Toronto hosts ARS Canada’s 25th Regional Convention

By Noushig Ghazarian Nalpatian

The Armenian Relief Society’s (ARS) 101st and the ARS Canada’s 25th Regional Convention took place at the Armenian Community Center of Toronto on July 1-3, 2022.

The ARS Canada Regional Convention, which usually takes place every two years, was postponed by one year due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the national and local measurements and restrictions put in place as a result.

However, the worldwide pandemic did not stop the humanitarian and charitable work that ARS members do for their communities and the homeland.  

True to the ARS motto and mission, “With the people, for the people,” ARS Canada and its 1,200 members across 10 chapters continued to carry out their work in education, humanitarian aid, health, and women empowerment. Adapting to the situation, members throughout the nation used the technology available to allow the organization to run as smoothly as possible and carried on their mission in Canada, the Diaspora, Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk. 

This year’s convention was hosted by the ARS Toronto Roubina chapter, which most graciously and generously welcomed all delegates and honorary guests to its center in Toronto. 

The convention kicked off on Canada Day, July 1. ARS Canada Chair, ungerouhi Annie Ohanian invited members to open the convention with the singing of the Canadian and Armenian national anthems and the anthem of the storied 112-year-old organization, followed by a moment of silence for dearly departed members. Ohanian then welcomed the pastor of Toronto’s St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church, Father Datev Mikaelian; Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) of Canada representative, unger Vatche Kelebozian; Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union and Scouts representative, Mrs. Leony Sarmazian; Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society representative, Ms. Eugenie Parseghian; Armenian Prelacy of Canada representative, Mrs. Arpy Askharian; Armen Karo Student Association representative, unger Nazo Merjanian; and the 62 delegates from all 10 chapters (Vancouver, Windsor, Hamilton, St. Catharine’s, Toronto, Mississauga, Ottawa, Laval, and Montreal). Ohanian also welcomed ARS Central Executive Board Chair ungerouhi Dr. Nyree Derderian and the three honourary guests: ungerouhis Natalie Manoukian, Vanine Kabasakalian, and Nora Bekarian. The convention was also attended by a large number of ARS members and guests. 

In her opening speech, Ohanian spoke about the work that the ARS Canada members accomplished through the very trying times of the past three years, working with limited resources. She brought to everyone’s attention the incredible work that was accomplished and how everyone’s charitable ambitions have made the past three years successful. 

The convention got underway shortly after the introductions were made and delegates elected the chairs and secretaries. Ungerouhi Flora Guiragossian from Laval and ungerouhi Sylvie Ohanian from Toronto were elected Convention chairs, while ungerouhi Vartoug Bardakjian from Toronto and ungerouhi Arpy Sanosian from Montreal were elected as secretaries. Delegates were then elected for audit, resolutions, credentials, nominating, and correspondence committees. The delegates also nominated seven members from the floor as Convention guests.

Dr. Nyree Derderian presented the work that ARS International had accomplished during the past three years. She said that despite the pandemic, the 44-Day War in Artsakh, the 2020 Beirut explosion and the economic hardships in Lebanon, and other hardships, the ARS accomplished and achieved its goals of helping those who were most in need. 

The Convention chairs and secretaries (Photo: ARS Canada)

Her powerful speech had the delegates moved and reassured them that they are part of something that impacts individuals or communities at large. Her speech particularly spoke about the importance of ARS as an organization, which creates an environment that encourages women in leadership.  

Following the first sitting of the convention, a ceremonial group photo was taken and delegates and guests were served dinner hosted by the Toronto Roubina chapter.

On day two, ungerouhi Ohanian read ARS Canada’s three-year report, which included the work that was completed by ARS Canada from July 2019 to June 2022. Ungerouhi Jojo Bedrossian then presented the organization’s 2019, 2021, and 2022 fiscal reports. Ohanian and Bedrossian answered questions about the reports and provided clarifications. Convention attendees highly appreciated the work that the ARS Canada board completed during the last three years and thanked them for their efforts and dedication.

There were many discussions and conversations about sharing best practices, and recommendations were made for the following year of activities.

The Convention came to a close on Sunday, July 3, with the election of three ARS Canada Regional Executive members: ungerouhis Loucine Palanjian, Valerine Haroutounian, and Arpi Sanosian from Montreal. 

They join the remaining members, ungerouhis Iren Telemian and Ani Hotoyan-Joly from Toronto, and ungerouhis Askanoush Hadidian and Suzy Boyamian from Laval.

Over the three days, the delegates, as well as all Convention attendees, made great memories and gained a deeper understanding of each other and what ARS means to them.