Readers will know that the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS) has had a turbulent year. It’s one that included a whistleblowing incident by three of its staff members, the resignation of its former ED, the loss of several founding member organizations and the controversial appointment of a new Executive Director. Add to that a substantial operating loss for the year and new ED Gary Lacasse has had his hands full. But he is determined to pull through with a new strategic plan, a break-even budget for the current fiscal year and a sense of optimism that is palpable.
Some viewed the recent scaled down CAS Forum and AGM in Winnipeg as a bit chaotic and disorganized (I was at the Forum but took ill and missed most of the action) but there was also general agreement that it was far less acerbic than in previous years.
Notably missing from both events were the Canadian Positive People Network (CPPN/RCPS). Over one year old now, and partnering with the Inter-Agency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD), CPPN has filed an ICAD-sponsored letter of intent to apply for operating funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) through its Community Action Fund.
It has now been revealed that CAS offered to partner with CPPN in a similar arrangement, but that the CAS offer was declined by CPPN. CPPN has explained the reason for this and their absence from the Forum and AGM in a memo to its supporters. Here is some of what they say:
“On March 22, 2016, (CAS ED) Gary (Lacasse) and the Board of CPPN/RCPS held a teleconference about the upcoming CAS AGM and People Living with HIV Forum and the PHAC Community Action Fund call for proposals. During this call, Gary invited CPPN/RCPS to send one representative to the People Living with HIV Forum and that we would have about an hour to make a presentation to the people living with HIV in attendance. During the same call, Gary asked if we were interested in forming a “partnership” with CAS via a joint submission of a Letter of Intent for the PHAC Community Action Fund. He also stated that if we choose to move forward with the letter of intent partnership, we would need to sign a “non-disclosure agreement” with CAS.
We ended the call informing Gary that we work as a group at CPPN/RCPS, and that we would respond to him in the near future. On March 30, 2016, a letter to CAS was hand delivered to the CAS office in Ottawa by Vice-Chair Gord Asmus. This letter clearly states the reasons why we had declined both of Gary’s proposals.”
In its letter to Lacasse dated May 30, CPPN further clarified its position. “After careful consideration, the CPPN/RCPS Board of Directors respectfully declines your proposals at this time” they said. “The CPPN/RCPS, as you know, functions as a national Network of people living with HIV and HIV co-infections, and its Board of Directors works as a team. As such, we agree that accepting your offer for one space at this year’s PLWHIV/AIDS Forum is not conducive to our team dynamic. While we thank you for this offer, we would prefer to defer this space to one of our fellow positive peers from the CPPN/RCPS national membership base to participate as an individual and not as an official representative of CPPN/RCPS."
"Our work is intentionally transparent and we function with openness with and on behalf of our members as a national network."
The CPPN letter to CAS goes on “The Board of Directors also considered very carefully your suggestion that any potential partnership in/for the Letter of Intent process would be contingent on a non-disclosure agreement between the CPPN/RCPS and the Canadian AIDS Society. Our work is intentionally transparent and we function with openness with and on behalf of our members as a national network. So, we agree that considering this partnership condition would represent a contradiction in terms of the CPPN/RCPS values”
What does PositiveLite.com think? The CPPN decision not to enter into a partnership agreement is less controversial than the CPPN’s decision to absent itself from the Forum. In doing the latter it gave up the opportunity to hear the concerns of people living with HIV from across Canada while further increasing its profile and, potentially, its membership base. That's a lot it gave up. It’s therefore understandable that community reaction to these apparent lost opportunities has been mixed. But it’s also apparent that the CPPN team is highly principled, values its independence and is still learning. Thus PositiveLite.com joins with others who continue to support their decisions.
In the longer term, and as the new kid on the block, it would be unwise of CPPN to close the door on working with any national partner, particularly one such as CAS, which although weakened in influence, retains a significant national membership of community-based agencies.
But CPPN does not seem to have closed the door on CAS. In its letter to them, CPPN says “We wish the Canadian AIDS Society the very best moving forward, and we will look forward to future opportunities for our respective groups to find common ground for collaborations.
What do you think?