Message from the President

On April 20, on behalf of its Board of Directors, the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) sent out an email regarding the cancellation of a virtual special meeting that had been scheduled for April 25. The meeting was to discuss and vote on proposed amendments to the bylaws of CPA that have been approved by the Board. I am writing now to follow up from that communication and to let you know our plan for moving ahead with updating the bylaws.

One of the key reasons that the Board opted to cancel the special meeting was that we had received a significant amount of feedback (and concern) that members did not have sufficient information to understand why the changes were being proposed and did not have sufficient time to consider the changes. I am more than willing to try to fill the gap regarding information and, as you will see, we have opted to extend the timeline for discussion, further revision, and, we hope, approval of the new bylaws.

Over the past two years, the Board has received input from a review conducted by the Institute on Governance, from consultation with a highly respected governance coach, and from legal counsel for the CPA. That input describes “best practices” in governance, along with recommendations about how the CPA might wish to update its board composition. A core concern addressed by the expert input was the potential for those board members representing our partner organizations to face conflicts of interest or competing fiduciary responsibilities. Members of the Board met with each of our partner organizations (the Council of Professional Associations of Psychologists (CPAP); the Council of Canadian Departments of Psychology (CCDP); the Canadian Council of Professional Psychology Programs (CCPPP); and the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science (CSBBCS)) during last year’s CPA convention, and the full Board, with the assistance of a facilitator, met for an entire day with leaders of each of those four partner organizations at its November 2017 meeting. The motion to change those four reserved seats to being non-voting reflects the input that was provided from the experts, from the consultations, and from those meetings. The Board greatly values our relationships with CPAP, CCDP, CCCPP, and CSBBCS and the proposed model includes the continued participation and engagement of representatives of those organizations at board meetings without the complications flagged in the reports from the consultants and from legal counsel.

Another significant change contained in the proposed bylaws involves the shift from designated seats to having more board members elected as directors-at-large. There is also the creation of a board position for the Chair of a newly developed Council of Sections. This was discussed in a video conference with current section chairs. At that time, the Board was considering having several directors representing sections, but there was no strong consensus on how best to organize the sections into those several seats. Ultimately, the Board decided to propose having one designated sections seat, with any section member still being able to run for one of the increased number of seats for directors-at-large. The intention behind these changes is to permit more direct involvement of members and to have a better connection to the sections that are, often, the strongest point of engagement that members have with the CPA. In short, we want to increase direct input from members to the Board, enhancing the Board’s responsiveness to the membership. The student seat remains protected.

One further change proposed in the bylaws is for the President to be elected from among the board members rather than directly from the membership. The reasons for this include ensuring that a new president has had some exposure to the core issues facing the Board and permitting the Board to identify a president who may have the necessary skills (e.g., meeting organization, ability to collaborate, and available time) and understanding for the role. Proposed term limits would prevent the potential for a perpetual president. While a concern has been raised that this may lead to diminished democracy in the election of the President, over the past ten years, eight of the association’s Presidents have been acclaimed to the position, removing any membership vote from the process. Further, it is important to note that under the proposed changes, while the Board would elect the President, all members of the Board, including whoever becomes the President, would still have been elected by the membership. The elimination of the position of President-Elect also allows for the creation of one more board seat for a director-at-large.

Finally, I note that there was some feedback regarding the special meeting that asked that the various changes being proposed should be voted on individually, rather than as a single motion. This option poses difficulty as the suggested amendments are often interrelated. For example, if the membership voted in favour of the change to having more directors-at-large, but then voted against the election of the president by the Board, the bylaws would become inconsistent regarding the number of board members. As amendments to the bylaws must be presented to the membership at least 21 days in advance of the special meeting, that inconsistent outcome could not be resolved without the holding of at least one additional special meeting, starting an iterative process that could be endless. Further, the proposed structural changes to the Board have been approved by the Board. In our view, following consultation with experts, meetings with our external partners, and multiple days of discussion and debate within the Board, these proposed new composition and election processes offer the best way forward for the CPA.

Below, there is a link to an explanatory video that was produced in early April, in anticipation of the April 25 virtual meeting. In the video, I make several references to the April 25 meeting; please ignore those. As the video is quite dense with information, there is also a link to the video script, allowing for less intense contemplation of the proposed bylaw changes and the reasons for them. Additional links are provided to the proposed new bylaws (subject to amendment through ongoing consultation), the report from the Institute on Governance, the summary of the consultation with our governance coach, and the executive summary of the opinion provided to us by legal counsel at Gowlings.

The plan now is for a 90-minute, interactive video conference to occur on Wednesday, May 30 at 1:00 pm (Eastern), followed by a discussion session at ICAP 2018 in Montreal in June and another 90-minute, interactive video conference to occur on Friday, September 21 at 1:00 pm (Eastern). Following that second video conference, the Board will generate a final set of proposed bylaw amendments to be voted on at a virtual special meeting, currently scheduled to take place on Friday, October 19, from 1:00 to 2:00 pm (Eastern).

Our current bylaws do not allow for advance voting for anything other than elections. As a result, votes regarding the bylaw changes can be cast only during the time of that special meeting. We recognize that many people faced scheduling conflicts regarding the proposed April 25 virtual meeting, given the relatively short notice. We hope that providing early notice of the October 19 virtual meeting will overcome that difficulty. We have also asked legal counsel to advise us on the use of proxy votes or other ballot mechanisms.

Please register for our interactive video conference on Wednesday, May 30 at 1:00 pm (Eastern). Once registered, you will receive a unique link to join the video conference.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the background to the amendments, the amendments themselves, or the process for their potential approval by the members, please let me know. I can be reached at

Thank you for your continued engagement in this important process.

Patrick Baillie, Ph.D., LL.B.
President (2017-2018),
Canadian Psychological Association