History

The organizational structure of the fifteen-member government-appointed Canada Weed Committee and its subsidiaries, the Eastern and Western Sections, continued to be fuzzy (at least in the minds of some), and a small committee was appointed in 1970 to provide more clarity. The 1971 minutes record that the fifteen-member committee henceforth would be known as the National Executive, with the names of the two sections to remain the same. To these authors the name always sounded a bit mysterious and inappropriate, describing as it did a most peculiar agency with almost a non-structure. It probably was a committee. And it was kind of national. But it was not really an executive of anything. And not all its members were experts on weeds.

Further change was to come shortly. A memorandum from Assistant Deputy Minister B.B. Migicovsky dated 16 September 1977 was presented by Jim Hay (chairman of the Canada Weed Committee from 1969 to 1977): ‘Effective September 1978, the Canada Weed Committee will become the Expert Committee on Weeds and will report to CASCC (Canadian Agricultural Services Coordinating Committee) through the (new) Canada Committee on Crop Production Services.’ It had been so decreed. The minutes of the meeting reflect disagreement with the Expert Committee nomenclature from both the Eastern and the Western Section. Hay stated that he would forward the views of the Eastern and Western Sections to CASCC but he doubted that this would have any effect.’ And indeed it did not. The ‘Expert Committee’ name stayed for twenty-five years.

Despite the occasional cynicism expressed on these pages, it is abundantly clear that the operation of the Expert Committee on Weeds with its western and eastern sections was held in high regard by representatives of other Expert Committees, as reported at meetings of the Canada Committee on Crop Production Services. The setup of the Expert Committee on Weeds made it possible to deal with many types of information exchange, assessment of research results, and research plans and coordination, at the level of the personnel actually doing the work.

The first computer-generated reports of weed control research summaries (‘abstracts’) saw the light of day in 1978, and many pages of experimental data were accumulated. The 1983 Research Report from the Eastern Section, for example, was 558 pages long, and the report from the Western Section was 1044 pages long, in three volumes.

Many other things happened during the seventies and the eighties, but there were no major changes in structure or operation. Position statements on herbicide use were prepared and published, in response to concerns expressed via public hearings. The Wild Oat Action Committee was appointed in 1973 and served for ten years. It distributed some research grant funds and organized workshops and symposia. The paper series The Biology of Canadian Weeds was started, largely overseen by Paul Cavers (University of Western Ontario). As of January, 2003, 117 individual papers in this series have been published, plus two updates, and an additional seven papers are in press. The first two collections of papers were re-published in 1980 and 1984. By 1995, 104 papers had been re-published, and the most recent fourth volume was published in 1999. The Quackgrass Action Committee organized a workshop in 1987 and a symposium in 1990. A report that listed all the accepted common names of weeds in Canada was prepared and published in 1969 as Agriculture Canada Publication 1397, Common and Botanical Names of Weeds, through the work of the Nomenclature and Terminology Subcommittee, to standardize that important component of working with weeds.

During 1990, pressure was exerted by the parental authorities to have the Expert Committee on Weeds merge with the Expert Committee on Pest Management (renamed from the Expert Committee on Pesticide Use in Agriculture, and focused mainly on insect pest control). The Weeds group politely declined and suggested, instead, that some joint meetings for the two groups be organized. The first such (partially) joint meeting took place in Victoria in December 1991, and served to establish a measure of communication between the two groups. Two more such joint meetings followed, in 1992 and 1993. The year 1991 also was the first time since 1946 that someone who was not a federal government (Agriculture Canada) employee was appointed as chairman of the National Executive (William Vanden Born, University of Alberta).

During all the preceding years, contact between weed research and extension personnel from the Eastern and Western Sections had been poor. Costs of travel undoubtedly had contributed to this situation. By 1991, however, the differences in cost between short and long-distance air travel had shrunk considerably, and the idea of joint meetings of the two sections began to take shape. The first such joint meeting was duly organized, and took place in Edmonton in December 1993, in conjunction with a well-attended symposium on herbicide resistance in weeds. Attendance at the joint meeting consisted of 78 people from the Eastern Section and 174 from the Western Section. One feature of the joint session was the demonstration of HERB, a computer search system that could extract from the Research Report data base all the accumulated research data for the efficacy of a particular herbicide treatment on a particular weed in a particular crop. A later version of a data retrieval system was named WEEDTRIEV, and the most recent version is called ASKSAM.

At the 1993 meeting of the National Executive, a decision was made to explore the possibility of merging the western and eastern sections and to have national meetings only. A ‘Joint Meeting Committee’ was appointed, with representatives from both the Eastern and the Western Section, to consider the question and to prepare suitable recommendations. The merging idea, and the expressed desire for more independence from the parental authority, were given significant support through public and private comments by Brian Morrissey, Assistant Deputy Minister, who spoke at the Edmonton conference. There had been a growing feeling of frustration for some time with a structure that allowed for making recommendations at a national level only to a parent committee that was perceived more as a black hole by some than as an avenue to action. The frustration led to the view that more could be accomplished on the national front, on behalf of the discipline of weed science, as an independent, free-standing organization of weed science workers across Canada.

The Joint Meeting Committee prepared a survey form that was sent to some 500 people, 166 of whom responded, with 83 per cent in favour of the proposed merger. The merger would see only a single national meeting each year, alternating between east/central and western locations, with the first regular joint meeting scheduled for Montreal in December 1995. Approval was duly confirmed by the Western and Eastern Sections in December 1994 and January 1995, respectively, and the real work of joining the two essentially separate (though parallel) organizations into one could begin. The new joint life was to mean much more than simply joint meetings-there had to be a redefinition of purposes, roles, and relationships.

All of that began to happen during and after the 1995 meeting in Montreal, where the merger report and its recommendations, including a draft statement of purpose, were approved unanimously. The new organization was to have a twelve-member executive board. The existing National Executive had its last meeting on 28 November 1995 and was promptly replaced by a newly elected interim board for 1995-96 (with considerable overlap from the just discontinued body). Its main responsibility was the development of operational guidelines for the new organization (though still bearing the same name, that of Expert Committee on Weeds, and still with the expectation of bringing a report and recommendations to what by this time was known as the Canada Committee on Crops).

Project summarizers no longer existed, and the nature of the meetings began to be shaped along the lines of Action Committees or Working Groups in a range of areas. These got off the ground in 1997, and in 2000 nine such groups were active.

During 2001 and 2002, much work was done in giving shape and content to the newly independent organization, to be named the Canadian Weed Science Society. A paid membership base already had been in place for several years, an Executive Assistant had been appointed, and the new name and by-laws were officially proclaimed on 28 June 2002. The 2002 inaugural meeting of the Canadian Weed Science Society in Saskatoon saw an attendance of 230. There are ten working groups, six of which had organized sessions at the meeting. Society membership stands at a total of 165, with 134 of these as regular members. The organization is on its way. The journey to independence had been completed, and a new journey has begun.


1Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta

2Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario