Report on the Special General Meeting
Thursday February 11, 1988
A meeting which may well mark a turning point for Science for Peace took place recently in the Croft Chapter House of University College, University of Toronto. The Board had called this meeting of members to consider rotating the National Executive among our larger Chapters, and in particular to invite the British Columbia Chapter to undertake the responsibility for the Executive for 1988/89. Below are the opening address of the President to this meeting, followed by the minutes and two important letters relating to the matter under discussion. As you will see, the opposition to the motions turned mainly on constitutional and procedural matters rather than on the appropriateness or wisdom of the proposed move.
President’s Opening Remarks
This special general meeting of Science for Peace has been called by the Board of Directors under Article 22 of the by-laws that empowers the Board to call a general meeting at any time, to consider an important motion originally proposed by Terry Gardner and Ray Kapral that the Board of Directors recommend to the members of Science for Peace:
that the national executive rotate among centres where Science for Peace has substantial strength;
that in 1988-89 this transfer be made to Vancouver provided the B.C. Chapter be willing to accept the responsibility.
You will note that this motion has two parts: the first dealing with the idea of rotating the national executive among centres where Science for Peace has substantial strength; the second with the proposition that for 1988-89 the B.C. Chapter be invited to accept this responsibility. The discussion and any voting should be addressed to these parts separately.
As regards (a) I should recall the provision of the by-laws: that “The Head Office of the Corporation shall be in the City of Toronto in the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto in the Province of Ontario and at such place therein or in the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, as the Directors may from time to time determine.” As regards part (a) of this motion, I have been asked to read a statement by Eric Fawcett, the Founding President of Science for Peace.
As regards (b) I have been asked to read a message received by electronic mail from Paul Leblond, on 28 January reporting on a meeting of the B.C. Chapter on 27th January.
We have here both Paul LeBlond, Research Director of Science for Peace, and Jim Foulks, who have come from Vancouver to elaborate on the position of the B.C. Chapter and to respond to questions.
Finally, I emphasize that this special general meeting, of the whole membership, notice of which was circulated to all members, unfortunately owing to climate and distance has resulted in limited attendance. I hope consideration will be given to consulting members from other regions as well. We are facing the necessity of change in any case, as the present members of the Executive have indicated that they are not willing to serve beyond the 1988 General Meeting, while being willing to help in any way we can, especially in holding the Arctic Conference at the end of October.
Minutes of the SGM
Minutes of Special General Meeting of Science for Peace, February 11, 1988, Croft Chapter House, University College, University of Toronto
Present: N. Alcock, C. Armstrong, P. Brogden, P. Creighton, C. Davis, J. Dove, E. Fawcett, J. Foulks, T. Gardner, G. and A. Ignatieff, M.and R. Kapral, Moira Kapral, W. Klassen, J. King, P. LeBlond, M. Lanphier, D. Lee, A. MacLeod, D. Paul, G. Papachristos, A. and G. Rapoport, A. Simoni, J. Smith, M. Spencer, L. Trainor, J. Valleau, J. Vise, A.and R. Weatherley, M.and M. Wilton, W. Zessner.
There were two items on the agenda. The second item having to do with tidying up the by-laws was dealt with only as an announcement by the Secretary that the proposed changes will be circulated before the Annual Meeting in May and dealt with at that time.
The main item on the agenda was the Kapral/Gardner motion which had been previously circulated. It had two parts, as follows:
that the national executive rotate among centres where Science for Peace has substantial strength
that in 1988-89 the transfer be made to Vancouver, provided the B.C. Chapter be willing to accept the responsibility.
The President, George Ignatieff, first read (as directed by a motion at the February 9 Board meeting) two statements which had been submitted to the Bulletin as part of the rationale for moving the SfP executive from Toronto to Vancouver. One of these was from the founding President, Dr. Eric Fawcett, the other was a statement from the Vancouver Chapter. These statements along with a prepared statement by Dr. Ignatieff are included here.
Dr. Ignatieff stated, that in order to avoid any possible conflict of interest in handling the meeting, since he supported rotating the executive, he would like to have Dr. Klassen take the Chair. No objections were raised.
Dr. Klassen then took the Chair and opened the meeting to discussion. The discussion was started by Dr. Rapoport who asked that the movers of the motion clarify the consequences both under the circumstances that motion passed or that the motion failed.
Dr. Gardner then spoke to the motion, saying that the movers regarded this a great opportunity to fulfill a long-term desire, that since the four members of the present Executive were not continuing, there would be discontinuity in any case, and hence the time to move was propitious. He hoped that if the motion passed, the Nominating Committee would give consideration to a slate of officers mostly or entirely from the Vancouver Chapter and would consult that Chapter extensively in making nominations. He concluded his remarks by stating that the move to Vancouver and the widening of the decision-making base was an exciting prospect.
The discussion following Dr. Gardner’s presentation was animated, lively and at times contentious. Your Secretary will not present the discussions verbatim, but humbly try to recapture the spirit of the discussions.
A central point was whether the whole procedure was sufficiently democratic and perhaps even whether presentation of the motion was constitutionally correct, given that the representation of the meeting was mostly Toronto area with the exception of two delegates from Vancouver; further did the motion not imply that the nominating process would be compromised by these procedures? Counter arguments were that SfP meetings, both Board and Annual, generally had attendances similar to or smaller than the present meeting and also lacked national representation, and this unhappy circumstance was part of the reality of funding and Canadian geography; that the final decision on elected representatives to the Board would be made at the Annual Meeting, including election of officers by the new Board. The Secretary expressed the view that the Nominating Committee is not a policy-making committee, but that its chief purpose is to make sure there is a credible set of Directors and Officers prepared to serve if elected in due process.
Dr. Rapoport put forward a proposal for a nominating procedure, but the proposal was not specifically acted upon at the meeting.
Several members drew from the experience of other national organizations where the Head Office remained in a fixed location but the executive officers rotated from one location to another.
Dr. Rapoport again raised constitutional objections stating that the motion usurped the powers of the new Board in selecting officers beforehand. Some other members disagreed with this interpretation. The Chairman ruled that the motion was properly before the meeting. Dr. Davis then suggested that the two parts of the motion be considered seriatim. The mover and seconder agreed and the Chairman then placed the first part of the motion before the meeting. On further objection from Dr. Rapoport, the Chair asked the mover and seconder if they would agree to placing the motion as a resolution of the Board for adoption rather than as a motion, They agreed. Dr. Rapoport then asked for a secret ballot. Dr. Dove objected on the grounds that SfP by-laws do not make allowance for a secret ballot. Dr. Rapoport then asked that the members be polled. John Valleau supported this right and the vote was taken by poll with the result of 20 in favour, 9 opposed and 3 abstentions.
The Chairman pointed out that time was running out and that the room was to be vacated at 10:00 p.m. Gwen Rapoport moved that the meeting be adjourned. This motion was rejected by a large majority. The second part of the Kapral/Gardner motion was then carried with little further discussion by a substantial majority but with several abstentions.
Dr. Gardner then asked to put a motion that would answer in part the question raised by Dr. Rapoport at the beginning of the meeting as to what would follow if the motion passed. The Chairman agreed to accept putting the motion (Gardner/Valleau) as follows:
“In order to carry out the wishes of the Science for Peace membership expressed in the preceding motion,
the Nominations Committee should seek to present to next year’s Board of Directors nominations for the Executive Officers from the Vancouver region, and attempt to propose increases in Western representation on the Board of Directors to the Annual General Meeting, and
to assist in this an active member of the B.C. Chapter should be elected to join the Nominating Committee.”
Dr. Rapoport again expressed concerns about forcing the hands of the new Board. Dr. Paul then stated that fully democratic procedures were not always possible, and indeed that in his experience on previous Nominating Committees a lot of arm-twisting had to be done to get suitable candidates for Board and Executive.
Paul LeBlond from the Vancouver Chapter felt that the second part of the motion was not necessary. The 2 members of the Nominating Committee (Lanphier/Rapoport) also objected. Dr. Lanphier felt it unworkable at this late date, and Dr. Rapoport felt it expressed lack of confidence in the present committee. The mover and seconder agreed to drop the second part, which drew applause. The first part was then put and carried by a substantial majority.
After a brief remark on the second item by the Secretary (see above) the meeting adjourned at approximately 10:15 p.m. George Ignatieff, President Lynn Trainor, Secretary
Result of poll vote:
In favour: N. Alcock, P. Brogden, C. Davis, J. Dove, E. Fawcett, J. Foulks, T. Gardner, G. Ignatieff, M. Kapral, Moira Kapral, R. Kapral, J. King, P. LeBlond, D. Paul, M. Spencer, L. Trainor, J. Valleau, J. Vise, A. Weatherley, R. Weatherley, Opposed: P. Creighton, M. Lanphier, D. Lee, A. MacLeod, A. Rapoport, G. Rapoport, M. Wilton, Murray Wilton, W. Zessner Abstentions: J. Lee, G. Papachristos, A. Simoni
Report on meeting of the B.C. Chapter
The B.C. Chapter of Science for Peace held its monthly membership meeting on Wednesday the 27th of January. The main item on the agenda was a discussion of the recommendation to be presented by the Board to the forthcoming Special General Meeting in Toronto. As it seemed appropriate, the matter was discussed informally.
First, the question whether the Executive should be rotated among different centres was discussed. A strong consensus emerged in favour of this recommendation. The underlying theme was that it is important for Science for Peace to be a national organization and at present it was not perceived as such by the members of our Chapter. It was pointed out that the great majority of the Board members are from the Toronto area and that Board and General meetings are always in Toronto, which makes it very difficult for individual members throughout the country to contribute their views to the organization. In the past, the B.C. Chapter has undertaken some projects of national scope. Members felt that these projects could have been carried out more effectively had Science for Peace worked at the time as a truly national organization.
On the question of the National Executive being moved to Vancouver,the discussion centered on the practical difficulties that would ensue. It was felt that these difficulties were not insurmountable. Communication by electronic media and telephone with those officers that are expected to remain in Toronto appeared to be quite feasible. No one is overjoyed with the idea of the executive being in Vancouver but, since the principle of rotation was strongly endorsed,the members felt that if Science for Peace were to issue an invitation to form the executive in the Vancouver area, it would be their duty to do whatever they could to answer affirmatively.
— Luis Sobrino, Acting President, B.C. Chapter.
Letter from the Founding President of Science for Peace
Science for Peace from the start was intended to be a national organization. Any Canadian knows however that an organization conceived and nurtured in Toronto like Science for Peace will be perceived as national only when it shows itself capable of devolution. The transfer of the seat of power across half a continent may be inconvenient — but it is necessary if we are to consummate our promise.
It was easy to start the first few Science for Peace Chapters. They existed already in embryo form in Vancouver and Fredericton, and their leaders recognized at once the virtues of association within a national organization. The acquisition in 1983 of a National Office in University College through the generosity of Principal Peter Richardson did not deter us from making overtures to the B.C. Chapter about the possibility of such a transfer in 1984. Our model was the Canadian Association of Physicists, which like many national organizations has successfully decoupled its national office (in Ottawa) from the national officers, who from year to year reside in physics departments across Canada. The Canadian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War has operated in this mode very successfully since 1986, when their national office was established in Ottawa — they now have about 4000 members and conduct their National Executive meetings by computer network, with only two Board meetings per year held in the most convenient location.
Our great good fortune, first in 1984 when Anatol Rapoport accepted the Presidency, and then in 1986 when George Ignatielf assumed the leadership, has enabled Science for Peace to mature and become the widely respected organization it is today. It is however not a truly national organization with 31 out of 43 Board members from Ontario! I believe that the time is already late — further postponement makes the devolution more difficult, and the self-serving arguments against it become even more persuasive as power becomes more deeply entrenched in Toronto. My present role in Science for Peace as Convener of the Toronto Chapter Public Lectures has taught me that the vigour of the local organization does not derive from the presence here of the National Executive — indeed on the contrary it diverts the support of some of the most active members. I propose that, after the transfer of the National Executive to Vancouver, our “South-West-Ontario Regional Group” should continue to meet regularly. I believe that educational and research activities within such a group will be greatly enhanced when our energies are released from the responsibility of maintaining the national activities.
Eric Fawcett, Founding President of Science for Peace