AGM tells of shakeup afoot at VEQ

The Voice of English-speaking Québec’s 26th annual AGM, held last Thursday, remembered a year marked both by change and significant success. About 50 people gathered in the Soleil room of the Jeffery Hale Hospital to hear the organization’s annual report.

“It was a busy year with everything related to the 400th anniversary projects and without dropping any of our regular duties ... we were busy, but we like being busy,” said Jean-Sébastien Jolin Gignac, VEQ’s former assistant executive director.

The AGM served as a platform to announce Jolin Gignac as the organization’s new executive director. He will be replacing the outgoing director Helen Walling. Walling is leaving VEQ to pursue a career she has been training for as a work and life coach. Jolin Gignac began serving as assistant executive director last November to help ease Walling’s transition into her new career.

Walling said she is sure she is leaving VEQ in good hands. “I am thrilled by Jean-Sébastien’s appointment; I was his biggest cheerleader.”

Walling won’t be moving very far, however, and she may even be asked for a few pro-bono coaching sessions from Jolin Gignac. Her new office is across the hall from the VEQ office in the Pavillon Jeffery Hale.

“She’s a colleague and a friend, we’ll be stopping by for work but mostly just to say ‘hi,’’’ the new executive director said.

The VEQ staff will also be bidding farewell to Executive Assistant Jennifer Alexander. Alexander will be joining her husband when he relocates to Kingston, Ontario with the Canadian Armed Forces. Jan Anderson-Toupin, the newcomers’ facilitator, left as well in January for a similar position with Jeffery Hale Community Services. She now sits on the board of directors.

The ranks of the board of directors have been significantly changed as well. The year saw the departure of former president Robert Donnelly who left to pursue the presidency of the community organization umbrella group QCGN. He was replaced by acting president, John Klassen.

The board has welcomed six new members and will now stand at 18 members. Many of the new board members, including Mariëlle Feenstra are new to Quebec City as well and are offering fresh new perspectives.

Feenstra, who recently moved to the region from the Netherlands, said, “I want to represent those who have English as a second language,” adding, “I want to be part of the English community.”

“About two-thirds of the board are newcomers – those that did not grow up in Quebec City. I think it is very promising the way newcomers become attached to the community,” Anderson-Toupin said.

With so many new faces at VEQ, Jolin Gignac reflected on the year ahead: “It will be a challenge but I have good people around me. When faced with a challenge, we can be afraid of the challenge or we can embrace it; we’re going to embrace it.”