The Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo: Breaking New Ground

Mary Thomas,
Tuesday, July 8 2014

The Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo (MAWB) welcomes the community’s participation in its events, programs and communication platforms such as Confluence, The World Meets in Wood Buffalo, Alberta Culture Days, and Multicultural EXPO.

Instituted in 1985 to support cultural groups and newcomers through programs and events and to foster cross-cultural awareness and understanding, the MAWB has seen heydays and slump times over the past 29 years.

Citizenship ceremony

Welcoming new citizens in June (from left): Merrie-Rae Mitsopoulos, Principal, Westview Public School; Mary Thomas, Executive Director Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo; piper Dan Baseley, Judge Laurie Mozeson, new citizen Hamza and RCMP Const. Kandice Perry.

Becoming Canadian in Wood Buffalo: As the final word in this series of stories, profiles, photographic essays, blogs and videos documenting the journey undertaken by newcomers to our region, we feature a program and event overview of the Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo (MAWB), now led by executive director Mary Thomas.

The MAWB participated in the organization this year of the Canada Day parade, and the influence was evident. The colourful, enthusiastic and talented entries from a variety of cultural groups of the MAWB proved to be the most distinctive feature of this year’s parade. Represented were groups native to Canada and countries and traditions from around the globe, including First Nations, The Philippines, Pakistan, China, Nigeria, Russia and Peru.

Without a doubt, “The World Meets in Wood Buffalo.”

Series Index:

Becoming Canadian in Wood Buffalo

Canada Day Parade: A Multicultural Photo Gallery

Over the last year, MAWB saw a consolidation of a number of programs, events and community outreach and a heightened interest by the community, funders, partners and stakeholders. Memberships have risen exponentially and collaborations have seen MCAWB’s presence in the community sky-rocket.

A new interactive website, online newsletter Confluence and TV show on Shaw TV, “The World Meets in Wood Buffalo,” on cultural practices, traditions and values of diverse cultures were designed and launched and welcomed. Innovative marketing and advertising strategies were employed and venue design has been state-of-the-art.


  • International Cookery is one of the most successful MAWB programs. It runs one Saturday morning a month at the Holy Trinity Food Lab with participants working with the prep and cooking and then sitting down to lunch and sharing the exotic flavours from around the world. Some of the most popular over the last year have been Persian, Chinese, Indian, and Metis, among others. At the cost of $25 for non-members and $20 for members, the community loves this program.
  • Cross-Cultural Parenting Program runs twice a year, spring and fall. This program supports up to 20 families from diverse ethnicities each season with seven Saturday afternoon sessions. Funded wholly by Family and Community Support Services and the municipality, this program is free to all residents of Wood Buffalo and provides food, childcare and transportation to participating parents.
  • After-School Tutorial Program (ASTP) works with English as an Additional Language students from different countries to build confidence and fluency in English and Math. The program runs for an hour after school, three days a week and it has proven to be of significant value in the schools it is offered in; for example, Dr. Clarke, Fr. Turcotte and Timberlea Public School sponsored by United Way and Nexen. In the fall ASTP will be opening up in Westview and St Gabriel’s due to generous donations from RBC.
  • Free programs like the Health and Wellness Program. Financial Awareness Program and Home Maintenance Programs were started as zero budget programs to help the integration of newcomers into our community


  • Multicultural EXPO, the flagship event of the MAWB saw its biggest ever draw with 25 country stalls, 15 cultural dances, 10 food booths, a dress-up booth with cultural costumes, 100 volunteers and a 2,000-strong audience.
  • Tackle Racism Inter-School Competition brought out the artistic talents of students from grades two-12 and judges from Regional Advisory Committee on Inclusion, Diversity and Equality (RACIDE), RCMP and community leaders ranked them. Finalists were awarded in a ceremony commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.
  • The MCAFM Annual General Meeting 2014 was another milestone with over 50 people attending, most of them voting members of the association. New directors sworn in were Doug Nicholls, Superintendent, Fort McMurray Public School District (FMPSD), Paul McWilliams, Branch Manager Servus Credit Union and Alexandra Tarasenco, Leadership Wood Buffalo, Program Manager and representative of the Russian Speaking Community of Wood Buffalo.
  • Canada Day Pancake breakfast, sponsored by Suncor, served 600 people and engaged 50 volunteers last year. The ATB Vibrant Culture Parade brought to the streets of Fort McMurray a parade of eight cultures of the world.
  • Alberta Culture Days World Meets in Wood Buffalo dance showcase has been drawing crowds of performers and audiences and has been able to grab eyeballs provincially. This has spearheaded Wood Buffalo’s cultural presence on the provincial and national platforms.
  • Human Rights Day in collaboration with RACIDE and Human Rights Commission is celebrated with an interactive workshop on Human Rights issues and how to deal with them to a 75-strong audience.

Collaborative efforts and community presence

  • Research on Best Practices in various corporates in the region is being conducted in collaboration with the Newcomer Interagency Network
  • United Way’s Campaign Kick-off at the municipality was supported by MCAWB’s volunteer cooks who served lunch to staff to generate funds
  • Citizenship Ceremonies at Westview and Oil Sands Discovery Centre swore in 300 new Canadians
  • “We love the winters here” is a collaboration with Safe Communities Wood Buffalo
  • Hate Crime Awareness week is a collaborative effort with Fort McMurray Victim Services
  • Stakeholder Engagement Meetings in collaboration with Events Wood Buffalo


  • Interpretation and Translation Services Unit with options for certification
  • Cultural sensitivity and competency training for school and corporate staff
  • Building a resource library for members to borrow related to multiculturalism, human rights and racism.
  • Developing an umbrella organisation to strengthen small and medium sized cultural groups in the regional municipality of wood buffalo and be the voice of minorities
  • Engaging and sharing aboriginal cultures thus building a strong inclusive community

For information on programs, events and volunteering call the MCAWB at 780.791.5186. To submit an article for Confluence or for information on the organization's TV show, write to

You can also visit the WCAWB website.

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