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President's Report - January 2015

Hello, AEBC!

A new year is upon us and our future is bright. While AEBC has to some extent been a bit dormant over the past year or two, a number of exciting things are happening and are in the works that will put us back on the map and get us moving in the right direction.

We will be launching some new "campaigns" over the next few months that aim to generate public attention and to get members involved.

Here's an update for you on what we've been "up to" at the national level over the past few months and what we have brewing.

Regards,
Anthony Tibbs
President, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

A. Announcements and Reminders

1. 2015 Memberships are Due!

If you are not a lifetime member, and you have not yet renewed your membership for 2015, the time to do so has come. All members not renewed by January 31, 2015 will be marked as "non-members". You can still renew, but until you do, you will not receive these announcements and you will be removed from the members discussion mailing list.

There are a few different ways you can do this: online, through your local chapter, or by mailing a cheque or money order to the national office.

Renewing online (using PayPal or a credit card)

  • Login to the site using your user name and password. If you have forgotten these, click the 'request new password' link and provide your e-mail address.
  • Go to the "My Account" link.
  • Click on the "My Membership" tab.
  • There are two PayPal buttons (links) on this page: one to purchase an annual active membership for $5 through PayPal, and another to purchase a lifetime membership for $50 through PayPal. Click on the appropriate link and you will be directed to the PayPal site to complete your transaction.
  • If you have a PayPal account, you may log in with your PayPal credentials to complete your purchase.
  • If you do not have a PayPal account but wish to pay online with your credit card, follow the "Pay with a credit card" link rather than logging in or creating a PayPal account.

If you're paying with an eCheck through PayPal directly from your bank account, it may take a few days for this to clear and your membership information updated. Otherwise, the update should be close to instantaneous.

Renewing through your chapter

Some chapters will collect memberships from all of their members and send them to national in one batch. If your chapter is doing this, you can pay your annual membership dues to the chapter. Please remind them that this information (and money) needs to be sent to the national office as soon as possible, as overdue memberships will be expired at the end of the month!

Renewing by mail

If you prefer, you can mail a check or money order, payable to Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, to the national office. Please make sure to indicate that this is a membership payment, and whose membership payment it is. Our address is:

AEBC
PO Box 20262
RPO Town Centre
Kelowna, BC V1Y 9H2

If you have any problems or questions regaridng membership renewal, or you need to update your contact or other information, contact our national secretary (secretary@blindcanadians.ca) for assistance.

2. Upcoming Events

3. Blog Posts

B. Priority Issue Updates

1. Accessible Point-of-Sale (Sharlyn Ayotte)

A position statement is currently being developed through the CAG committee.

2. Accessible Websites (Stephen Ricci)

Stephen has been working with Brian Moore to revitalize and reinitiate this committee. They met in September and are planning to meet again in January. If you are a member or were interested in assisting, contact one of these two to get back in the loop!

C. Committee News

1. Accessibility in Procurement (Sharlyn Ayotte)

As of July 2014: A draft 'position paper' on the issue of accessibility in procurement has been completed and is being circulated to member groups within CAG (Consumer Accessibility Group) for consideration.

2. AGM & Conference (Stephen Ricci)

Details about the conference are now available! See http://www.blindcanadians.ca/programs/conf/2014.

Registration will begin in a few weeks, and you can already book your rooms at the hotel. We're coming up to the time when you're likely to get the best deals on flights as well, so consider booking your travel soon.

3. Bylaws & Governance (Anthony Tibbs)

Consider this "early warning" that several amendments will be proposed to the bylaws to address some inconsistencies and to clarify a few matters. I will enclose the text for each of these amendments at the bottom of this newsletter (search for "Proposals"). Each is drafted to be as self-explanatory as possible without the need for much further explanation.

The issues to be addressed are as follows:

Proposal 2015-01: Clarification of Voting Procedure on Bylaw AmendmentS: We want to ensure that proxy votes are counted where appropriate.

Proposal 2015-02: Clarification of Voting Rights of Chair: We want to clarify that the Chair of the AGM, who is by necessity an active, voting member of the AEBC, is entitled to his or her own vote.

Proposal 2015-03: Bylaw Clarification (Ensuring non-Officer Directors): This is a bit complicated. Essentially, the new not-for-profit legislation that we operate under requires that at least two members of the board not be "officers" of either AEBC or any of its affiliated entities. "Officers" are people in positions such as President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, etc. They have a named position and they have specific responsibilities and powers that come with that position. Our bylaws adopt this legislative requirement and state that two directors shall not be officers. But we then go on to appoint all 7 directors as officers. This amendment removes the title of 'director without portfolio' from two of the directors, making them plain-jane "directors" rather than "officers".

To aid in understanding the proposal, know that:

  • The amendments to articles 28.3 and 28.4 are essentially just a consequence of the main changes: these sections happen to refer to the list of officers and as such we need to remove the references to 'directors without portfolio'
  • Article 27 sets forth the qualifications that a member must meet in order to be a director
  • Article 32 sets forth the conditions on which a member of the national board will be automatically removed as a director (bankruptcy, death, etc.).

The one important consequence of this change is that it imposes a limitation on who may run as a "director" on the national board. Members of chapter, affiliate, or division executives (who hold an officer position in that organization) cannot serve as "directors without office" on the national board.

To give some examples and to re-state this in a few different ways for what I hope is clarity:

  • The President of the Victoria chapter could serve as the President, 1st Vice, 2nd Vice, Treasurer, or Secretary on the national board, but could not serve as a mere "director"
  • A member elected to the executive of a chapter but without an officer title (commonly called 'Members at Large' by many chapters) may serve in any capacity on the national board
  • A member elected to the national board as a "director" (without an officer title) cannot be and cannot become the President, Vice-President, Secretary, or Treasurer of an affiliate, division, or chapter.
  • There is nothing to stop the President, Vice-President, Secretary, or Treasurer of an affiliate, division, or chapter, from also being the President, 1st Vice, 2nd Vice, Secretaary, or Treasurer at the national board.

My understanding of the rationale behind this is that it is to ensure that, on the board, there are at least two people who are more or less independent, and who have no close ties and hold no positions of power elsewhere in the organization.

Proposal 2015-04: Re-establishing quorum requirement for national board meetings: Our old bylaws required that 5 members of the board be present to constitute a quorum for the purposes of a board meeting. We have always proceeded on that basis, but it has come to our attention that that requirement was not copied over into the new bylaws, and so we want to re-insert it.

4. Communications (Sharlyn Ayotte)

Ongoing work in growing our social networks continues to attract new twitter followers and organizations which have an interest and stake in our future as an organization and individually as blind, deafblind and partially sighted customers of programs, products and services.

We have surpassed our goal of achieving 1200 followers on our Twitter account. As of December 14th, we had 1312. Thanks go in part to Dar for all of her assistance in achieving this lofty goal.

On Facebook, we have ended the year with 128 "likes" -- up from 71 at the start of 2014. That is "some" growth but not enough growth. If you are on Facebook and you have not yet "liked" AEBC, why not?

A Communications Committee has been established for our AGM to work as a pilot for the communications function to ensure that it can be scaled for broader implementation later. It will provide us with a framework to ensure that our message is both clear and coordinated.

5. Fundraising (Sharlyn Ayotte)

Our historical means of raising funds -- door-to-door canvassing -- has effectively come to an end in most areas, owing to a lack of anyone willing to do it, and so we must find new ways to support our activities.

Sharlyn has been meeting with Albert Ruel and Charles Bailey in an effort to identify some new sources of fundraising dollars, be that from foundations or through the running of our own fundraising events.

Donate today. Every dollar helps, and a small donation over a longer period of time adds up. $5 or $10 a month helps to pay for conference call phone lines, for example. And there are a number of ways you can donate. The easiest for us (because they take care of the paperwork and sending you a receipt) is if you donate via CanadaHelps, which will accept both single donations and monthly recurring contributions by credit card, Interac Online, gift cards, or PayPal. To donate online, visit https://www.canadahelps.org/dn/3315. You can also call 1-800-561-4774 to donate with your VISA or MasterCard over the phone.

Reach out to your family and friends and tell them the importance of AEBC to you. Tell them that their $3 or $5 or $10 a month can go a long way. Get them on board.

D. Chapter Updates

We've not received any updates from the chapters for inclusion in this newsletter in ... a long time. What is your chapter up to? Please send me a blurb to tell us, so we can tell everyone else! I do know that Toronto has some news to tell, though, and have included this below.

1. Toronto

The Toronto chapter held its elections in December and the following have been elected to its executive:

  • President is Yin Brown
  • Vice president is Coranna Lee
  • Secretary Lynda Spinny
  • Treasurer Phil Wiseman
  • Member at large a new member Jeff Willcox

Congratulations to the new executive in Toronto, and a thank you to the outgoing executive!

E. Partner News

1. Consumer Advocacy Group (CAG)

The "CAG" is a group of organizations with an interest in advocacy matters working together, along with CNIB and with CNIB's financial and personnel support, to develop consistent "position papers" on a number of issues affecting the community, including:

  • Requirements of Sound Added to Quiet Vehicles
  • Conventional Public Transit Systems
  • Accessible Pedestrian Signals
  • Design, Use, and Implementation of Tactile Walking Surface Indicators
  • Procurement Policies
  • Point of Sale Devices
  • Centre Platforms and Public Safety for LRTs
  • Accessible Kiosks used at transit Centres

Some concerns have arisen with regard to CNIB's influence in the direction of this group. The absence of an independent Chair is cause for concern, as at this moment CNIB is Chairing the meetings and setting the agenda which reflects CNIB priorities, and not necessarily the perspectives of the CAG Coalition representatives. At our next meeting of the CAG Coalition, to take place in Vancouver in March of 2015 we will elect a Chair from the CAG representatives.

Status of position papers will be standard agenda items to be reported on as updates at each CAG meeting. Of those presented by CAG representatives there are currently a number that are in progress, or being considered for development, as well as those adopted that may require updates.

More to come!

Finally, as promised earlier, I enclose below the various bylaw amendment proposals that are currently under consideration. Please discuss and comment.

Sincerely yours,
Anthony Tibbs
President, AEBC

Bylaw Amendment Proposals

Proposal 2015-01: Clarification of Voting Procedure on Bylaw Amendments

Whereas the prevailing practice in AEBC on proposals to amend the bylaws has been to adopt such amendments if they are approved on the basis of at least two thirds of the votes cast (by people in the room and by proxy) on the question;

And whereas Bylaw 24.2 currently reads as follows:

The by-laws of the Corporation not embodied in the letters patent may be amended by resolution approved by an affirmative vote of at least two-thirds (2/3) of the members at a membership meeting.

And whereas this bylaw is open to an unintended interpretation that would exclude proxy votes from consideration;

Therefore be it resolved that Bylaw 24.2 be amended to read as follows:

The by-laws of the Corporation not embodied in the letters patent may be amended by a special resolution approved by an affirmative vote of at least two-thirds (2/3) of the votes cast on the question.

Proposal 2015-02: Clarification of Voting Rights of Chair

Whereas the Chair of meetings of the AEBC is necessarily an active, voting member of the organization,

And whereas the AEBC is a membership-driven organization,

And whereas the membership of the AEBC has traditionally permitted the Chair to vote on all questions (whether by voice vote, division, roll call, or ballot), believing that it would be improper, in the context of the AEBC, to disenfranchise the Chair;

Therefore be it resolved that Bylaw 24.3 be renumbered as Bylaw 24.4;

And be it further resolved that a new Bylaw 24.3 be inserted to read as follows:

The Chair of a members' meeting is permitted to vote on all questions that come before the assembly, including appeals (also known as "challenges to the Chair"), but is not permitted a second or determinative vote on any question.

Proposal 2015-03: Bylaw Clarification (Ensuring non-Officer Directors)

Whereas AEBC is a "soliciting corporation" as that term is defined by the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act ("CNCA");

And whereas Article 27.1 of the bylaws states, as required by section 125 of the CNCA, that the board shall consist of at least three directors, "at least two of whom are not officers or employees of the Corporation or its affiliates";

And whereas Article 29.1 of the bylaws presently grants officer status to all members of the board, including (per Article 29.1(f)) "directors without portfolio";

And whereas Article 29.1 is inconsistent with the requirements of Article 27.1 and section 125 of the CNCA, in that it grants officer status to all members of the board, including "directors without portfolio";

And whereas AEBC deems Affiliates, Divisions, and Chapters (as those terms are used in its bylaws) as being analogous to "affiliates" as that term is used in the CNCA, thereby precluding officers of the executive of Affiliates, Divisions, and Chapters from serving simultaneously as directors (without an identified office) on the national board;

Therefore be it resolved that:

(a) Article 29.1(f) be struck from the bylaws;
(b) The words "and one Director Without Portfolio" be substituted with the words "and one additional director" in Articles 28.3 and 28.4 of the bylaws;
(c) The words "the directors without portfolio" be substituted with the word "directors" in Article 29.9 of the bylaws;
(d) Article 27.2(f) be added as follows: "f) not be an officer of an Affiliate, Division, or Chapter, unless they also hold an officer position on the national board (as those are defined in Article 29.1 of these bylaws)"; and,
(e) Article 32.1(g) be added as follows: "g) a director (who does not hold an office on the national board, as defined in Article 29.1 of these bylaws) becomes, through election or otherwise, an officer of an Affiliate, Division, or Chapter".

Proposal 2015-04: Re-establishing quorum requirement for national board meetings

Be it resolved that Article 30.13 be added to the bylaws as follows:

A quorum at any meeting of the board shall be five members of the board.

Disclaimer:

This blog is curated by the AEBC, but welcomes contributions from members and non-members alike. The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in the Blind Canadians Blog are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the AEBC, its members, or any of its donors and partners.