Naz Rayani in his Peoples Drug Mart store in Cadboro Bay. Rayani is being honoured with a lifetime achievement award from Leadership Victoria.

Saanich pharmacist and philanthropist honoured for life’s work

A devout Ismaili Muslim who immigrated from Kenya in 1974, Rayani’s work connecting people of different faiths reaches back to 1994.

With a wide smile and a twinkle in his eye, Naz Rayani greets customers and friends who have popped by the Peoples Pharmacy in Cadboro Bay Village. Most receive a hug, others a handshake – all offer kind words and congratulations for Rayani, a businessman, philanthropist and latest recipient of a Leadership Victoria Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I feel honoured,” Rayani said of the outpouring from his community. “It’s an incredible feeling.”

Rayani, the owner of five pharmacies in Greater Victoria, has recently returned to work after taking time off to recover from two strokes in 2010.

Health issues have not dampened the 68-year-old’s spirit or drive, however, as he continues to conduct tours of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Burnaby, where he has led some 2,000 visitors. His next tour of the mosque is set for March 28.

A devout Ismaili Muslim who immigrated from Kenya in 1974, Rayani’s work connecting people of different faiths reaches back to 1994 when he began work with St. George’s Anglican Church in Cadboro Bay. The church’s pastor at the time, Rev. Logan McMenamie, had corrected a parish member who felt Rayani was a good Christian, by underscoring that Rayani was also a good Muslim, too. When word got back to Rayani, a friendship was born.

“I picked up the phone and I thanked him,” Rayani said. “In this part of the world Muslims are known as terrorists. I recognized him for saying I’m a good Christian, which is a privilege and an honour, but calling me a good Muslim is more important.”

Rayani and the small local Ismaili Muslim community continues to support the church through an annual  samosa sale – an always sold-out tradition that now coincides with a major focus of Rayani’s work: the World Partnership Walk.

Sixteen years ago, Rayani brought the spring event, aimed at raising awareness and funds to support developing countries through the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, to Victoria. It grew from 500 supporters in the first year to about 3,000 currently. In 2010, the walk generated a record $250,000, with Rayani personally responsible for $60,000 of the fundraising.

“There was nobody in Victoria who could do this job and (neither could) I, but Aga Khan found I was most capable. It was a risk.”

In 2006, Rayani was appointed a member of the Order of Canada. He is also a member of the Telus Community Board, the Rotary Club of Saanich, the Cadboro Bay Business Improvement Association and is a supporter of the Centre for Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. Yet he remains modest about the accomplishments that led to the recent honour. “I’m filling the shoes of (Thrifty Foods co-founder) Alex Campbell, (Mustard Seed pastor) Tom Oshiro and (community activist) Jane Heffelfinger – so they’re kind of big shoes to fill,” Rayani said of former Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.

“He was far and away the best candidate for the award this year,” said Kate Mansell, chair of the Victoria Leadership Awards steering committee. “He embodies so many aspects of good leadership. … When he puts service above self, it is really good indication of what being a leader is all about.”

The father of two and grandfather of five doesn’t hesitate to offer the next generation of community leaders a little advice: “Never be afraid to say yes, even though it looks like it might be a mammoth task or incredible task, because there is always a silver lining.”

In celebration of the award, Rayani will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 8, at the Peoples Pharmacy in Cadboro Bay. He will accept his latest honour at the eighth annual Victoria Leadership Awards ceremony Feb. 21, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. The event is a partnership between Leadership Victoria, UVic, the Rotary Clubs of Greater Victoria, the Victoria Foundation and the United Way of Greater Victoria.

Just Posted

Victoria’s roving tent city moves to Goldstream campground

Police from around the region evicted Camp Namegans from provincial land near Uptown early Tuesday morning

Tent city break-up leaves mobile clinic seeking Greater Victoria’s homeless

Clinic nurse has witnessed rise in sex work, drug use following tent city disbandment

BC SPCA praises City of Victoria for bylaw amendments

Changes to tethering time and animal count limits are in line with organization’s beliefs

Torquay Elementary changes plans for portable on playground

PAC and School District 61 to discuss where to place a new childcare portable

Victoria wants more information on money laundering prevention in casinos

Council is hesitant to open new casino after Lower Mainland sites were found cleaning illicit cash

Saanich homeless camp residents at a standstill, evicted, prohibited from local parks

‘Ultimate goal is to get people into shelters and longer-term housing,’ Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Saanich mayoral candidates in middle of legal dispute prepare for first face off

Mayor Richard Atwell and Coun. Fred Haynes will be among four mayoral candidates Thursday’s forum

Wet weather means all types of burning, forest use OK in Coastal region

Campfires, open fires no larger than two metres by three metres, and all types of forest use allowed

Young people need us to act on climate change, McKenna tells G7 ministers

Catherine McKenna led off the three-day Halifax gathering Wednesday

B.C. woman facing animal cruelty charges after emaciated dog seized

Kira, a Rottweiler, had kidney and bladder infections

Kim agrees to dismantle main nuke site if US takes steps too

Kim promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and to visit Seoul soon.

Dozens speak at Vancouver hearing that could see duplexes replace single homes

The city clerk says 73 people signed up to speak at the hearing that began early Tuesday evening and adjourned hours later with 34 speakers still waiting.

North Carolina gov pleads with storm evacuees to be patient

The death toll rose to at least 37 in three states Tuesday, with 27 fatalities in North Carolina.

North and South Korea say they plan to bid for 2032 Olympics

Moon and Kim announced a sweeping set of agreements including a vow to work together to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.

Most Read