February 2020 Youth Project Special General Meeting

Dan MacKay • 2020-02-15 • Halifax

Results of the election and biographies of the new boardmembers are near the bottom of the article.

Forty-six people gathered at the Halifax Library for a Special General Meeting of the Youth Project.  The meeting was called to elect a new board, as the entire current board was resigning - in any organization, a catastrophic event.

In nonprofit-society organization lingo, "Special" means that it is not the annual general meeting. "General Meeting" means all of the society's members are invited.

Who are members of the Youth Project?  Each nonprofit society gets to define this for themselves; at the meeting on Saturday it meant whoever showed up at this meeting and signed in.

As of the fall of 2019, the board comprised: Rhiannon Makohoniuk (Vice Chair), Clark MacIntosh (Treasurer), Alice Kitz (Secretary), Owen Johnstone,  Kim Vance-Mubanga, Hilary Murphy, and Gloria Nickerson (Directors), and two Youth Board positions; the Youth Project has a separate Youth Board which runs some events and operates in an advisory mode to the main board.  All but three of the main Board had resigned.

Rhiannon gave us some background on events in the last year - since the Special General Meeting in November in 2018, which was covered by Wayves here: http://www.wayves.ca/node/357 . These events corresponded with Kate Shewan's dramatic suspension and re-instatement which were somewhat covered by Wayves here http://www.wayves.ca/node/359

After Kate left in March [of 2019], the board unsuccessfully consulted hiring firms for filling the position, but the board, staff and the hiring firm had different ideas of what they wanted to see in an Executive Director (ED.)  Partly we wanted to address a racist history with the organization, the way we had not catered to bipoc [black, indigenous, people of colour] youth and people.  We released a statement talking about this history of racism and how we would do better moving forward which included a Community Hiring Committee to select the next ED. The C.H.C launched in May, and it was a group of seven bipoc members plus one from the YP Board and one from the YP Yout Board. The group met several times to work out the job description. From that a candidate was nominated and we made an offer, but it became obvious that there were problems with the process and mutually decided this person would leave.

 In fall 2019, we lost four board members, bringing us down to three, below the quorum for the board. 

An audience member asked if those four board resignations for political reasons; several people responded that there were various reasons.

We met with staff, and decided that what we’ve been doing wasn’t working, so we set out to do a restructuring, but because of capacity and other issues that never got off the ground.

In December we met and decided that due to burnout and the work that a board should be doing, that the three of us would resign and we’d hold an AGM/SGM to get new boardmembers. 

Rhiannon presented a summary of the activity in the last year prepared by a staff member: Programming: over 100 program events in 2019, with a combined 2,283 youth attending these programs; new programming: nonbinary hangout, gender creative kids, accession? qdbipoc specific programming; hired 2 new educators, Tianna and Maxi, building new curriculum preschool-grade 3 including a P-3 workshop with illustrations by Bria Miller showing there many ways to create a home life; 4-12 workshop including land acknowledgement, intersectionality, fostering empathy by talking about coming out and gender dysphoria;  work on translating our workshops into French for CSAP schools including un-gendered pronouns; we’ve been to 23 schools, reached over 3000 students and 241 teachers;  we've created an Education Resource PDF including tips for trans youth, and things to print out at schools;  meetings with the Department of of Education looking for greater interaction with their professional development days - and to disrupt queerphobia and transphobia.

Madonna Doucette gave a report of the Cape Breton branch's activities: a long term partnership with Eskasoni; a partnership with...  [she held up a bright red knitted penis & scrotum.] Well, a community member heard that someone had their packer confiscated. So this was designed by Wonderful Weavers. We can have more made. The crafters doing it have events called “dong-alongs” where they come together to make these. The charming part is that a) these exist and b) there are strangers who care about trans kids who make these. “It felt like superman’s cape” “it was the first time their son had smiled consistently.” We are a small but mighty staff, but we’re full time.

We have a new social support group: a youth choir, big hit with the older 17-25. Programming is more of a challenge because of transportation, but we’re close to 170 education hours in the schools. We have a good partnership with NSCC - Marconi Campus students are placed with us, and Nova Scotia Works. We’re getting people who need volunteer hours.

We’re a branch, Halifax is the tree, we’re worried about the tree. We’re not trying to gloss over the problems here. We’re going to go forward. The work we’re doing is too important. Failure is not an option.  We have members from Cape Breton who are interested in becoming the Board.  We can make those voices part of the support structures. Let’s go forward, we have stuff to figure out. Have faith that we can do this. We’re all here for the same reason. Our organization is flawed, but it’s saving lives. We have to keep our eyes on the prize.



For the election of new board members, eight people stood and gave quick biographies.  They were presented as a slate, but there were objections and instead the nominees left the room, the members had a discussion and voted individually.  Six were elected; here are their biographies:

Adam Sigrist: he/him: I have a lot of community experience. I worked for Hal Con making sure the nerd community has a more insectional content. I got hired on to the McPhee Centre for Creative Learning with the mission of making our programs accessible to a broader community. With all the issues of racism is not going to be solved by another white guy, or a team of them. But we need diversity; we can work hard to remember every marginalized community. 

Dave Drapak he / him: I’ve been working with queer youth for 22 years. I want to help the board through this transition time. I’m an art teacher particularly connected to black and indigenous students. (someone remarked that he had recently won an award.)

Connor McKiggan they/them: Dal student in 5th year; currently is on the board of ISCANS. It does fundraising for Manna For Health. I’ve attended programming at the Youth Project when I was 13. I’m 21 now. 

AC Silver they/them: Med Student at Dal: I’ve been working with DalOUT for the last two years. They had imploded in the previous couple years and a group of us came together to restart it for the Dal students.  We’re still on the executive at DalOUT. 

Sadia McDonald-Strand: I’ve been on a lot of boards for NGOs all over the world since I was 14. I’m the VP of Events & Programming at DalOUT. It would be nice to find more people of colour. I’m extremely mixed race.

Dave Gruchy: I was around when the YP started in the ‘90s. I went to school with Kim at Acadia. I wanted to make sure this place didn’t close. I’ma  college instructor. I work in te addictions community outreach program. I got involved in the YP in the Valley. I’ve done work in sexualized violence; served with the dept of health & wellness. I’ve written policy. I’m on several boards and advisory committees.

Bria MacKinnon: Used to work at the Youth Project for 3 years in Halifax and then with Madonna for a few years before that. I want to bring something back to the Youth Project.

A motion was passed for the board to conduct a needs assessment and create a talent matrix, and to recruit the rest of the board to fill those gaps.

The meeting ended at 4:20, just 20 minutes late.

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