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My Time in Toronto

Editor's Note: Marc Workman serves as AEBC's National Secretary and is currently working on his Masters degree in Political Science at the University of Alberta.

AEBC's 2008 AGM
By: Marc Workman

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians' 2008 Annual General Meeting was held at the Days Inn Downtown Toronto from Friday, May 16 to Sunday, May 18, and attracted 40 or so delegates from across the country. For seven AEBC members, including myself, the weekend began Friday evening at the Royal Ontario Museum with a guided touch tour of the Chinese exhibit, thanks to John Rae, AEBC's 1st Vice President, who made the arrangements. Through the information offered by our museum guides and the ability to touch the various artifacts, including several massive stone statues, we were able to gain insight into the elaborate funereal ceremonies the ancient Chinese held for their emperors and high-ranking generals. Then it was off to the subway and the hotel where, once settled in my hotel room, I made my way to the hospitality suite to meet old acquaintances and to make new ones.

The dominant theme of this year's AGM was decentralization. On Saturday morning, when Robin East and Anthony Tibbs delivered their President's and Treasurer's Reports respectively, they talked about the changing composition of the AEBC and the need to undertake local initiatives. Advocacy, public education and fundraising can all be done effectively at the local level, with support from the National Board, an idea reinforced in two workshops later that day on Chapter fundraising and dealing with the media. Chapter representatives had an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas that could later be shared and put into practice. At the time, AEBC had 14 Chapters across Canada, but two more have since joined. Visit {http://www.blindcanadians.ca/contact_us/} for further details.

Other business on Saturday included resolutions {http://www.blindcanadians.ca/governance/resolution_list.php?year=2008} and elections to the National Board, with five positions up for grabs. In addition to the 1st Vice President, Treasurer and Director without Portfolio, which remained with John Rae, Anthony Tibbs and Denise Sanders respectively, I was elected as National Secretary and Brenda Cooke as Director without Portfolio, each of us for a one-year term. In the brief time I've been a Director, I've learned just how much work each member of the Board must do, and I want to thank Marcia Cummings and Devon Wilkins, who had resigned from their National Secretary and Director without Portfolio positions respectively, for dedicating so much time and energy to the Board over the years.

Finally, on Sunday morning, May 18, as part of the Initiative for Equitable Library Access, Mary Frances Laughton, Co-Manager of IELA, held a three-hour workshop with AEBC members. In his opening remarks to the workshop, Robin East reiterated the distinction between rights holders and stakeholders that he introduced in his President's Report (see "Your Voice Leads to Equality" elsewhere in this issue). Blind Canadians are not simply affected by the accessibility or inaccessibility of public libraries, our rights as citizens is what is at issue for us. AEBC members spoke intelligently about their expectations and concerns with regard to IELA, and I sincerely hope that the input provided by our members will be given the consideration it deserves and will help influence the path this initiative takes.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the four-hour boat cruise on Lake Ontario on Saturday evening. Richard Quan, 2nd Vice President, and the Toronto Chapter arranged for a busload of AEBC members and their four-legged guides to take a dinner cruise. The volunteers were helpful and much appreciated, the food was good, the music was playing and drinks were flowing, and a good time was had by all. I snuck away from the ruckus after dinner to sit on the deck and listen to the water lapping against the boat and to feel the cool wind coming off the lake. It was a great experience, and I thank Richard and all those who made it possible.

This was a memorable weekend--a weekend where I met new people, learned a great deal, embarked on a new adventure as a Board member, and got on a boat with 25 dogs! I can't wait to see what awaits me at the 2009 Conference in New Westminster, British Columbia.