Report on 2015-2016 to EPAC AGM
I am honoured to present the following report on the activities of EPAC since the last AGM on June 18, 2015.
This is my third annual report. When I accepted the position of Chair of EPAC in May 2013, the organization was in the midst of a rebirth that was energized by two half-day workshops per year in Ottawa. My direction has been to work on being more national in scope. Regular communications with members, webinars, and a lively web site have become our major tools for being active beyond the National Capital Region.
Overall, I feel that EPAC is growing in vigour and is becoming more relevant beyond the NCR. However, it will be hard to sustain our effort without either a marked increase in active rather than passive membership (i.e. volunteering), or funds to hire strategic staff.
Here are highlights of our activities.
- After ten half-day workshops in Ottawa – two per year from Fall 2010 to Spring 2015 – EPAC has turned its attention to presenting webinars in order to make its educational offerings independent of location. The first, offered free of charge, featured Diane Girard supported by Pat Cummins, both of them veteran EPAC members, on April 21. The topic was ethics lessons from the inquiry into the Québec construction industry. The second was presented by two non-member volunteers: Kenda Murphy, a lawyer specializing in workplace issues, assisted by change management consultant Margot Cameron. This one, on June 9, was about investigations of ethically disturbed workplaces and the implementation of recommendations for improvement. Thanks to Meg Steele’s initiative, the latter webinar was accredited by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an “Eligible Educational Activity” for the Continuing Professional Development Hours that lawyers and paralegals must complete every year.
For the second webinar and in the future, non-member participants will be charged a fee. The amount will be just over half the cost of a membership. In other words, a membership will be less expensive than two webinars. We hope to mount four webinars per year. Two are already in the works for the fall: whistleblower policies and provisions for small organizations (Dr. Rob Shepherd, Oct. 13) and “Giving Voice to Values” (Dr. Mary Gentile, November 30).
This focus on webinars does not preclude EPAC organizing in-person workshops, where this proves feasible and is of likely value to our members.
- I began sending bilingual Bulletins to members in September 2015. There have been five so far. The typical Bulletin combines notices of new contents on the web site; reminders of upcoming events; and EPAC management matters such as membership renewal reminders. Feedback has been positive. My intention is to send ten per year (monthly except in July and August).
- The new web site was launched in April (before the period covered by this report). People like it: we have received spontaneous comments from visitors to the site and it has stimulated several people to join EPAC. We have had some success in adding content, such as articles and the slide presentations from our webinars, and using it to provide news. Next steps: we will add a feature to allow other organizations to add their ethics-events news, subject to our moderation. That will allow EPAC’s site to grow into a national calendar of ethics events, without excessive drain on our resources.
The great challenge is keep the web site up-to-date with current information and make it a location for finding information of permanent interest to members. We do not yet have a dedicated webmaster.
- Six lunch-time ethics round-tables were held in Ottawa since the last AGM. We plan to continue these events as they are probably the easiest way to have ethics discussions and networking in any locality with at least one EPAC member. In response to several requests, a first after-work gathering was held in late May. Our hope is that this timing will be attractive to university students as well as others. For the coming year, we will vary the days on which we meet. Thank you to two members: Monique Boivin for handling the arrangements and communications for the lunch-time events; and Jo-Ann Fennessey inaugurated the early evening variant with help from Monique.
- We count on partnering with other organizations (ethics-focused and otherwise) to help us increase our effectiveness. Last November we assisted CBERN in publicizing its “Educating for Integrity” conference at York University, which I attended. In early June I attended the annual RÉOQ symposium and shared ideas with its executives about future cooperation. Mary Gusella and I have provided input to plans for an invitational ethics conference in Toronto in late September and we hope to show our flag there. A different sort of partnership was with the Ottawa Little Theatre. Thanks to Mark Audcent’s efforts, I facilitated an ethics discussion after a performance of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in early March.
Given our history and membership, our partnership with the federal government is of particular importance. Our Board wrote a letter to the new Prime Minister and the Treasury Board Secretary in November, offering EPAC’s collaboration in creating and maintaining an ethical culture. It spoke of the need for practitioners to learn continuously and widely (not only within Government of Canada walls); the need for aspirational goals in ethics, not just minimum standards for compliance; and the importance of an ethics champion function. In February I addressed the federal Interdepartmental Network for Values and Ethics, and the organizers have agreed to forward EPAC information to members.
- EPAC received assistance in the form of a practicum placement from the Carleton University Ethics and Public Affairs program. The program was announced on February 15, 2015; one of the founders is an EPAC member, Dr. Jay Drydyk. Jay approached EPAC with a proposal to place students in a practicum with us. The practicum student, Dr. Katherine Wayne, has expertise in medical ethics and animal ethics, and teaches part-time at Carleton. She assisted EPAC with our telephone interviews of members. Thank you Katherine! I hope to repeat and expand EPAC’s hosting of practicum students.
- We begin this meeting with six Directors, all of us in the middle of our two-year terms and intending to continue. We are: Meg Steele, Mary Gusella, Matt Marjanski, Mark Audcent and myself in Ottawa; and Ryan Turnbull in Toronto. One new member has offered to join the Board: Craig Ervine in Belleville. If elected later in this AGM, it will bring our complement to seven. Our Articles of Continuance require the Board to have at least three directors and no more than twelve. While seven is a solid number, I hope to hear from more volunteers, with a focus on representing more regions of Canada and a wide range of interests and roles in organizational ethics.
Thank you to Kim Ann Chute who had to leave her Director position during the winter for family reasons. As of today’s AGM, we say goodbye to Gary Corbett, a one-term director who has decided against standing for renewal. I appreciated Gary’s thoughts on various issues and count on him to be an active member.
- The EPAC membership at this time last year was 58. Right now our records show 44 members; 12 of them are new members. In addition, we expect more renewals shortly – we have learned that renewal notices failed to reach some members, and early in the year we had an administrative problem with the payment system.
During the fall and early winter we spoke with about half our members, and I have established a practice of personally interviewing every new member. This is teaching us more about the relevance of EPAC. For instance, about a dozen members also participate in our Québec counterpart, RÉOQ. They say that they want to be more than local or regional in their ethics learning and networking.
As I said last year, we know that it is important to our members to have an organization like EPAC – some are so committed that they step forward to volunteer on the Board and in other ways. We won’t let this flame die. We are convinced of the need for EPAC to exist and to become more vigorous. Canada needs EPAC!
Robert Czerny, chair, EPAC Board of Directors
Note: Volunteers were thanked at a different point in the meeting. Here is the statement about volunteers:
It is a great pleasure to mention those whose volunteer assistance contributed to EPAC’s activities. Our first two webinars were made possible by four presenters: member Diane Girard, assisted by member Pat Cummins; followed by two non-members, lawyer Kenda Murphy and change management consultant Margot Cameron.
Former director Kim-Ann Chute assisted in the early planning; director Meg Steele and member Monique Boivin helped with the organizing, and Meg arranged for accreditation of the second webinar as Continuing Professional Development Hours required of lawyers and paralegals in Ontario.
Our informal ethics round tables continued at lunch time thanks to the communications and organizing efforts of Monique Boivin; and she assisted member Jo-Ann Fennessey in launching the supper-hour round tables.
Dr. Katherine Wayne accepted a practicum placement with EPAC. She did many of our calls to members, and assisted in some of our strategic reflections. I hope she will continue her connection with EPAC.
EPAC communicates as much as possible in French as well as English. Thank you to member Marjolaine Lalonde for translation help, and especially to Monique Boivin who has assisted a great deal for several years.
Pat Cummins helped EPAC find our new pro bono financial reviewer, Randy Tivy of Collins Barrow Ottawa LLP. We are very grateful for this assistance.
Thank you to all our directors for assisting in the orderly functioning of EPAC and in carrying out our mission!
Finally, although they aren’t volunteers, I wish to acknowledge the Willow Group, our administrative service. They understand our limited-budget situation and have helped us find low-cost solutions, even though this reduces their revenues.