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Nfb:ae's 2003 Conference a Big Success

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Carole Robertson is President of the NFB:AE Toronto Chapter. Images: (Left) Theresa Andrews, Paul Thiel, Richard Marion and Denise Sanders posing in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal. (Right) John Rae and Richard Marion cut the NFB:AE 10th anniversary cake while Mohammad Qurashi looks on

If enthusiasm and high spirits as shown at the NFB:AE's 2003 National Conference in Montreal, Quebec are hallmarks of success, then the NFB:AE is well on its way!

Conference attendees gathered together at the downtown Courtyard Marriott hotel on Thursday evening, May 15, for a wonderful reception hosted by the NFB:AE Montreal chapter. It was heart-warming to greet old friends from around the country and to make many new ones. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, the food was delicious, but most of all, one could feel the excitement in the air in preparation for the actual conference.

One of the evenings highlights was the presentation of Certificates of Recognition in honour of our 10th anniversary, to members who have greatly contributed to NFB:AE over its ten year history. Recipients were Sharlyn Ayotte, Don and Bubbles Jacobs, Joyce Mainland, Richard Marion, Peg Mercer, the late Alan Neville, Denise Sanders, Chris and Marie Stark, John Rae, and Ken Westlake. Congratulations to each of these outstanding individuals!

We all had the opportunity to explore a wide range of very interesting and innovative exhibits during the conference's first couple of days. The newest technologies were demonstrated, and we had the opportunity to try them.

The next morning, Friday, we enthusiastically came down for breakfast looking forward to a day of workshops, speeches and activities. We started by listening to the President's report (reprinted elsewhere in this issue). John Rae described the past year's activities, explained some of the projects we are currently working on and his hopes for the future. It was an inspiring speech. It informed us of much that is happening in our organization and how much we have progressed.

During the next two and a half days we were busy with workshops, speeches, nominations, elections, resolutions, visiting the exhibits and participating in interesting discussions.

One of the highlights of the convention was the keynote address by the Honourable Jane Stewart, the Minister of Human Resources Development Canada, whose positive remarks encouraged our delegates as she recognized the good work we are doing. She is very hopeful for our continued work.

We were very proud to give out our annual scholarships. We had many high quality applications and it was a difficult choice to make. One of the scholarship recipients, John Robert Doyle, who was present at the conference, explained how the scholarship would help him in his studies and showed his deep appreciation for his award.

Friday also saw a panel discussion on the delivery of services for persons who are blind living in Quebec. Other speakers included a representative of the Royal Bank of Canada who assured us that the bank is being proactive in installing more audible ATM's across Canada. It is also having its statements and other material made accessible in different modes.

Another interesting speaker demonstrated to us how to prepare and deliver an effective speech.

Saturday morning engaged us all when we broke into four groups to discuss membership, public relations, fund raising, and advocacy during which lively discussions occurred. Some of these workshops produced concrete ideas that will be acted upon by various committees. This brainstorming session proved very successful.

There were many resolutions adopted, including that the NFB:AE will work to reduce the travel barriers posed by the electric car, support the checkered eye initiative, attempt to overcome registration issues concerning CNIB, and investigate a possible name change for our organization.

During the election process, many new people stood for positions on our national Board of Directors. The new elected board is: President, John Rae; 1st VP, Beryl Williams; 2nd VP, Paul Thiele; Treasurer, Denise Sanders; Secretary, Marcia Cummings; and Directors Without Portfolio, Brian Moore and Linda Bartram.

Other activities included a pre-conference visit to a Montreal Rehabilitation Centre and a guided stroll through downtown Montreal. There were also many other informal get togethers.

We were all impressed with the spirit of the convention and the willingness of the delegates to work together for a successful NFB:AE year. Much appreciation for the hard work of the Montreal Chapter which organized this convention, provided door prizes, delicious food and such a positive fun loving spirit that was felt by everyone! Next year's annual general meeting will be held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We all look forward to continued success.

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