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  • Writer's pictureGray Witch

Constitutional Wounds

I thought everyone understood the reason for the revising of a Constitution.

As organizations grow their needs must be reflected in their Constitution by the explanation of its function and operation. A set of rules that allow the agency to conduct business no matter who its officers might be. That is why periodic reviews are necessary. Having been involved in Constitutional work for other organizations I offered to strike a committee and go through this onerous process.

I have never been one to want to reinvent the wheel. I firmly believe that if a person has a talent, training or knowledge and is willing to volunteer this to an organization I say 'please' and' thank you' for your time and commitment. The members of our committee brought these specific talents and I thought our organization would be thankful for their commitment of time and energy - and expertise.

And after almost a year's work I also thought they would be thanked.

What I did not think was that a vote would be taken to approve the revised document with noted amendments after their first view of the document. I even suggested another meeting would be required so they could comment.

I should not have been surprised when I was informed today that the approved document was full of omissions, inconsistencies and inaccuracies and that the “whole executive” was opposed to it as it stands now. But I was. Maybe it was the tone.

Having shown little - no - actually no interest in the review process up until today I am frankly shocked at the condescending tone I encountered when it was explained what I and my committee apparently don't know about what is and isn't part of a constitution.

If this was the case one would have thought someone would have stepped in before this with comments and corrections or at the least asked to look at what we were working on for the last year. It is not like I had not mentioned it at each and every executive and some general meetings.

I would also not think of a constitution as something personally out to get me and usurp my power but see it for what it is -- a road plan, that serves to establish the character of an organization by defining the basic principles to which it must conform; by describing the organization of the group, their roles and the by-laws, and limitations on the functions of each; and by prescribing the extent and manner of the exercise of its constitutional powers. But apparently that view is just mine.

However, this is why we have a Constitution. It is for the benefit of those who take over the group in the future. It is a blueprint not a personal manifesto.

Marg, Denise and I spent countless hours making sure our document followed the proscribed outline, used wording tried and true from other organizations and checked out the common points of order to assure we didn't deviate to show any personal goals in its development.

I'm afraid from what is being challenged I see it as a far more personal threat underlying the concerns and for that I am truly sorry because no organization fares well when people are more concerned about their power than the ultimate goals for the group.

Items identified as of concern...No. Presidents and Chairmen do not have votes unless it is a tie. Rogers Rules are clear as are all other constitutions. And yes, like it or not, most groups use the past president to Chair the Nominating Committee. This is the job no one wants and is always chaired by a member of the board.

Further ... the Dissolution Clause is worded as are all other such by-laws including the Ontario Historical Society dissolution by-law in a similar fashion. They do not go into detail because they need to leave leeway for those in charge at this point in an organization's life to make those particular decisions.

And finally the issue of the group being a charity has no place in the structure and operation of the organization. It is between CRA and the Friends. If we were incorporated then it would appear in all of our documents as a part of our name.

Are we incorporated? Because I don't remember a vote....and that, if we are, would need to be addressed before the document is passed. As secretary I most likely should have seen documents like this but I don’t have anything other than the minutes.

All the work we undertook was to help the Friends. There was no personal gain in this. Now people who have worked hard are disenfranchised and the result is that they will not be offering to help again. It is a very sad day. It could have been handled better in my opinion.

I was offered no choice but to fold the committee and resign as the Chair. Especially when the President said: "I'll let you know when I decide to hold a meeting about this and you can come or not - your choice." (paraphrasing but you get the gist.)

Let the 'dog & pony show' continue!


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