Chad Gaffield - President (2017-2019)
Dear RSC colleagues, partners, and friends,
Among the many inspiring events at our annual gathering this year, one remarkable highlight was the hoop dance performed by Shanley Spence accompanied by Wayne Ruby Jr at the opening reception held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. This riveting performance invited us to reflect on indigenous holistic thinking as we began our RSC discussions. In my own case, I thought about connections between two important themes of scholarly and scientific attention: indigenous knowledge and digitally-enabled research on complex phenomena. These connections came to mind as hoop configurations appeared, dissolved, and transformed into exponentially more dynamic formations in seamless, musically-enriched and visually-compelling ways. More generally, I reflected during the performance on the promising possibilities inherent in connecting diverse epistemologies and metaphysics.
A central attraction of the RSC annual gathering is the opportunity to engage across all fields with exceptionally talented leaders from multiple generations and numerous domestic and international communities. Of special importance, of course, is the chance to warmly welcome the incoming Fellows and College Members, and to learn about their remarkable achievements including in some cases discussions following their Pecha Kucha presentations. This recent innovation for our gathering is certainly becoming a can’t-miss activity with over 50 participants now contributing to Pecha Kucha presentations over two days. For my part, it was such a privilege to receive the new Fellows and College Members, and to applaud their achievements along with all those who have supported their work such as our Institutional Members.
In addition to celebrating excellence and engaging across conceptual and institutional borders, the RSC weekend included major steps forward, most notably the approval of our new Strategic Plan that resulted from our year-long pan-Canadian consultation. The foundation of the plan rests on defining excellence as inclusive excellence. In this context, we selected three ambitions to guide our activity by both building on our past, and accelerating our current efforts to embrace 21st century challenges and opportunities: 1) Mobilizing our Membership; 2) Catalyzing New Contributions; and 3) Sustaining Momentum. In this way, our new Strategic Plan benefits from the three standing committees of Council as well as recent initiatives on renewing nomination and selection processes, and on updating our means for making intellectual contributions to urgent societal issues. The Strategic Plan commits to improved internal and external communication (supported by a new digital strategy) with an increased regional presence and focused global engagement. Expanded and deepened collaboration with related groups and organizations in Canada will underpin these initiatives. Internally, we will be paying increased attention to transparency, efficiency and effectiveness through continuous improvement in our governance and management. The full Strategic Plan will be published in January 2018 and we invite everyone to join us in pursuing the three objectives for the coming five years.
At our Council meeting in November, we also had the chance to express our deep gratitude to Maryse Lassonde on the completion of her mandate as President that was marked by numerous achievements ranging from updated administration to leadership on equity and diversity both within and beyond the RSC. Fortunately, Maryse continues as Council member in the position of Past-President and we look forward to continuing to count on her leadership contributions.
Similarly, we honoured our three Academy Presidents who made such profound contributions during their mandates: Irving Abella, Constance Backhouse, and Jamal Deen. As well, we paused to thank Jeremy McNeil who has done so much to enhance the RSC’s international engagement over the past decade.
Throughout 2016, I had the privilege, as President-Elect, to work with our incoming Academy Presidents, Jean Grondin, Alain Gagnon, and Vijaya Rhaghavan. Our new International Secretary, Marie D’Iorio, has been hard at work drafting an international engagement strategy. These new members join Cynthia Milton (President of The College), Sheila Embleton (Honorary Secretary), and Jean-Marie Toulouse (Honourary Treasurer) to form the Council for the coming year. At our annual meeting, we also applauded the election of Joanna Quinn as President-Elect of the College. Supported by the talented and devoted RSC staff at Walter House, we have already begun focusing on the implementation of our strategic plan and we look forward to your continuing collaboration and engagement.
In her remarks at this year’s concluding event held in the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Her Excellency the Governor-General of Canada, Julie Payette, emphasized that “Canada and the world are facing many challenges and opportunities, many of which are deeply complex and intertwined. We need everyone’s involvement, and in particular the talented and creative minds of the Royal Society of Canada to cooperate, move forward and help find solutions for the future”. Our highest aspiration is that, guided by a Strategic Plan that aims high, we can collectively help ensure a better future for Canada and the world.
Yours in RSC,