History made as Sally Dennis becomes the first female Chair of Rugby Canada Board of Directors; Union remains in cash positive position despite impact of COVID-19 on operations

May 17, 2021 (Langford, BC) – The Rugby Canada fiscal 2020 AGM was held via an online conference on Sunday, May 16. Prior to the formal AGM, more than 35 representatives from Rugby Canada, the Board of Directors and the Provincial Unions met remotely over two additional days. The business sessions provided an excellent opportunity for discussion and collaboration while covering topics related to community rugby growth and development, inclusivity, participant welfare and national competitions.

The following items were presented or voted upon at the formal AGM:


Territorial Land Acknowledgement

The meeting commenced with recognition that our game is played from coast to coast on the ancestral and unceded territories of Inuit, Metis and First Nations peoples. Acknowledgement of the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples - the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ Nations – was made, as Rugby Canada’s head office at the Al Charron National Training Centre is located on their traditional territory.


In Memoriam

There was an acknowledgement of honoured members who were lost in 2020 in recognition of their contributions to rugby in Canada.


State of the Union

Presented by Tim Powers (Chair, Rugby Canada Board) and Allen Vansen (CEO, Rugby Canada), highlighted items included:

·       2020 was obviously a year unlike any in our history. Rugby Canada has taken the view from early in the on-set of the pandemic to make difficult choices that enable the organization to emerge from the pandemic in a position to make greater gains in the implementation of our new strategic plan. 

·       Although a difficult year, some highlights that provide a bright light for our future:

o   Women’s 7s winning two silver medals prior to the World Series being cancelled

o   Men’s 7s winning a bronze medal in our home event in Vancouver

o   The coordination and collaboration between our Clubs, Provinces, and National office in both unanimously halting all rugby activities to protect our communities and to create a ‘best-in-class’ Return-to-Play protocols for our sport last spring

·       With the release of the new Strategic Plan, Rugby Canada has set the direction and tone for the next 10 years to realize the potential our sport has always had; we want to be a leading participation sport amongst youth & adults, with our National Team performances providing inspiration for the next generation. We can achieve our Vision “That all Canadians can choose rugby to try, play & win”.

·       As we strive to grow our participation, there must be continued commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion along with a continuing priority placed on participant welfare.

·       In order to meet our goals, we need to continue to have the uncomfortable conversations. We need to be willing to look at our structures and the ways we have delivered our product, and embrace change where needed with a mind to being on the leading edge of how sport is offered to our end users, the participants. This is a time to embrace a step change in relations between the NSO, PSO’s and Clubs.


Presentation of Financial Statements

The audited 2020 financial statements were presented and have been posted to the Rugby Canada website. General notes on the statements include:

·       A healthy cash position at Dec 31, 2020.  This is largely due to contributions received from funding partners & sponsors that were unable to be spent due to the lack of tournaments and team travel as a result of COVID-19. This is reflected in the deferred contributions.

·       Total revenues decreased by nearly $6M when compared to 2019. Rugby Canada made important, yet difficult, decisions throughout the year to reduce expenses accordingly.

·       World Rugby funding is lower in 2020 due to the additional grants received in 2019 through participation in RWC2019 and a decrease in flight subsidies normally received due to no international matches occurring in 2020 due to the global pandemic.

·       The increase shown in staff salaries, benefits & commissions reflects the inclusion of National Team salary costs which are usually captured under National Teams expenses. Since there were no competitions, these were tracked differently in 2020. Comparable staff salaries were decreased over $300,000 in 2020 versus the last fiscal.

·       The statements continue to contain a Going Concern note in large part due to the impacts of COVID-19 and the liabilities related to the payments for the Al Charron National Training Centre.  Rugby Canada expects the Going Concern note to be reviewed by our auditors for removal in the next 1-2 years.

The Board and Audit & Finance Committee have been central to guiding management in achieving the results reflected in the 2020 financial statements in a year where many sport organizations have been severely impacted by COVID-19. Rugby Canada would also like to recognize the support of the Government of Canada via the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

The Members approved the appointment of BDO-Ottawa as the Public Accountant for the 2021 fiscal year.


Elections to the Board of Directors for Rugby Canada

Rugby Canada is proud to announce Sally Dennis (Vancouver, BC) was re-elected to the Rugby Canada Board of Directors and appointed as the first female Chair in the Union’s history. She had previously served in the role of Vice-Chair during her previous term on the Board.

In addition to the new Chair, David Fortier (Toronto, ON), Isabelle Oliva (Montreal, PQ) and Phil Otto (Halifax, NS) were elected as new members of the Rugby Canada Board of Directors for a 3-year period effective May 16, 2021.

Karen Paquin was also confirmed to the Rugby Canada Board as a Director for a 3-year period effective May 16, 2021.

The Rugby Canada Board of Directors for 2021/22 consists of:

·       Sally Dennis (Chair)

·       Steve Swaffield (Treasurer & Finance/Audit Committee Chair)

·       Maria Samson (Governance Committee Chair)

·       Bill Webb

·       David Fortier

·       Isabelle Oliva

·       Jeff Hassler

·       Karen Paquin

·       Phil Otto

The Rugby Canada Board of Directors also confirmed the following Representatives will maintain their roles for 2021/22:

·       Dr. Araba Chintoh -  Rugby Americas North Representative

·       Dr. Pat Parfrey - World Rugby Representative

·       Doug Campbell - Canadian Olympic Committee Representative


Special Recognitions

The following individuals were recognized for their contributions to rugby in Canada and their work as members of the Rugby Canada Board of Directors and Provincial Union leads:

·       Tim Powers – Outgoing Chair, Board of Directors

Tim joined the Board of Directors in 2012 and served in the role of Chair since 2016. During his tenure, Rugby Canada achieved successes that included the launching of the Canada Sevens tournaments, the building of the Al Charron National Training Centre, the re-establishment of the Rugby Canada Men’s Development Academy (Pacific Pride) and important governance reforms. Tim was a tireless worker for Canadian rugby from the National to Club level and was a huge supporter of Canadian teams around the globe, traveling via personal expense. Rugby Canada, on behalf of the entire Canadian rugby community, thanks Tim for his many years of commitment and dedication.

·       Jay Johnston – Chairperson’s Award Recipient

Jay has served Rugby Canada for almost 20 years, most recently in the role of Treasurer Emeritus and Finance/Audit Committee Co-Chair. He helped Rugby Canada navigate some difficult financial times and has helped assure the financial stewardship of the organization moving forward. For his years of dedication and service, Jay was awarded the Chairperson’s Award from outgoing Chair, Tim Powers.

·       Kathy Henderson – outgoing Secretary, Board of Directors

Kathy will be maintaining her role as Chair of the HR Committee moving forward.

·       Brian Burke – outgoing member of Board of Directors

·       John Seaman – outgoing member of Board of Directors

·       Meaghan Howat – outgoing member of Board of Directors

·       Damon Leonard – outgoing President, Saskatchewan Rugby

·       Geno Carew – outgoing President, Rugby Nova Scotia




About Rugby Canada:

Rugby Canada is the national governing body of the sport of Rugby Union in Canada. They administer and operate Men’s and Women’s Senior and Junior National programs in both rugby XV’s and 7s, as well as govern the Club and community game for more than 30,000 registered participants from coast to coast in conjunction with ten Provincial Union members.

Rugby Canada is headquartered at the Al Charron National Training Centre in Langford, BC, with staff also working from Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa. Rugby Canada business operations, programs and events are delivered nationwide, including the internationally recognized HSBC Canada Sevens annual tournaments.

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