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Saskatoon 2004 NFB:AE Annual General Meeting

Editor's Note: *Two photos: 1. Vancouver chapter member Peg Mercer reading resolutions at a podium, at the 2004 NFB:AE AGM. 2. Phil Wiseman, Sarah Mainland, Joyce Mainland, Chantal Oakes and Rick Oakes at the AGM Phil Wiseman is the former President of the NFB:AE?s Toronto Chapter, and its current Vice President. Unfortunately, the proposed NFB:AE name change mentioned in this article, whose resolution passed at the 2004 meeting, was rejected by Industry Canada. Consequently, the NFB:AE will hold a special membership meeting to continue the discussion.

On a hot and humid Friday morning in May, my faithful guide dog and I embarked on a journey that would take us from the ?big smoke? to the prairie flatlands. This trip from Toronto to Saskatoon for the 2004 NFB:AE annual general meeting (AGM) would be a special one for us as it was the first time that I had travelled on a plane with Hart.

On arriving in Saskatoon, John Rae, Devon Wilkins and Rajesh Malik headed off to join Brenda Cook at the Museum of Antiquities for a hands-on tour of their permanent collection of full-scale replicas of ancient Greek, Roman and medieval sculptures, while the rest of the NFB:AE?s Toronto contingent went downtown to the Delta Bessborough Hotel.

The hotel was nicely laid out and easy to get around, and the staff was quite eager to help us in any way it could. By the third time of travelling up to the room, Hart had figured out where it was located.

Having settled into our rooms, some of us got together to go out for lunch. Members of NFB:AE?s host Saskatoon Chapter guided us to a good Vietnamese restaurant. After lunch, our ?city guides? gave us a walking tour of part of the downtown area.

They showed us their audible pedestrian traffic signal, which I found quite interesting. The signal emitted the standard chirping and cuckoo sounds as I have heard in other cities, but there was one added wrinkle--a verbal announcement immediately after the light turned green said something like ?You may now cross 21st Street.?

As we continued the walking tour, we stopped at an ice cream stand, where the taste of the ice cream reminded me of the old fashioned hand-made ice cream that I had in my youth. It really took me back.

After returning to the hotel, I attended an interesting afternoon workshop that featured Richard Bridge (IMPACS), who gave an informative presentation about the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency guidelines for charities. His discussion gave a bit of a historical perspective about what the guidelines were in the early days and how they have changed over time to what they are now. The workshop?s interactive discussion was lively and informative, with about 20 of 25 AGM registrants in attendance.

The policy statement to which Richard Bridge referred can be found at:

On Friday evening, AGM registrants attended a reception (with a cash bar and hot and cold appetizers) hosted by the Saskatoon Chapter. The atmosphere was conducive to mingling, and I had a chance to reconnect with old friends and meet some new people from Saskatoon. I found everyone to be quite friendly. During the reception, Robin East, the Saskatoon Chapter President, welcomed everyone to the reception and wished us all a good time during the weekend meeting.

The general meeting on Saturday opened with 25 NFB:AE members in attendance, and John Rae started his President?s report with great news--as of Thursday, May 13, a motion was made to officially form a new chapter in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. The members at the Saskatoon AGM enthusiastically received this news, and our new Chapter has invited the NFB:AE to hold our 2005 conference in Ottawa.

Highlights of John?s presidential report included that the organization is in good shape financially, that it has recorded significant surpluses over last year and that this gives us an opportunity to fund our own activities! The report also stated that investigations into alternative and additional sources of funding are ongoing. Also, two grants had been acquired for the Saskatoon AGM.

The NFB:AE President further stated that, in his view, the organization should focus on three main areas in the coming year--membership, accountability and access to products.

Saturday morning?s keynote speaker, Richard Bridge, quickly reviewed the information that he had presented to many of us during the workshop the day before. He highlighted the things that charities can and cannot do according to the aforementioned policy statement, and he concluded by stating his opinion that the NFB:AE is operating within the guidelines of the Act.

Nominations and elections for four board positions (First Vice President, Treasurer and two Directors at Large) took place before and after the lunch break. With the exception of the incumbent Treasurer, Denise Sanders, new people were elected--Penny Leclair, Rick Oakes and Robin East. Congratulations to the successful candidates!

The treasurer, Denise Sanders, then gave a very encouraging 2003 financial report, which showed significant surplus over the previous year. In fact, the surplus was slightly more than double that which was reported last year!

The rest of the meeting was spent discussing resolutions (17 of them in all). In this report, I mention three of them.

The first ?name change? resolution, proposing our organization be renamed ?Alliance of Blind Canadians?, was narrowly defeated--by one vote! The second ?name change? resolution, suggesting the new name ?Association of Blind Canadians?, was passed to a resounding burst of applause, and many people seized the opportunity to begin trying the name on for size to get accustomed to it. But we still awaited Industry Canada?s approval.

A third resolution was passed to change the NFB:AE logo from the ?scales of justice? to a key unlocking the ?maple leaf? (signifying opportunity).

When the meeting adjourned, we celebrated by going out for dinner at a nice steakhouse.

After dinner, a few of us took a walk along the ?river bank?. The South Saskatchewan runs behind the hotel, along with a 21-kilometre walking path that features a combination of historical landmarks and beautiful scenes. Hart and I took the opportunity to enjoy the walk, and Hart seemed fascinated by the geese and ducks along the river. I had to hold him back so that he wouldn?t take a dip!

The remainder of the evening was spent meeting with new and old friends and enjoying a drink or two. A good time was had by all, and when it was time to say good-bye to some of the local folks, we hoped that we could get to see one another soon.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the AGM in Saskatoon. It was great to see friends again from Vancouver, Kelowna, Victoria and Montreal. The wonderful people of Saskatoon were very friendly and helpful to us (especially my guide dog), and Hart and I look forward to seeing everybody at the conference next year in Ottawa!

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