By Alain Normand
When IAEM Canada sent out the notice that nominations where open for the executive of the IAEM Ontario region, I was very surprised as I had no idea there was an intent on creating such a region. After a few calls and discussions with some people at IAEM, I found out that seven IAEM members residing in Ontario had signed a request to IAEM Canada to create an Ontario region and that based on the IAEM bylaws, the executive of IAEM Canada had to follow through on the request.
Since there had been no discussion on the topic, I decided to organize a town hall meeting and invite Ontario members of IAEM and OAEM to talk about it. The event was held in Brampton on January 22 in the morning. About 25 people attended in person and another dozen or so were on the conference call. As one person said, having such a response with only a seven day notice is a clear demonstration of the commitment of the professionals to the future of emergency management in Ontario and Canada.
After receiving clarification on the process by Greg Solecki, president of IAEM Canada, we were informed that the list of people whose nominations had been put forward for the executive of a new IAEM Ontario would be sent out on Monday January 28 and IAEM members would have three weeks to submit their vote.
The discussion started on the pros and cons of having an IAEM Ontario and the perceived competition with OAEM. After many comments on this and much talk about aiming for collaboration, the general feeling of the group was that having two association in the province was not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, repeatedly it was discussed that having an Ontario voice at the national level could bring some positive outcomes for the profession.
The OAEM position as stated by the president Mike O’Brien, was open to having an IAEM Ontario region as long as there was no duplication of efforts. OAEM caters to the emergency management community in Ontario and has done much to advance the professional development, student engagement, and mentorship aspect of the community. IAEM in turn is seen as the certification channel and the advocacy agency to promote the profession within governments and external agencies. If the new Ontario region sticks to this mandate, there should be no real competition. We did point out that for newcomers to the field and for students, having to choose between OAEM and IAEM Ontario may be difficult, especially for new graduates who will have limited funds to become members of both associations.
What transpired eventually from the discussion was that this was a done deal. We had no authority or means to stop the creation of this region. In fact, we didn’t even need seven signatures, only one signature would have been sufficient to initiate the process. The discussion turned to the process itself.
It was clear that OAEM had nothing to do in the next phase. The discussion turned solely to IAEM and there was general dissatisfaction with the way the creation of the region happened. While Greg Solecki and the executive of the IAEM Canada followed the bylaws and the rules to the letter, never was there any consultation on the desire of the emergency management profession in Ontario. Following the rules is one thing; catering to the will of the members is another. This is about doing the right thing rather than doing things right.
There was anger and resentment expressed towards the seven people who submitted the request that they took it upon themselves to speak on behalf of the other 143 or so members of IAEM residing in Ontario. These people who have yet to come forward, are creating a group based on unknowns, with no clear indication of reasons, no justification for the need of such an association, and no information on the roles and responsibilities they intend to play. Will this body collaborate with existing agencies? Will it actually carry at the national level the will of the Ontario members? There was a lot of doubt of this. If these people didn’t even take the time to ask member’s opinion prior to creating the region, what guarantees will we have that they will speak on our behalf once they are elected?
In all, whatever this Ontario region will be is off to a very bad start. Most of the people in the room and a few on the call held some ill feelings towards this whole process. I can also attest to discussions I had with other members prior to the meeting over phone calls and e-mails in the days preceding, and the same feeling was expressed numerous times by people who were unable to attend the meeting.
As I said, this is a done deal, we can’t do anything about it. The process to get there stinks, the people who put this forward didn’t even have the courage to step up and give us their reasoning, and we still have no idea what these people are aiming to accomplish.
I do not intend to put my name forward for this executive. I’ve done my stint on boards and I’m leaving this to others.
However, be assured of one thing. I will be watching. If this IAEM Ontario intends to speak on my behalf, they better say what I want them to say. I will attend every IAEM Ontario AGM, I will read every minute of every IAEM Ontario and IAEM Canada meeting, and I will search for every sentence where our will as Ontario EM professionals is presented. I will be on the new president’s back –and the rest of the executive- should they diverge from the wishes of my fellow members. If you submitted your nomination already, you better be ready for this.
I also encourage all IAEM Canada members in Ontario to be on the watch. I demand transparency and openness, I aim for accountability, and so should all of you. This whole process started behind our backs, without consultation, without our input and with none of those concerned ever showing their card. If IAEM Ontario is sincere in its intention of being the voice of Ontario EM professionals, this better change quickly.
The bylaws also contain an article 9 which is about dispute. I will reread this closely and I may use it in the future should I not be satisfied in the integrity of the people at the helm.
I want to close by reiterating that I am a member of both OAEM and IAEM Canada but I write this as an emergency management professional in my own words and with my own opinions. Those in no way reflect the opinions of either OAEM or IAEM Canada.
Going forward, let’s change the course, and do the right thing.