Rita Chahal is the Executive Director of Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC). Prior to joining MIIC in 2013, Rita served as General Manager of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, where she worked closely with the business community across Manitoba. Rita has also held the position of executive director with the Women in Media Foundation and Employment Projects of Winnipeg. Her commitment to community service includes taking a leadership position on a number of boards and advisory committees, particularly in the arts and cultural sector.
Born in India, Rita immigrated to Canada with her parents in the mid-sixties and settled in Prince Edward Island. Rita's family was one of the first East Indian families to arrive in the province. “Community volunteer support, mainly through church and participation in various activities, was an essential part of our settlement process; it kept us from being and feeling isolated. Being able to speak English made all the difference. The impact of being accepted and engaged left a desire to always find ways to help others feel connected. We were lucky in that regard and our faith played a big part,” says Rita.
After completing university and getting married, Rita moved to Manitoba and became involved with the India School of Dance, Music and Theatre, a relatively new organization at that time. Her involvement grew, especially when her children became students at the school. Rita served on the board as parent rep and eventually two terms as President. Rita also served as Chair of Arts and Cultural Industries Association of Manitoba, Women of Distinction steering committee member with the YMCA-YWCA of of Winnipeg, and participated in many community drives and campaigns with the United Way of Winnipeg. In 2007 she was appointed by the Minister of Culture and Heritage to serve on the board of Manitoba Centennial Centre Corporation, a Crown corporation.
“Being involved with arts made me realize the importance of celebrating my bicultural heritage. It connected me to the best of both worlds that are a part of my identity,” says Rita. “This value I’ve tried to instill in my children, to be equally comfortable: playing a guitar and listening to sitar; performing a classical Bharanatyam piece and singing in the musical Oklahoma; singing in a choir and dancing to Bollywood’s latest hit; dressed in the latest jean fad and wearing a sari; worshiping at the Hindu temple and reading the Bible in morning prayers at school; celebrating Diwali and Christmas; enjoying a burger with school mates and sharing your roti with them at lunch. These and so much more, grounded our family in the pride we feel of our bicultural heritage and Canadian Identity.”