Dear Colleagues,

 

As you know, for some time Canadianists in Central Europe have been discussion the question of establishing an official Canadian Studies association that would optimize cooperation in the region and act as a representative voice with regard to Ottawa.

 

The reasons that led the Central European Steering Committee to move this issue forward were outlined in a letter sent to all of you before the 2nd International Conference of Central European Canadianists in Bucharest in October 2001. At the conference itself, a special session was set aside for discussion of the question. The views expressed there, plus their knowledge of the situation in their respective countries, led the Steering Committee to proceed with preparations for the establishment of a new Central European Association of Canadian Studies.

 

The central necessity for the establishment of such an association is the creation of a constitution for the body. The Steering Committee discussed this issue in Bucharest, at a later meeting in Grainau, Germany, and through various e-mails. As an attachment you will find our proposal. Here let me make a few comments to explain why we decided on this particular constitution with these particular provisions.

 

1) After extensive discussions on the form the new association should take, the members of the Steering Committee came to the conclusion that for an association representing a large number of countries, there were essentially two possible models, what might be termed the one-tier and two-tier models.

 

The best example of a one-tier organization is the Nordic Association for Canadian Studies (NACS). In it, each of the five countries it represents has one voting member on the executive. This executive divides up the various positions, with each member having a particular position (President, Secretary, Treasurer, etc.) and takes decisions for the association as a whole.

 

The International Council for Canadian Studies (ICCS), on the other hand, is a representative of the two-tier model. It has an Executive Council in which every full member of the ICCS (not, however, associate members) is represented. This Executive Council meets once a year and sets policy for the ICCS. Carrying out the policy on a regular basis, however, is the business of a small four-member Executive Committee, elected by the Executive Council, which meets more often and has at its disposal an administrative staff at the ICCS headquarters in Ottawa.

 

As you will see from the attached draft constitution, the Steering Committee, on the basis of its discussion and the views expressed by individual Canadianists at the conference in Bucharest and meetings held in individual countries, decided on a two-tier model as best suited to the rather complicated situation of Canadian Studies in the Central European region. The Steering Committee came to the conclusion that there were two main reasons for this.

 

i) The number of potential members of the association is rather high. In a one-tier system, this would mean a large executive body, only some members of which would actually have a particular responsibility. This would go against the very principle of membership in an executive body.

 

ii) An executive body has to meet to discuss issues; the Steering Committee, for example (like the European Network for Canadian Studies), has been meeting twice a year. In a one-tier association, this would mean large numbers of people meeting at least twice a year. This is of course laudable in itself, but not very realistic financially, especially since it would seem that, for some time at least, most of the funding for the activities of the association will have to come from Ottawa.

 

With a two-tier association, however, these problems disappear. The representatives of the member countries on the Executive Council would come together only once a year to make policy; the small executive committee, each member of which would have a specific responsibility, would then carry out its activities on the basis of instructions from the Council, meeting perhaps one additional time. This should ensure both representativity and reasonably efficient administration.

 

2) Another question that was widely discussed had to do with membership on representative bodies - whether this should reflect the size of the community of Canadianists in individual countries. Rather naturally, perhaps, people from countries with more Canadianists tended to support a "representation by population" principle; those from countries with fewer active Canadianists were more in favour of "one country one vote". In the end, the Steering Committee came down in favour of the latter principle, though in a modified way.

 

One reason for this is that this seems to be Canadian way - or at least the Canadianists' way. In NACS, for instance, Iceland, with its tiny number of Canadianists, has one member just like Sweden, which has many times more.  In the ICCS too, each national association has one member on the Executive Council, no matter how many Canadianists there are in the actual country, the United States (with almost 800) has one member just like, for example, Ireland, with around 100. This principle reflects the purpose of these associations - they do not exist to promote individual country's interests, but Canadian Studies for a region as a whole (the case of NACS) or Canadian Studies in general (the ICCS).

 

However, because the state of Canadian Studies in the Central European region varies greatly from country to country, and in some is just beginning, it was felt that there should be at least some minimal Canadian Studies activity for a country to be represented on the Executive Council. We felt there were three possibilities here - the number of Canadianists working in a particular country, the number of universities where Canadian Studies courses are given, or a combination of the two. In the end, we felt the question of the number of universities discriminated slightly against small countries with very few universities, and decided the number of academics active in Canadian Studies should be the criterion. We tried to decide on a figure that would mean at least a solid core of Canadianists, so that the representative would not be representing little more than him/herself and two or three colleagues. Of course, as numbers of Canadianists grow, additional countries will come to be represented on the Executive Council.

 

3) There is complication in the Central European region in that at present two countries have their own national organizations, Poland and Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). Poland is of course the largest country in the region (in terms of population) and the Polish Association has been active for several years. Last year it applied for associate membership in the ICCS and a vote will be taken on this in Ottawa in June. Whatever the decision, the Steering Committee is confident that cooperation between the Polish association and a new Central European association (which would also apply in the first instance for associate membership with the ICCS) will continue to be close, since we face the same problems and can only help each other by working together to find solutions. One example of such cooperation will be the 3rd International Conference of Central European Canadianists, in the organization of which the Steering Committee and the Polish association are working closely together. Financial considerations, too (especially in connection with funding from Ottawa) speak in favour of working together; it will be up to the new Central European association and the Polish association to decide on the precise nature of their relationship.

 

The Yugoslav association is very new and just beginning its activities; here too we will have to work out our relationship.  But the possibility of membership through a national association has been included in the draft constitution.

 

We would appreciate it very much if you could read through the draft constitution and send us your comments - approval, suggestions for improvements, criticism of provisions of the constitution you find unacceptable or think might be unworkable. Please e-mail these comments to Petr Vurm at vurm@phil.muni.cz by 15 June 2002. With your help, we can then prepare the final version of the constitution and move forward in establishing the new association.

 

Many thanks from all the members of the Steering Committee.

 

Don Sparling

Convenor, Central European Steering Committee for Canadian Studies