History of The Shrine

A collective sigh of relief and a feeling of jubilation spread throughout the handful of Edmonton Shriners visiting Los Angeles as Imperial Sir Walter Kissenlburgh announced that a charter had been granted to Al Shamal Shrine Centre in Edmonton, Alberta. That date, July 3 1985, brought to a close the long and eventful journey to bring a Shrine Centre to Edmonton that began back in 1981. This was also the starting point of another journey – one of building the strongest Shrine Centre in Canada. Our Charter was granted one year after Imperial Sir Gene Bracewell granted dispensation to Al Shamal and a provisional Divan to make the 612 petitioners members of the new Shrine Centre.

Edmonton was not without its Shriners before Al Shamal. We boasted as one of the most active clubs anywhere. The Edmonton Shrine Club had operated under the Al Azhar Shrine Centre in Calgary since 1916. In the 70 years the Shriners of Edmonton operated as a club, we had a strong and recognizable presence in the city. At our famed Circuses and local parades you could count on seeing the distinctive red fez being worn by men who were proud to show their commitment to the principles and high moral standards for which Shriners are known.

“[Shriners] are very friendly, they make you feel very welcome—even before they get to know your name. They invite you in and make you a part of their circle. It’s been wonderful.”Lady of a Shriner

The path to creating an Edmonton Shrine Centre was not a simple or straightforward one. But in 1981 the membership enthusiastically supported the vision of having our own Shrine Centre in Northern Alberta. Two enormous hurdles had to be cleared, and a group of dedicated Shriners who shared the vision embarked on the 5 year long journey.

In 1981, according to Shrine Bylaws, a new Shrine Centre would have required the commitment of a minimum number of prospective members in order to be granted a Charter. The Imperial Divan would have to be petitioned to change that minimum, because Edmonton had fewer members than necessary.

The other major hurdle was to have Al Azhar, which would be losing 578 members, support our application. From 1981 to 1983, the foundation was laid. Noble Jim Edgar, then President of the Edmonton Shrine Club, Ill. Sir Cy Ward, Past Potentate of Al Azhar Temple, set off to Tampa, confident in securing a Bylaw amendment reducing minimum distance between Shrine Centres and lowing the required number of Nobles committed to join. The amendments were passed. Al Azhar Shrine Centre came on board and gave their blessing.

But with every success came more work. A tireless effort was expended to establish a committed membership. Founding members were to sign a petition and pay a $100 fee to attest to their approval. By 1984 the founding members numbered 612. A steering committee and a provisional Divan were created. A name was selected through a competition. Al Shamal, the North in Arabic, was chosen. The presentation to Imperial was made on July 5, 1985.

“I think the best thing about being a shriner is the camaraderie with a group of great guys in a fun organization.”Current Shriner

In the 20 years since Al Shamal was granted dispensation, much has been achieved. We have the most involved membership of any Shrine Centre. Our volunteers eagerly commit their time and energy to tasks ranging from building renovations to working casinos and bingos. All of our units participate in parades, circuses, ceremonials and community events in Edmonton and Northern Alberta, with Nobles proudly doffing the traditional red fez bearing the name of Al Shamal – The North. We are supported by five active and enthusiastic Shrine clubs in Northern Alberta: Al Wa Shrine Club in Lloydminster, Battle River Shrine Club in North Central Alberta, Northern Lights Shrine Club, Fort McMurray Shrine Club and Grande Prairie Shrine Club. We soon outgrew the building bought in 1989 and purchased our present building in 2003. We currently occupy a facility that any organization would be proud to put their name on. Our ladies, who participate in the Shrine Ladies Auxiliary and Al Amira Daughters of the Nile eagerly support us.

“[Our daughter] was always in pain. She was always on painkillers, and since her last operation she’s been pain free—all thanks to the Shriners.”Father of patient from Shiners Hospital

Over the past several years we have supported, on average, 80 Alberta children and their families whose benefits from our Shriners Hospitals reach beyond treatment available anywhere else.

Our incredible successes as Al Shamal Shriners are seen in the faces of the children and their families. Our wonderful successes are seeing a young person walk unaided who was previously handicapped, hearing the joy in their voices as they describe their new found freedom, seeing a smile form on a bright young face that had been painfully disfigured by burns, and seeing the gratitude in the faces of the parents.

The work continues!

“When you walk into the hospital… everybody is so happy and they make the transistion so much easier. It doesn’t feel like a hospital…, all the colours are really cheery, and the nurses and doctors are really pleasant.

I’d just to say thank you to all the Shriners for making it possible for kids like me to get a second chance and lead a normal life.”Edmonton Patient