Monday, June 11, 2012

Impressions of the 2012 AGM

- by Jean Balekian

Dear Friends,

            Our Annual General Meeting took place in Toronto on a beautiful May afternoon.  There were some 100 members present, including four members who had traveled from British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia.  Seeing the hall so full, we were not surprised to learn that we had a quorum and that the meeting could proceed. 

The reading of the Foundation Stone Meditation in both English and French was heard in respectful silence, as was the verse for the dead.  Monique Walsh then spoke the names of those members who had crossed the threshold during the year.  After a few words of welcome, she thanked the members who had made the effort to attend; their presence and their votes made it possible for the Anthroposophical Society in Canada to fulfill its obligations in the legal sphere and confirm its identity as an association.   She then proceeded to review the year’s activities, which included the following:

      - At the end of last summer, the artistic festival marking the inauguration of the new Hesperus buildings.
      - In October, the meeting of the Council with members in Montreal and in Sherbrooke.  During these gatherings, we had the opportunity to speak of the various activities taking place across Canada and the efforts underway to make Section work more visible.
       - In January, the meeting with the Class Holders, out of which the following question emerged: What is our imagination of the being of Canada?  This question was the focus of the evening gathering of the Council and Class Holders with the members of the Toronto region.

We then heard the treasurer’s report.  Douglas Wylie used charts to show the 2011 balance sheet and the budget for 2012.  He explained the changes carried out in order to comply with Revenue Canada’s new requirements and make the finances of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada clearer. 

This concluded the first part of the AGM, and marked the end of the terms of Monique Walsh as president and Regine Kurek as Council member.  

After the break, Arie van Ameringen thanked Monique Walsh for her ten years of service on the Council.  When she first joined the Council, it was going through a crisis and there were only two other councillors with her at the time.  She worked at expanding the Council to ensure that it included members from the various regions of the country.   At the time of her stepping back, the Council had seven members.  She was a major force behind the process of identifying a new General Secretary, a process which gained the support of Dornach.  She worked to make the annual meeting of Class Holders and Council a reality, and to support and make possible the Whitehorse conference.  It was then Regine’s turn to hear Monique thank her for her seven years of work on the Council, for having had the courage to accept a position which secured a presence for Ontario and the Toronto region on the Council.  She was active and straightforward in all the Council’s discussions and decisions.  And she brought her insight as an artist to the organization of various events, culminating in this important week-end conference where art could be experienced as a seed of transformation for the Anthroposophical Society.  We thank you, Monique and Regine, for the time and energy you have given, for your personal integrity and the quality of your presence.   

After these highly emotional moments, the assembly confirmed the councillors and the new officers: Jean Balekian, president, Judith King, secretary, Douglas Wylie, treasurer, and Dorothy LeBaron, councillor.  

As you can see, there are presently only five members on Council, counting the General Secretary.  Among our first tasks will be to identify at least one Council member from British Colombia.  

So it was that following the first part of the general meeting, which had addressed questions concerning the legal aspects, i.e. the recent past, this second part, which started with the confirmation of the new Council, opened up a space for information and conversation.  These exchanges gave voice to varying points of view which served to enrich the Council’s own discussions on these topics. 

A first subject of discussion was the process for choosing new Council members.  This conversation will be continued at the next AGMs in Montreal and in Vancouver.   Monique Walsh reminded us that this process is based on mutual recognition among Council members and the fact that one recognizes the individual in question as a colleague.  This has been the chosen way of working since the ‘80’s.  It is important to point out that although this process is recognized in the bylaws of the Anthroposophical Society, as they stand, the bylaws also allow a member to put forward another name for Council member.  This led to our attention being called to the fact that the process should be made more transparent in the bylaws themselves. 

Following her brief presentation of the Vidar Foundation, Ingrid Belenson informed those present that a meeting would be called to discuss the importance and future of this organisation and to expand its board of directors in order to strengthen its continued activity.  

Dorothy LeBaron took up the question of the national library, giving the results of a survey sent out to members.  Most of the 31 respondents knew of the library’s existence but only ten or so actually had made use of it.  Alexandra Gunther pointed out the importance of preserving the library, not only for the books and documents it contains, but also because it is a public space where people can meet and exchange ideas and information about anthroposophy.  Others suggested that the availability of a computerized catalogue would stimulate use of the library.  The library question is obviously a very complex one, and seems closely linked to the question of the head office and the visibility of the Anthroposophical Society in general.  The Council named Mark McAlister as the person in charge of the library for the coming year.  

And just as we had begun the meeting with the question of a quorum, our last item on the agenda was also the quorum issue.  According to our bylaws, we are required to have 10% of the total membership present to constitute a quorum.  This does not generally present a problem when the AGM is held in Toronto, but we are often concerned that not enough members will be present when the AGM is held in Montreal or Vancouver.  The law requires that we stipulate a number in our bylaws.  It was suggested that by reducing the required number, we could alleviate this concern and be able as well to hold the AGM in Ottawa or Nova Scotia.  Another thought was to keep the number the same but increase the travel budget so that more members could attend AGMs not held in their region.  

As a conclusion to the AGM, Arie van Ameringen shared some images of the General Secretaries’ meeting at the Goetheanum where, for the first time, he stood before the assembled General Secretaries to introduce himself and describe some of the work in Canada.  

And in closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank, in the name of the Council, all those members who made this general assembly possible by choosing to be present. I am looking forward to seeing you in May 2013 in Montreal.

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