Professeur Christine Wilson remporte le Prix Exécutif 2022

Tous les deux ans, le conseil d’administration de la CASCA a l’honneur de décerner le prix exécutif pour service exceptionnel « à une personne qui a contribué de façon soutenue à renforcer la communauté astronomique canadienne et à accroître son impact au niveau régional, national et/ou international ». La professeure Christine Wilson, de l’Université McMaster, est la récipiendaire du prix exécutif 2022.

L’engagement exceptionnel de Dre Wilson envers la communauté astronomique canadienne a été évident dès le début de sa carrière. Après son retour au Canada pour occuper un poste de professeure à l’Université McMaster en 1992, elle a immédiatement contribué à plusieurs comités clés, y compris un comité du CNRC sur une nouvelle installation radio nationale, et a été nommée à un poste de directrice de la CASCA en 1996. Au cours des décennies suivantes, elle a siégé à de nombreux comités de la CASCA, dont un comité d’examen à mi-parcours, occupant souvent des postes simultanément, ainsi que la vice-présidence en 2012-2014 et la présidence en 2014-2016. Plus récemment, le professeure Wilson a présidé le comité de mise en œuvre des recommandations communautaires du plan à long terme de la CASCA (LCRIC).

Dans le domaine de l’astronomie submm, sa réputation d’excellence en recherche ainsi que ses compétences en gestion largement reconnues l’ont amenée à assumer des rôles de leadership clés pour les intérêts scientifiques et logiciels canadiens dans le projet ALMA. Elle a été scientifique canadienne du projet ALMA de 1999 à 2011, présidente du comité directeur scientifique canadien de l’ALMA de 2001 à 2010, ainsi que membre de quatre autres comités et conseils clés de l’ALMA. S’il ne fait aucun doute que ALMA est le fruit d’un important travail d’équipe, ses efforts ont été essentiels pour faire de ALMA le grand succès qu’il est, tant du point de vue de la collaboration canadienne qu’internationale.

Pendant trois décennies, le Dre Christine Wilson a été un modèle et une ambassadrice engagée de l’astronomie au Canada. En lui décernant ce prix au nom de la communauté astronomique canadienne, le conseil d’administration de la CASCA reconnaît sa contribution essentielle à la communauté professionnelle canadienne et internationale, et lui adresse ses plus sincères remerciements.

President’s Message

By / par Chris Wilson (CASCA Acting President)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2022)

I would like to start this President’s report by welcoming the new members of the CASCA Board: Adam Muzzin as Vice President, Rob Cockcroft as Secretary, and Renee Hlozek and Karun Thanjavur as new Directors. Lewis Knee has been acclaimed to a second term as CASCA Treasurer, while Laura Parker and Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo are continuing in their third year as Directors. Thanks to all of you for being willing to serve! Thank you also to the outgoing Board members: Judith Irwin (Secretary), Ivana Damjanov (Director), and Etienne Artigau (Director). A special thank you to Erik Rosolowsky (Acting Vice-President) and Rob Thacker (Acting President) for stepping up to serve in these important CASCA roles last summer.

As those of you who attended the CASCA Business Meeting in May will know, I have agreed to step in to serve as CASCA Acting President for 2022-2023. Like Rob Thacker this past year, I am in this position under Bylaw 9.1, and will not be continuing in this position beyond the 2023 AGM. Thus, in 2023 we will look to elect a new President, as well as two new Directors. More information about the elections, including how to nominate someone or be nominated yourself, will be circulated later this year.

As I have been in the Acting President position for just over a month, this message will provide a short update on a few key areas. I plan to provide a more extensive discussion in my fall message, once I have had more time to review what the CASCA Board has on its “to do” list.

Coalition activities continue to focus on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), where things appear to be progressing well. The SKA is now one year into construction of SKA Phase 1 and continues to evolve rapidly. Canada’s scientists and engineers are participating in SKA through March 2023 via a co-operation agreement between NRC and the SKAO. To continue our leading role in SKA construction deliverables such as the SKA1-mid correlator will require the Canadian government to commit to construction and operations funding quite soon. Please refer to the excellent article by Kristine Spekkens for more information on the SKA.

Another important initiative that is gaining significant momentum is CASTOR, a Canadian-led optical-UV space telescope and the highest priority in space astronomy in the 2020 Long Range Plan (LRP2020). The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) held a virtual Canadian Space Exploration Workshop June 14-16, 2022, which I am sure many of you attended. The workshop provided an opportunity to discuss ideas for Canadian space exploration over the next 30 years and will serve as input to CSA’s planning process.

The LRP Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC) has continued their hard work over the past three months. They hosted a well-attended webinar on “Including Indigenous voices in astronomy education” at the end of March. They have drafted a very important policy paper on land and consent (LRP2020 Recommendation #1) as it relates to new astronomical facilities that has been circulated to the community and was presented and discussed in a special session at the CASCA AGM. Sharon Morsink has taken over as chair of LCRIC for 2022-23 and I look forward to working closely with her and the rest of the LCRIC as they work to move the societal recommendations from LRP2020 forward.

I hope everyone has a healthy and productive summer,


Report from the LCRIC

By / par Sharon Morsink (LCRIC chair)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2022)

The Long Range Plan Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC) has been meeting weekly from March – May this spring and is now taking a summer recess. We thank Chris Wilson (LCRIC Chair June 2021 – May 2022) and LCRIC members Shantanu Basu, Michael Reid, Etienne Artigau, and Hilding Neilson for their work on this committee over the last year. Brenda Matthews, Laurie Rousseau-Nepton, and Sharon Morsink (LCRIC Chair June 2022 – May M023) will be continuing to work on this committee over the next year along with new LCRIC members.

In the months since the vernal equinox, LCRIC has written and released to the CASCA community a document on Land and Consent, in response to Recommendation #1 of the Long Range Plan (LRP2020). We thank the CASCA members who gave us thoughtful comments and feedback at the CASCA AGM or privately. We will release a final revision of this document in Autumn 2022 and look forward to working with the CASCA Board on issues related to Land and Consent in astronomy.

We have made excellent progress on developing terms for the creation of an Indigenous Engagement Committee, in response to Recommendation #46 of LRP2020. We are interested in consulting with the new President’s Indigenous Advisory Circle to get their input before presenting plans for a new committee to the CASCA Board.

On March 31, 2022, we hosted a webinar titled « Including Indigenous Voices in Astronomy Education ». This webinar included panelists Jason Bazylack (Professor of Engineering at University of Toronto), Samantha Lawler (Assistant Professor of Physics at University of Regina), Ismael Moumen (Researcher at Universite Laval/CFHT), and Laurie Rousseau-Nepton (Resident Astronomer at CFHT). The panelists discussed their work on bringing Indigenous perspectives to their classrooms, outreach with Indigenous communities, and facilitating an inclusive environment. We hope that the CASCA community who were able to attend this webinar found it educational!

Over the last 3 months, we have met with the Sustainability Committee and the Graduate Student Committee to discuss their concerns and LRP2020 recommendations related to these specific committees. In the coming months, we plan to meet again with the Postdoc, Equity and Inclusivity, and Education and Public Outreach Committees to discuss progress on LRP2020 recommendations.

Over the next few months, we will be carefully examining progress on the LRP2020 recommendations in collaboration with the Ground-based Astronomy Committee, the Joint Committee on Space Astronomy, and the CASCA Board to make sure that all recommendations receive attention, and that we have a detailed plan and timeline for acting on the LRP2020 recommendations.

The LCRIC recognizes that transparency and consultation are very important as our community moves forward to implement the recommendations of the LRP. We will be seeking input from a diversity of perspectives, recognizing that astronomy and astronomers exist in a broader societal context. We welcome feedback and comments at any time, via email to the LCRIC chair. Communications will be kept confidential if requested.

Dr. JJ Kavelaars: 2022 Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools

CASCA is pleased to announce that Dr. JJ Kavelaars is the winner of the 2022 Dunlap Award.  This award recognizes his leadership at the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre.  Over the past five years in which Dr. Kavelaars has been head of the CADC, it has provided public access to its largest number of telescope archival datasets, expanded a key initiative to bring high-performance distributed cloud computing services to Canadian astronomers via the Canadian Advanced Network for Astronomical Research (CANFAR), and laid the groundwork for new archives and processing environments for the upcoming JWST, Vera C. Rubin Observatory, and the Square Kilometre Array.  He received his PhD from Queen’s University, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at McMaster University.  He is now a Senior Research Officer at NRC-Herzberg in Victoria as well as an adjunct professor at UVic, where in addition to leading the CADC, he continues to make groundbreaking discoveries in the Kuiper Belt using ground and space-based telescopes as well as being a part of the New Horizons Mission team.

Dr. Anthony Moffat: 2022 Carlyle S. Beals Award for Outstanding Research

CASCA is pleased to announce that Dr. Anthony Moffat is the winner of the 2022 Beals Award.  This is in recognition of decades of cutting-edge research on topics relating to massive stars, including Wolf-Rayet stars, stellar pulsations, rotation, magnetic fields, clumping, binaries, clusters, and surveys.  Many of us have used a Moffat profile: that was his work! He received his doctorates in astronomy from Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum in Germany, and has been a professor at Université de Montréal ever since, and hasn’t slowed his research output since taking emeritus status.  He has trained generations of scientists who are still working in Canada and internationally. He remains very active in research on massive stars and astronomy projects like the BRITE constellation.

Dr Deborah Good: 2022 Médaille J. S. Plaskett pour la thèse de doctorat la plus remarquable

La CASCA a le plaisir d’annoncer que Dr Deborah Good est la lauréate de la médaille J.S. Plaskett 2022, qui récompense la thèse de doctorat la plus remarquable en astronomie ou en astrophysique. Dr Good a obtenu son doctorat en 2021 sous la direction de Dr Ingrid Stairs à l’Université de la Colombie-Britannique et elle est maintenant boursière postdoctorale à l’Université du Connecticut et au Flatiron Center for Computational Astrophysics. Sa thèse, « Timing Pulsars and Detecting Radio Transients with CHIME », comprend un travail novateur sur les premiers mois de détection de pulsars et de sursauts radio rapides avec CHIME. Pour mener à bien cette recherche, elle a mené des efforts au sein de l’équipe CHIME pour calibrer les instruments, développer des logiciels d’analyse, vérifier les détections, et elle est à la fine pointe de la recherche pour tenter de découvrir si oui ou non tous les sursauts radio rapides sont des événements récurrents. Elle a également recueilli des données sur les pulsars, découvert de nombreux nouveaux pulsars et adapté l’algorithme de réductions de données NANOGrav pour qu’il fonctionne avec les données CHIME, posant ainsi les bases du traitement des données qui sera nécessaire dans les prochaines années.

Nous tenons également à reconnaître les thèses exceptionnelles de tous les finalistes : Dr Connor Bottrell, Dr Ryan Chown, Dr Adam Gonzalez, et Dr Émilie Parent.

Dr Karun Thanjavur: Prix Qilak 2022 pour la communication en astronomie, l’éducation du public et la sensibilisation

La CASCA a le plaisir d’annoncer que le Dr Karun Thanjavur est le lauréat du prix Qilak 2022, qui récompense son travail exceptionnel de sensibilisation auprès d’un groupe diversifié, en particulier ses efforts pour mettre en relation les communautés autochtones de la province avec l’Université de Victoria. Parmi les projets qu’il a menés au cours des dernières années, citons de nombreux programmes permettant à des étudiants autochtones de suivre des cours d’astronomie, des laboratoires et des séances d’observation à l’observatoire de l’université. Il a également dirigé l’organisation de plusieurs activités lors de la CASCA 2018, qui ont permis de mettre en relation des gardiens du savoir autochtones locaux avec des membres de la CASCA. En plus de ces programmes axés sur les relations avec les autochtones, il apparaît régulièrement dans les médias et organise de nombreuses activités de sensibilisation du public avec l’observatoire de l’Université de Victoria. L’événement de l’éclipse solaire 2017 a connu un succès retentissant avec ~1500 participants. En plus d’encadrer des étudiants d’âges et de milieux très différents, il obtient chaque trimestre du temps d’observation sur le télescope Plaskett de l’Observatoire Fédéral d’Astrophysique, spécifiquement pour former et encadrer des étudiants de premier cycle. Dr Thanjavur a obtenu son doctorat à l’Université de Victoria et a occupé des postes allant de l’ingénierie maritime à l’enseignement de la robotique et de l’ingénierie de la combustion, en passant par l’instrumentation et un poste d’astronome résident au Télescope Canada-France-Hawaï. Il est actuellement instructeur principal de laboratoire à l’Université de Victoria.

Report from the LCRIC

By / par Chris Wilson (LCRIC chair)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2022)

The Long Range Plan Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC) has continued to meet weekly over the past 3 months. Our primary focus has been on developing draft documents for LRP2020 Recommendation #1 (on Land and Consent) and Recommendation #46 (on an Indigenous Engagement Committee), as well as organizing the second in our series of webinars. We are also beginning to work on an LCRIC-focused session for the 2022 CASCA AGM.

Building on our work at the end of 2021, the LCRIC has held significant internal discussions around LRP2020 Recommendation #1, which focuses on issues of land and consent. We have produced a short document that we have passed along to the CASCA Board for their consideration and feedback.

The LCRIC has also had sustained discussions around LRP Recommendation #46, which envisages establishing a new CASCA committee, an Indigenous Engagement Committee. Among the items we are discussing is the scope of this committee, how it should interact with other existing CASCA committees, what types of persons would be appropriate and useful members of this committee, and how to fund the committee’s activities. We aim to develop a draft document with some ideas that we will share with the CASCA Board in the next 3 months.

We have also been working to organize our second webinar, titled “Including Indigenous Voices in Astronomy Education”. This webinar is now scheduled for 4-5:30 pm Eastern Time on Thursday, March 31, 2022 and will be held via zoom. The goal of this webinar is to share with CASCA members ideas and actions that they can use to support Indigenous knowledges, include Indigenist methods, and to be inclusive of Indigenous students in their classes. Panelists include: Jason Bazylack, Samantha Lawler, Ismael Moumen, and Laurie Rousseau-Nepton. There will be time for audience members to ask questions of the panelists. All participants are expected to follow the event’s Code of Conduct and pre-registration is required. An announcement of this webinar was circulated on the CASCA email exploder in mid-March.

Looking ahead, over the next 3 months, LCRIC is planning to meet with the Sustainability Committee and the Graduate Student Committee to discuss LRP2020 recommendations in their areas of interest. Finally, we will continue our initial work on an implementation timeline for the LRP2020 societal recommendations, with a focus on goals over the next 1 to 3 years.

The LCRIC recognizes that transparency and consultation are very important as our community moves forward to implement the recommendations of the LRP. We will be seeking input from a diversity of perspectives, recognizing that astronomy and astronomers exist with a broader societal context. We welcome feedback and comments at any time, via the Public Discussion page or by email to one of the LCRIC members. Communications will be kept confidential if requested.

President’s Message

By / par Rob Thacker (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2022)

On Some Difficult Questions for CASCA

I will centre myself often in this dialogue as identity matters, and I want to emphasize that I’m writing to encourage broader thought, these are obviously my personal views on how I believe organizations should function. I may ask some difficult questions, but they are meant to be general rather than focused, and to lead introspection.

That many of you may well find some of statements I make easier to be framed by me as a (hopefully perceived) compassionate and unthreatening white cis-gender man, also helps to position this dialogue. I’ve never considered myself an activist, but I am married to a person who is deaf, who has had to fight for so many things in their life that I can almost remember where the furrows on her brow come from. I also work with many colleagues who consider themselves activists. That simple statement about not seeing myself as an activist perhaps encapsulates my inherent whiteness, namely, to not see myself for what I am.

I wrote a President’s message in 2019 on the close proximity of CASCA to government, the high costs of the projects we are now involved in and the responsibility it places on our community. While one can argue Canada is normally a small player in major international projects, the reality is the size of those projects are becoming massive. I concluded that essay by saying “It’s one thing to say that knowledge from astronomy benefits everyone, but there’s a growing onus on astronomers to make connections that fulfil that promise.

How far have we come?

Each of you will have a different viewpoint and answer. That is the nature of community.

I’ve been asked why it was important to run the leadership panel this past November, and, other than the fact a promise was made to do that, I think it speaks to the fundamental value of dialogue. With CASCA being a (not-for-profit) corporation, ultimate authority and legal responsibility sits with the Board to determine what is appropriate. That said, I think with most of us being used to working in university collegial governance we would expect support for discussion over difficult topics, that is one of the key things universities are meant to do. However, we have a clear organizational dissonance right now, as the Letters Patent for the Society has a distinctly different flavour to a university act, which usually include statements around freedom and respect, for example. To be more explicit, we don’t have a Senate, we don’t have an Appeals Board, and multiple other structures. CASCA simply does not operate under the same principles as most universities.

What about when discussions get heated? Could we have “civility codes of conduct” to avoid offense and discomfort as distinct from equity-driven codes of conduct employed in conference environments? Obviously, this has been a major discussion on campuses for some time now. But despite our differences from a university structure, I strongly feel we should continue to follow CAUT guidelines to resist imposing any such legislation. David Robinson, CAUT Executive Director, has spoken extensively about how while a goal of civil and respectful dialogue is laudable, when policies are put in place to regulate speech and behaviour then free expression can be put at risk. These issues become most prominent during protest and dissent. CAUT usually highlights the 2014 Capilano University protest as an example where the creation of a statue was ruled as harassment of the university President, which in turn was seen as a clear violation of academic freedom and freedom of expression in a follow-on review.

To be clear: CASCA has a moral and legal obligation to ensure its operation is free from discrimination and harassment, but, at least in my view, we cannot enshrine an intrinsic right to never be offended or uncomfortable. As to the standard of this statute, that is a challenge, and one I will admit is very difficult to determine. Legally, we fall back to the reasonable and competent assessment, but from a social justice perspective that can be argued to be insufficient.

Consequently, as someone that works as a union Lead Negotiator, I am (personally) resistant to any policy which intimidates and silences by inappropriate methods of behaviour control that can be used to oppress, as the 2014 Capilano University case shows. Moreover, I wholly admit it is easy for me to say these things as someone that is implicitly a member of an empowered group and there are complicating factors, for example although many of our members have academic freedom, not all do. Arguments between individuals with academic freedom vs those without it can have an inherent imbalance. Please try to be mindful of this issue. Members of CASCA do not all have the same workplace rights.

Above all, I want to remind everyone that without questioning our values we can easily perpetuate dominant ideologies without being aware of it. There is no question that systemic white supremacy is pervasive within academia, even documents on diversity, which may have been written with good intentions, frequently centre whiteness as “normal.” Similarly, we’ve all seen the benefits of dual anonymous reviews in astronomy, we know biases are present.

This winter term I’ve been enrolled in a course “Indigenous Knowledges and Relations” co-taught by Michelle Paul and Benita Bunjun. One of the key questions we are asked as students is a moral one, namely: “Could you learn all the material in this course and still be someone that doesn’t value Indigenous Knowledges and actively works against them?” the answer is obviously that yes, you could. Why would someone? From self-interest, to systemic bias, to conscious racism we can name different possibilities. Education is but one part of a broader issue – indeed I’m currently working with Reconciliation Education to put this in place for the current and future CASCA Boards – but we have to fully process the moral and ethical questions that are implicit within that knowledge.

All of this discussion has been building to highlight one key fact about how we respond to ethical questions: it is ultimately an individual reaction. CASCA can make ethical statements about what it supports as a Society, but it is down to individual members to take those statements and incorporate them in their actions. Not everyone will come to same conclusions, we know that individuals in communities have different viewpoints. Nonetheless, I feel the single most important recommendation in the LRP is that every Canadian astronomer make a personal commitment to inclusion and reflect that in their personal ethics and values.

With that I call on everyone in the Society to be welcoming, generous and open. We are a community that is focused on education. When we argue, make it about learning, rather than mere winning.

Astronomy is important, but we don’t make the world a better place by discovering things about the universe. We make it a better place by truly sharing that discovery with all the people that make it possible, and working together with respect and true partnership.

Coalition Update

Over the past few months Coalition activities have focused strongly around the Square Kilometer Array. As many of you are aware the project continues to move ahead rapidly, please refer to the excellent updates being provided by Kristine Spekkens and the AACS. The cooperation agreement has been a great way to keep Canadian participation moving forward, but it is clear we need to signal a clear intent to the project to shift to full participation before the agreement ends in March 2023. With the agreement only having been signed last November it might seem unusual to have to be back discussing the issue with the Government so quickly, we are mindful of that issue!

I want to express a personal note of thanks to all the members of Coalition that have participated in the many meetings we’ve had in this first quarter. The community should be aware that some of our industry partners support the Coalition and participate in briefings despite not necessarily being involved in construction of a given project, in that sense the Coalition is a true partnership. That is an important and valuable interrelationship. However, I am most thankful to Kristine Spekkens for her amazing efforts in support of education around the SKA and contributions to discussions with key decision-makers.

I’m delighted to say that these meetings have gone well so far. We’ve been able to address many questions about the project and how it fits with several different Government priorities. I am hopeful that we will indeed see a commitment to the project in the time frame that the SKAO needs. It would be a tragedy if the cooperative agreement ended up becoming an off-ramp for our participation.

So long…

I will be stepping down as Interim President at the AGM as I need to lead what will likely be a very difficult negotiation for my fellow faculty members at SMU. As I write this message, I am quite literally minutes away from giving another faculty update. Juggling responsibilities since January has been a headache! Bylaw 9.1 allowed me to work in this position from last August until the next round of CASCA elections, and those will be soon upon us. We are diligently working to prepare a slate of nominations and I am happy to say we are over half-way there at this point, nominations will be presented soon.

I want to thank everyone in the Society for the conversations we’ve had over the past few months, and all the time and work you have committed to the Society, especially those serving on committees and/or the Board. I also thank our staff, Jessica and Don for all the great help they have provided, and Joanne for her continued work as Editor of Cassiopeia.

It has been an honour to serve you all.

My parting thought to each of you: Be gentle with yourself.


President’s Message

By / par Rob Thacker (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

Dear Members,

I’ll start by wishing you all well as the fall starts. There are a lot of nerves in the university community – trust me I know as Chief Negotiator for the Saint Mary’s Faculty Union – and I hope that you are able to work effectively with your own administrations to manage COVID-19 workplace concerns effectively.

While a message like this is inevitably quite arms-length, I sincerely hope you are all able to maintain your mental hygiene. While more and more workplaces are bringing in various support mechanisms along these lines, it can still be difficult to find time for this type of self-care when so many other tasks need to be done. I can certainly say I find it difficult, especially as the service part of my work has grown. Personally, one of the most useful things I have learned is how to avoid ruminating. If you are self-critical that can be quite a debilitating habit. I found this talk by Dr Guy Winch especially enlightening.

It has obviously been an extremely difficult summer for CASCA, but as I have indicated discussions are ongoing and I am optimistic that we seem to be moving forward. The end of August saw something of a pause on efforts as multiple people were out of the office until the start of term. I pass on my personal thanks to all those people that have taken time to talk with me, I have learned much. When trust breaks down it is difficult to quickly rebuild working relationships and as a society of volunteers, we rely immensely on labour that is provided for free. Moreover, those efforts are often provided in situations with limited authority and resources. Remember, the annual budget of CASCA is a fraction of a single faculty salary, compare that to CAUT which receives over $7m a year.

As a note, historically we have tended to not spend resources on Board member training so that we can distribute more funds for supporting conferences. As astronomy working practices are evolving so perhaps should our training expectations. With the past two AGMs functioning in virtual form the Society’s financial picture is relative stable and fees will remain flat again this year. We can thus see a potential for devoting a modest amount of funds towards this. The one challenge with this approach is that directors cycle-off on a 2-year timescale, so whatever is put in place can’t be a one-off situation. There are several resources around anti-racism, as well as other topics around inclusion, that I’ve witnessed used with other Boards quite effectively. Note, I am all too aware of “tick the box” criticisms through my union work, avoiding that is important. I’m not mentioning indigenous issues and reconciliation here as that is a very important issue for the Society which I will address on its own in a future message.

In terms of major civic issues impacting astronomy, by the time you read this we will know the outcome of the federal election. The surprise election of a conservative majority government in Nova Scotia is a stark reminder of the uncertainties of polls. To a certain extent the Coalition has prepared for a possible change of government, but there is only so much that can be done. The decision making and bureaucracy systems function at the will of the government, so we are anticipating an inevitable pause in interactions this fall, precisely how long is difficult to know. As a rough timeline, we can expect a new cabinet appointed by mid-October and Parliament to resume in November.

Rather than outlining summaries of the ongoing status of various projects, which are frequently described in more detail elsewhere in Cassiopeia, in this message I’m going to take some time to talk about the Society and what is expected of directors as well as the process by which directors are appointed.

Of course, research continues apace, and I pass on thanks to all the authors that have contributed to this edition of Cassiopeia. If I can just inject one suggestion, I encourage everyone to read Kristine Spekkens’ SKA update as a lot has been happening there. Joanne Rosvick gets another big thank you for her continued duty and diligence as editor of Cassiopeia!

And, of course, my thanks as always to those of you who continue to give your time to CASCA and to the upkeep of our wider community in general!

CASCA Office Update

I need to inform you all that our webmaster Don Hutton had a heart attack in August. He was given a stent, and while discharged after three days and back at work a few more days later, he tells me he is still tiring easily even if his cholesterol is now impressively low after a change in diet and some medication. While I appreciate that the vast majority of you will not have interacted with Don, I am sure the entire membership will join me in passing on our best wishes for a continued recovery.

Expected Duties of Directors

While a President’s report is perhaps not a great place to give a detailed breakdown of the expected duties of directors, I thought it might be prudent to outline what the typical expectations are. For CASCA, because our resources are comparatively limited compared to the number of members we have, we cannot afford to employ an Executive Director. Consequently, the Board must function perhaps more as a “management Board” than desired, arguably the role of Boards is really meant to be oversight and to a lesser extent strategic direction, among other things.

For not-for-profit boards, the generally accepted duties are as follows:

  1. Duty of Care: Directors have a duty of competence, namely the requirement to act with a certain level of skill in making decisions for the organization. The duty of care describes the level of attention required of a director, arguably one might consider it a “duty to be informed,” and to act with competence and diligence. The law doesn’t require directors to be experts, but it does expect that they act in accordance with a reasonable standard of care and to act responsibly to maintain such standards.
  2. Duty of Loyalty: Directors must act honestly and in good faith, in essence putting the best interests of the whole organization ahead of their own interests. The duty of loyalty is a personal duty of directors, it cannot be delegated to management, staff, or volunteers of the organization.
  3. Duty of Compliance (Obedience): An NFP corporation must follow applicable laws and regulations including its own bylaws. This essentially encapsulates that the organization must adhere to its stated corporate purposes in the Articles of Incorporation.

You can easily find many articles on the web that will define further legal duties, but these three high level requirements outline the key expectations of directors. Duty of Care is interesting in that the ultimate standard is that you show appropriate diligence in your role as director. Attending meetings, for example, is considered one of the parts of this requirement. Note I will say upfront that since we transitioned to monthly meetings on top of the longer quarterly meetings it has proven to be a challenge to find slots that work for everyone. Navigating four time zones across nine people each with difficult teaching schedules can be a struggle.

Duty of Loyalty encapsulates all the conflict of interest concerns we often worry about. It is perhaps the most straightforward expectation, but it can be difficult to meet. We may often not appreciate our own biases, for example. Duty of Compliance is straightforwardly understood.

Some of you may have guessed that I have an ulterior motive for the above few passages. Specifically, next year will be a significant one in terms of elections. Moreover, that process actually has to start surprisingly soon. So, I’ll finish this update with an important discussion of the upcoming elections and the bylaw processes that need to be followed.

2022 AGM Board Elections

One of the roles of the Past President is to organize nominations for the upcoming elections as Chair of the Nominations Committee. I had been looking at this with some trepidation, as for 2022 we have a significant slate of positions to fill on the Board. No less than four officer position and two director positions are potentially up for election as both the Secretary and Treasurer have the choice to offer for a second term.

The precise number of vacancies is determined not less than six months before the AGM, and for this year, November 15th is the latest date. I can say upfront that both myself and Erik, as Acting President & Interim Vice President respectively, will not be continuing beyond the AGM, as we are both in these positions under bylaw 9.1, which allows for emergency actions as needed but only until the next election cycle. Thus, both the Presidency and Vice Presidency must be filled by election in 2022. In case anyone is wondering about the normal succession process of the Vice President becoming the President, that is a policy rather than a bylaw. The bylaws themselves state clearly that office of the President is a position that is elected, in practice the succession approach means we have filled it via acclamation (this point has been emphasized at recent business meetings).

In the recent past, the Nominations Committee has frequently had to canvas people in the community and to generate nominations by that process. While always conducted, IMHO, in a spirit of openness, nonetheless the small size of the Nominations Committee has sometimes limited its awareness. I include myself in that criticism as a former member of the Nominations Committee.

With this in mind, I want to remind the community of the full process of nominations is outlined in the Society bylaws. In terms of eligibility, bylaw 5.2.1 states that directors must be ordinary members of the Society, which means those individuals that have either graduated from a PhD or been granted ordinary membership status. Bylaw 5.2.4 then outlines the Secretary puts out a call for nominations six months before the AGM, and nominations must be supported by five members eligible to vote. The role of the Nominations Committee is essentially to prepare a list of candidates and ensure consent of said individuals.

The remainder of the bylaw describes that members should be informed of the list of candidates at least 60 days before the AGM, although candidates can actually continue to be added up to 40 days before the election date. Note, some of bylaw 5.2.4 is archaic in places, in that we have moved to electronic voting, but the meaning is sufficiently clear it is not problematic. It could be changed, but it’s worth remembering every bylaw change must be filed with Corporations Canada so it is not as trivial as just changing a word document.

OK, I hope that clears up the precise nomination process. If anyone has any questions, you are of course welcome to ask myself, or Judith Irwin the society Secretary.

Wishing every one of you a safe and productive fall,