Kalpana Das’s Biography

Kalpana Das, One of the three pioniers of IIM, Co-director (1971-1978), executive director (1979 – 2012)
Ms. Kalpana Das served as the Executive Director of the Intercultural Institute of Montreal from 1979 to 2012.

Born in Bengal (India), she lived in Montreal since 1968. Having a background in political science and philosophy, she has to her credit more than three decades of action- research in the domain of pluralism and interculturality in Quebec, at the grass-roots. She was one of three pioneers who contributed to the growth of the Intercultural Institute of Montreal.


Ms. Das has established programs in intercultural education for children and youth (1972 &1975), as well as intercultural training programs for teachers and other school professionals (1975), for health care professionals and social workers (1979), for the agents of international development and cooperation as well as for the agencies of Human Rights (1984). She also developed in 1982, an intercultural counselling service for individuals and families (men – women, parents – children, youth, etc.). Ms. Das was instrumental in launching of support programs for Aboriginal people and public education programs on native cultures and spirituality at the IIM.

Ms. Das has been most active in providing intercultural training to the professionals in various institutions and community organizations nationally and internationally, since 1975. She is regularly solicited as a consultant and frequently invited by various institutions and community organizations to give lectures. She has coordinated and directed number of community based research projects particularly on immigrant families, youth, women and seniors. These projects focused on issues of identity, cultural practices of problem solving, on issues of mental health of seniors in some ethno-cultural communities of Montreal, as well as alternative practices in social and health care services.

She has served on numerous advisory committees in various institutions in Quebec, such as Quebec Human Rights Commission, Montreal Social and Helath Care Agency (CSSSMM), Federation of ethno-cultural organizations for accessibility to services (ACCESS). She chaired for four years the Consultative Council for Accessibility of Services to Ethno-cultural and Minority communities at the Ministry of Health and Social Services in Quebec. (1990-1994)

Ms. Das considers herself as intercultural social activist. Since 1990, she turned her attention to emerging issues related to postmodernism and globalization by focusing on community regeneration and grass-roots social spaces in different regions of the world. To this goal she introduced new programs of action and reflection on alternatives through cultural revitalization and intercultural dialogue. Two of these programs deserve special attention : INCAD (International Network for Cultural Alternatives to Development) and ROOTS, a bibliographical database on endogenous and traditional knowledge.

At local and international, these programs seek to mobilize grassroots resistance to globalization and advocate intercultural solidarity (people to people basis) instead of international solidarity (between nation states).


Ms. Kalpana Das has authored numerous articles on intercultural education, intercultural social intervention, immigration and ethnic relations, inter-religious dialogue, alternatives in the field of development and international cooperation, and other topics.


“The Challenge of interculturalism in the non-institutional and informal sector”, InterCulture, Vol. XXVIII, no 2, Spring 1994, Issue 123. (article aussi paru en français)

« Développement et coopération internationale: un questionnement interculturel» et «Droits de l’Homme et développement en Inde». Contributions dans Alternatives au développement, 2e édition, Institut interculturel de Montréal et Les Éditions du Fleuve, 1990.
« Social work and cultural pluralism : unexplored issues», InterCulture, vol. XXI, no 2, Cahier 100, Printemps 1988.
« Education and social intervention in a pluralistic society: some guidelines », InterCulture, vol. XIX, no 1, Issue 90. (article aussi paru en français), 1986
« Intercultural context of the class room and its implications in teaching », InterCulture, vol. XVIII, no 2, Issue 87. (article aussi paru en français), 1985
« Women in the religio-social context of Hinduism », Canadian women’s studies, Winter 1983, vol. 5, no 2. (article en français dans Médium, no 24. 1983
« Development and international cooperation : a cross-cultural probing », InterCulture, vol. XVI, no 2, Issue 79. 1979
« Hindu perspective on dialogue between cultures and religions », InterCulture, vol. X, no 4, Issue 57. 1977
« Intercultural education for children », Monchanin Journal, vol. VII, no 3, Issue 45.1974

Ms. Das has directed numerous research action projects.

To view the reports of this research, click here. (Réal click ne fonctionne pas)


(…) Kalpana Das has dedicated her adult life to the cause of intercultural and inter-religious understanding and harmony. She has worked with amazing dedication and selflessness both at the local grass-roots level in Montreal as well as at the international level. (…) It is at the impressive meeting she organized in Canada in 1992, Living with the Earth, (…) What was for me particularly remarkable about that event was Kalpana Das’ ability to bring together activists from around the world as well as a group of first class international academics, experts in the matter. (…) My long-time collaboration with Kalpana Das has offered me the opportunity to deepen my understanding and appreciation in the intercultural learning method she has developed. This extraordinarily effective as well as profound method and philosophy has earned her a well-deserved international reputation. She has used it in all kinds of contexts, from gangs in Montreal, to ethnic-cultural groups in that city, to international development issues, to inter-religious harmony. (…)

Frédérique Appfel-Marglin, Professor Emerita, Department of Anthropology, Smith College, Northampton, MA, USA; Founder/Director, Sachamama Center, Lamas, San Martin, Perú

(…) My involvement with Ms. Das has brought benefits in a number of spheres in which I have worked. Ms. Das was a resource person to the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers in the 1990s in Edmonton where I was the Coordinator of Community Development Programs, and to Grant MacEwan Community College where I taught in the Social Service Worker Program. Her expertise in intercultural social practice strongly shaped the directions of these two institutions. In latter case, it led directly to the establishment of a new course in this area. I went on to teach related courses of this nature at universities in Mexico and the United States. Her influence extended to Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, which modified its services to the multicultural population it served. Finally, Ms. Das’ work has also enriched to the focus of a small Canadian NGO called Pueblo Partisans (in which I have been involved) that has been conducting development work among the indigenous people of Guatemala for the past 20 years. (…)

Thomas H. Grauman, Executive Director, Columbian Centre Society, Nanaimo, British Columbia.

(…) Kalpana Das has been an inspiration to everyone passing through the portals of the Intercultural Institute of Montréal. Through her pioneering intercultural training sessions, she has made it possible for Québequois (Anglophone as well as French), native peoples (most notably the local Mohawks), and immigrants from around the world to meet, get to know one another, and engage in the kind of genuine dialogue which brings out the best from each person and each culture. She has not shied away from difficult or contentious issues (interfaith dialogue, education, social work, etc.), but always attempts to engage the deeper levels of community that come into play when people really meet one another as human beings. (…)

Dr. Scott Eastham, Senior Lecturer, English & Media Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
(…) Ms. Das and I have had occasion to meet briefly every two years or so. The journal with which she has been associated, “InterCulture”, has a small circulation but it occupies a distinct place as a uniquely dissenting voice arguing for alternatives to modern knowledge systems. But it is Ms. Das’s long record of work at IIM as a whole that has earned her the respect and admiration of many intellectuals and activists from the global south. She is a woman of great (and sometimes, rightly so, combative) intelligence and feisty spirit, conversant with a considerable swathe of literature pertaining to human rights, development, cultural diversity, participatory democracy, and so on, and over the years she has put IIM on the map, not only in Montreal where her work relating to issues of cultural diversity and a democracy’s obligations to minorities is now recognized as pioneering, but around the world where activists, social workers, and intellectuals have had to think about how their societies can be rendered more responsive to issues of cultural respect and difference. Ms. Das has been at the forefront of putting intercultural training and education on the agenda for social workers, policy planners, and activists. Intercultural dialogue is a more demanding but ultimately more enduring solution than the common liberal dictum that laws that are wholly neutral are best designed to secure a just civil society. (…)

Vinay Lal, Professor of History, Delhi University; Associated Professor of History & Asian American Studies, UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles); Fellow, World Academy of Art & Science, California, USA