Deaf Alberta Expo 2015
The Deaf Alberta Expo, known as DAE, occurs every few years to usually coincide with the anniversary of either EAD (Edmonton Association of the Deaf) or CAD (Calgary Association of the Deaf). This time, the big number was 80 for the Calgary Association of the Deaf's anniversary.
I had the pleasure of attending the opening ceremony, a presentation, a panel, and an art show. This was a whirlwind visit in Calgary that lasted about 36 hours, much of it thanks to my excellent boyfriend Andrés braving the insane QE2 and deeply troubling Calgary intersections. I was able to meet a ton of my Calgary peers for the first time, having known them only by name, plus a few new faces as I continue to immerse myself in my community.
A lot of my conversations were centred on my candidacy for Secretary of the Alberta Association of the Deaf, and the overall response has been so positive. Either a person didn't know me but was excited to see a young face interested in leading part of the political campaign in Alberta, or they knew me and were thrilled that I was investing my energy in a board position. Even with my shameless self-promotion, I managed to learn a great deal about the history of the Deaf in Alberta as well. It will likely take years to truly get up to speed, but DAE was essentially a snapshot of where we are now. I get to move backwards while working forward.
The presentation that I attended was Chris Kenopic's keynote - he hails from West Toronto and has been involved in the Canada Association of the Deaf for about 33 years. He delivered a keynote on leadership within the Deaf community, which tended to focus on how easily we can lose our vision due to weak leadership or unfocused memberships. Although he discussed many things, one observation stood out in particular for me.
Chris emphasized that Deaf leaders must be careful to set clear expectations (just as the membership must set clear expectation of what the leader should accomplish during their term) of a member's responsibility when they are asked to complete a certain task or goal. Measurable metrics must be used to justify a leader's decision to replace a person when that member does not accomplish enough or anything at all. This is completely routine in the thousands of organizations that make up our society, but our community can struggle with this due to our small size. We are all so closely and dearly dependent on each other that when we feel rejected due to our poor professional performance, it is hard not to take it personally.
Chris chose his signs in a way that suggested he was very aware of how this issue has plagued Alberta in particular. Our provincial community is somewhat unique in Canada - we are mainly located in two urban centres three hours apart, and our two associations historically have not coordinated with each other a great deal (although that is rapidly changing right now). Compared to the metropolises of Vancouver/Victoria, Toronto, Montreal, and smaller cities in the Maritimes, Alberta does experience an unique challenge in our community is already split in two, reducing the amount of space between each individual member in each urban centre. So when a painful decision has to be made, there is less social cushioning for that member to accept and move on - thus it becomes personal and develops into a grudge.
This isn't to say that leaders are blameless. Chris pointed out that we cannot be haughty in our behaviour, and whenever we have to make those difficult decisions we must ensure we do it with love, and approach that person regularly in the future to make it clear that they are still welcome in the association.
Chris' mature observations are rooted in a deep Deaf political experience. To me, it was inspiring to watch him and think that in 30 years, I might be standing where he is now. Where I do stand now is candidacy - that's all. Hopefully come November 14 the AAD membership views me as the best candidate for Secretary, and I will be able to give back to my community in more ways than before.