In 1967, science and engineering students met at Universite Laval for the Congress of Science and Engineering Students of Quebec. During the plenary session there was much discussion about the engineer’s role in society and the possibility of developing an opportunity to reassemble engineering students to address the issue.
The idea gained momentum, and was redeveloped in a mutiny at the May 1968 Congress of Science and Engineering Students of Quebec. Henry Roy, then VP External Relations for the McGill engineering society, offered to hold such a conference at McGill University. Major changes in the formula used for past congresses were proposed, namely restricting the delegates to engineering students and expanding the scope of participation to Ontario and the rest of Canada if possible.
Including other engineering schools across Canada was a priority, as they felt in order for any resolutions to have an impact, they must be accepted by all engineering students nation wide. At the time, both Quebec and McGill campuses were politically very active with a mixture of increased social awareness, anti Vietnam and Quebec nationalism. The idea to gather representatives of most Canadian engineering schools was seen as a great concept to force reflection on the role of engineers in society.
It was only in early October of that year that the planning of the event begun. The University of Toronto and Queen’s University both offered additional support, and joined McGill, Polytechnique and Laval, the main organizers of the event. Although the Congress executive had no assurances of financial support, their organizational goals (transportation, free food, lodging, simultaneous translation, position papers, final report and a closing banquet) were always presented as facts, not possibilities.
Finally, on February 14, 1969, Dr. H. Rocke Robertson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University, and Henry Roy, President of CCES 1969 opened the Congress to the delight of everyone, especially the executive.
Following the success of the Congress, Henry Roy was elected President of the McGill Engineering Undergraduate Society. Student politics soon became a higher priority than engineering, but nonetheless, Henry Roy graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 1970. He has since had a successful career, obtaining his Masters of Business Administration from Harvard and has held prestigious positions working with the Quebec Finance Minister, Trane Company, Standard Oil/Kennecott group of international companies, Provigo mc., BCE mc., and is now with Trizec Corporation.
In the 45 years following its creation, the CFES Congress would live on to experience a succession of events which would play a large role in leading the event to what it is today.
In 1969, during the first Congress, students discussed the importance of recognizing the merit and value added of extra curricular activity. At the closing banquet, Mr. Arnold Groleau, the Executive Vice-President of Bell Canada stated that This Congress is a demonstration of the seriousness of engineering students today. This is a beginning; I hope that the discussion the Congress provoked will foster more relations between engineering students.
The next three consecutive years were going to be focused in great part on political discussions of the day. Issues such as environmentalism, the development of Canada’s north, the Vietnam War were all brought up in the context of the Congress during the plenary session.
In Waterloo, in 1974, the issue of the lack of public knowledge about professional engineers was mentioned, with a related debate on the true identity of Canadian engineers. It was felt that an identity for engineers must be established so that their place in society would be better understood.
A few years later, in 1977 at the University of Manitoba, the congress acted as a definite turning point in the development of the future of CCES. In a well-thought out paper presented by the University of Waterloo, it was suggested that the congress had degenerated into a technical seminar, possibly because technical presentations were easier to research, required minimum thought, and did not raise embarrassing questions about existing policies.
The Waterloo paper continued: “Besides the inappropriate themes of recent conferences, we feel there are problems with resolutions being passed and not followed up. No time is set aside to discuss resolutions from previous congresses, and ensure follow-up action was taken. After the conference has ended, no group has the responsibility for implementing the resolutions, and therefore nothing happens.”
They proposed that CCES reassign its priorities to become more of a student’s organization; a forum for the discussion of issues of relevance to engineering students. It was felt that continuity and coherence were of utmost importance, and that this could only be achieved by student participation in the major presentations of the congress (as opposed to technical seminars), and increased participation among the societies between conferences.
In 1988, the Chair of the CCES organizing committee did double duty, and was also Chair of the National Executive as well. In his final report, the Chair, Jacques Cantin, recommended that one of the elected regional Vice Chairs take on the leadership role of the National Executive. This marked the split between the National Executive and the CCES organizing committee.
In that same year, electronic communications and the possible use of NETNORTH for exchange of ideas between members societies were again discussed, specifically in regard to organizing simultaneous events, and to aid with the decline in submissions to Project Magazine experienced that year. A proposal from the Chair of CEC 1988 was presented, regarding incorporation and by-laws for the national engineering competition.
With the revision of the national organization structure came a need to completely revise the official by-laws. The 23rd congress is probably best remembered for the 15 hr. plus workshop on drafting the new constitution. Head delegates worked late into the night and early into the next morning to complete the document, and when it was finally done, they even published a list of memorable quotes from the lengthy and sometimes convoluted discussions. Some of the more interesting quotes were: “Lawsuits are a non-budgeted expense”, This is a meeting we have to be present”!, and “All references to oral be made verbal.”
Along with the new by-laws, came a 10 cents per student fee that would be paid by member engineering societies to support the administrative expenses of the National Executive. A financial operation plan was instituted, and regulations to ensure complete financial accountability of the National Executive to the member societies. The need for a Policy Manual to complement the by-laws was recognized and mandated for the new executive to compile.
Another major achievement CCES this year was the adoption of the CFES logo. Members of the CFES from the University of Manitoba created the logo and it is still used today.
Under the management of the Director of Electronic Communications, Troy Morehouse, the CCES Link (an electronic mailing list for engineering students nation wide) experienced an increase in the number of subscribers from 15 individuals to over 120. More than three quarters of the CFES member schools were active on the Link as well as individuals from several different countries such as Australia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico. This lent an international dimension to the CFES that will be interesting to develop in the future. An electronic archive for official CFES documents was established on an FTP (file transfer protocol) site at the University of New Brunswick, which will allow easy access to such documents by all members. The full potential of the Internet electronic mail system with respect to CFES had only begun to be developed.
CFES provided guidance and advice to the Directors of summer science and engineering camps as they laid the foundations for a national organization of camps (Youth Engineering and Science camps now called ACTUA) by electing two national coordinators, one of who, Maurice Poirier, was appointed to the CFES Board of Directors. This arrangement proved to be mutually beneficial, as the camps could make use of the CCES to have a national meeting (in addition to their annual national conference in July), and to showcase their activities to the delegates and sponsors of the Congress. YES Camps and CFES combined efforts to organize several successful exhibits at the launch of National Science and Technology Week in Ottawa. Industry, Science and Technology Canada sponsored the endeavor by producing a banner sporting the CFES title, logo, the YES Camps title, and the logos of many of the summer science and engineering camps in Canada. The event drew a lot of attention and positive feedback from the invited guests, who represented industry, government agencies, educational boards, and kids themselves. Such cooperative efforts between the two organizations were going to undoubtedly do much to increase public awareness of engineering, improve the engineering student image and to encourage more young students to consider careers in science and engineering in the future.
In 1992, CFES liaisons with professional engineering associations experienced huge advances. Two groundbreaking working agreements, one with the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada and one with the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers were successfully negotiated and signed. This development proved to be extremely useful and beneficial to the CFES in future year. Also in 1992, it was strongly noticed that the enthusiasm of members within activities of the CFES were increasing. Also, the executive were noticing that the members were moving towards more specific and clearly defined goals for the national executive. With the increased enthusiasm of its members, the CFES raised awareness of itself, as well as CEC, CCES, and ProMag. Among other things, the membership wanted to have closer ties between the CFES and member societies. They saw this as an essential factor for the CFES to continue to grow.
1992 also marks the year that the CFES became officially incorporated. After much time spent discussing the usefulness and the benefits of becoming incorporated, the members of the federation recognized the need to become a legally recognized non-profit incorporation.
In 1994, the national executive took on the incredible and overwhelming task of planning and writing a long-term plan for the CFES. The report encompasses many aspects of CFES work, but some of the more notable suggestions that it stated are as follows. The plan recognized the need for successful and in-depth transition. The lack of continuity was one of the major things preventing the CFES from developing as it had been visioned. The long-term plan also addressed and identified the strengths, weaknesses, future opportunities, and threats to the CFES. They included possible solutions to the problems and described how the CFES could avoid problematic situations in the future. The executive of 1994 took on a huge task, but they saw the necessity for growth within the federation, and they saw the potential for the CFES to be very effective at accomplishing it’s goals and they saw the potential for the CFES to be relevant to all engineering students across Canada.
The next major change in the CFES came in 1997, when it was decided that the CFES was in need of another change of structure. Member schools from the west and atlantic regions felt as if they were being ignored and that their visions were not in sync with those of the federation. After various lengthy talks at CCES 1997, it was decided that the CFES would replace the existing five-officer structure with a newly created eight-officer executive. The dual positions of regional vice-president/executive vice president were removed, and were replaced with separate positions for portfolio Vice presidents and regional vice president. A vice president represented each region, and the 3 other portfolios were Vice President Finance and Administrations, Vice President Communications, and Vice President Services and Development.
Another major development in the same year was marked by the CFES investing in deeper relations with the CCPE, and the engineering profession in general. As future engineers, the students took enthusiastically to having their views on education, on engineering, and on the profession listened to by members of the professional community.
The Federation is today the sole organization representing all of the engineering students of Canada. It has gained tremendous energy and is ready for its next big evolution.