On the morning of 28 October a special session at the conference was set aside for a discussion of the question of the future development of Canadian Studies in the Central European region. Don Sparling opened the session by recapitulating the points made in the overview of the situation in the region that had been sent out to all CE Canadianists before the conference. In brief, this meant continuing the present arrangement, with the Central European Steering Committee for Canadian Studies acting as coordinator for CS activities in the region, or moving to a more formal arrangement through the official establishment of a Central European Canadian Studies Association.
Each of these options had advantages and disadvantages. In the former case, the advantages were the lack of a bureaucratic structure, and the absence of complicated rules regulating a governing body, fees and fee collecting, etc.; the maIn disadvantage was the fact that it was hard to say exactly who the Steering Committee members were speaking for. This did not mean that the Steering Committee had not been effective: a range of events and measures beneficial to CE Canadianists had been introduced thanks to the work of the Steering Committtee, from the two international conferences in Brno and Bucharest and the enhanced CE participation in the Grainau conference, through the class set initiative and greater sharing of resources made available via the CE homepage, to the creation of a new CE Journal of Canadian Studies. The issue was not the lack of effectiveness of the Steering Committee, but rather the strong feeling of its members that without a clearer relationship to the Canadianists in the CE region it was hampered and even hindered in its work.
If a new CE Canadian Studies Association were to be formed, the advantages and disadcantages this would bring would also be clear. The main advantage would be that, with a definite membership through which it would be elected, there would be no doubt as to who it represented. This would also give such an association a better international profile and more weight than that enjoyed by the Steering Committee. The main disadvantages – besides the difficulty of devising a constitution that would satisfy the views of all (or most) CE Canadianists and lead to consensus - centred on the many bureaucratic hurdles that would have to be overcome and the great load of extra work that a formal organization would entail.
Don Sparling pointed out, however, that in the view of the Steering Committee, the central issue was that of representation – the need to ensure that it was quite clear who was representing CE Canadianists. If the present Steering Committee model was kept, then some means would have to be devised to ensure that its members did in fact represent the Canadianists in their countries (assuming no national association existed that could delegate a member to the Steering Committee); if a new CE Canadian Studies was founded, this problem would be dealt with through the selection of board members by Canadianists from the various countries. The Steering Committee felt that an official CE Canadian Studies Assocation would be the better model of the two, but was not trying to impose either on CE Canadianists; both models could be made to serve the main purpose, which is to provide an effect forum for developing Canadian Studies in the region. Don Sparling also pointed out that it was not the purpose of this meeting to come up with a detailed elaboration of either of the options; no matter which option was favoured, there would still be a great deal of effort involved in working out any kind of final proposal. Instead, what the Steering Committee was hoping for was a discussion that would lead to a mandate for the Committee to proceed in one of the two directions.
In the discussion that followed, a number of people asked questions or made particular points. Ana Olos (Romania) said that she was already a member of two organizations for which there were national and European bodies, which meant that she had to pay four membership fees, a doubling which she felt only entailed an increase in bureaucracy without any corresonding benefit at the national level; for this reason she felt that a single CE Association, without any national (in her case Romanian) association, would serve the purposes best. Vesna Lopicic (Yugoslavia) asked whether there would be a problem in a CE Canadian Studies Association if in some countries there were national associations and in others not; Don Sparling felt this was not a problem, that an asymmetric model was possible, with individuals being members directly or through their national association. She also asked what the Steering Committee felt was the main advantage of a regional association; Don Sparling repeated that clear representativity was one, and that a stronger international profile was another, especially vis-à-vis the International Council for Canadian Studies. Though he felt that in the immediate future there would not be enough Canadianists in CE for an association to be able to apply for full membership in the ICCS (the minimum being 100), such an association would still provide a clear voice for Canadianists in the region and have a definite identity, both of which were important in presenting and achieving our aims with regard to the ICCS and the Department of External Afffairs and International Trade. One of the Canadianists present asked for details about what such a regional assocation would look like – what kind of board there would be, how many represenatives for each country, and so on. Don Sparling replied that this was indeed a complicated issue, but the conference was not the place to go into details: if a decision was reached on which option to pursue, then the Steering Committee would look at the various possibilities that option offered, use the CE listserve to solicit the views of CE Canadianists, and put together two or more draught proposals for further discussion and approval. Agnieszka Rzepa pointed out that the Polish Association of Canadianists – which had already decided to apply for admission to the ICCS as an associate member – would not be able to make a formal decision as to its relationship to any new body such as a CE Canadian Studies Association until its next general meeting in 2004. Don Sparling replied that this was of course true, but that in the meantime he hoped that full cooperation would continue with the CE Steering Committee, with the Polish Association having a member who would attend all meetings; if a CE Canadian Studies Association was established, an arrangement would certainly be made to continue cooperation in any case – the needs and the problems we face are the same throughout the region.
In addition to the above specific questions and comments, there were also a number of individuals who spoke out simply in favour of establishing a CE association. No one present suggested that we should stick to the present Steering Committee model. After more than an hour of discussion, Don Sparling summed up the discussion so far by saying that insofar as views had been expressed, they seemed very much in favour of moving to establish a CE Assocation. He then went on to speak about the views of Canadianists who were not present at the meeting (which he had not wanted to do so before, as perhaps prejudicing the discussion). The Czech and Slovak Canadianists (only three of whom were actually at Bucharest) were in favour of a CE association; so were the Slovenians. A representative group of Hungarians, coming from virtually all the universities in the country wHere CS is taught - had met shortly before the Bucharest conference in Debrecen, and they had decided they would not establish a national Hungarian organization, but that if it were decided at Bucharest to start a CE assocation, they would join it. It would seem, then, that there was a strong leaning in favour of establishing such an association. Don Sparling suggested that this was the consensus of the meeting, and also of those who were not present, and asked whether, in view of this, the Steering Committee should proceed to prepare proposals for establishing a CE Canadian Studies Assocation. Those present agreed, with Monica Bottez saying that the Romanian participants in the conference would meet briefly after the session to discuss the issue and take a formal vote. Don Sparling ended the session by saying that, should this be in favour of a CE association (as seemed to be indicated by the comments already made), he would take it as a clear mandate from the Bucharest conference (backed by previous agreement from other countries) to proceed with the preparation of proposals for the establishment of a CE association. In fact the Romanian participants, after a brief discussion, did vote in favour of this option. This being the case, the Steering Committee met later that day to discuss briefly the steps to be taken to draw up proposals for a CE association.