of Buddhism within the Tibetan tradition, and to an eclectic and ecumenical spiritual teacher who became a guide and influence in his thinking about life, culture, and education. Put simply, that mentor, and that teacher, raised questions for him about how one might live in the world, both for ourselves and for others, questions that are compelling ones for him to this day. Dr. Ling is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, and he is particularly involved in teacher education and teacher professional development, where the cross-currents of critical self-reflection, professional practice, and personal development are key themes.