Delegates from across Canada elected their national governing council, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, for the coming year over the past weekend in Calgary. The National Assembly consists of nine members elected out of all adult members of the Baha’i community in Canada.
In addition to the election, delegates from all provinces and territories in Canada deliberated with the outgoing National Spiritual Assembly, reflecting on the lessons learned from the successfully completed Five Year Plan of the worldwide Baha’i community, 2011 to 2016. Canada’s contribution to that international plan – a resounding success around the world - was substantial, with national goals across the country achieved.
Following the election of the National Spiritual Assembly, consultation among delegates and Spiritual Assembly members deliberated on the new Five Year Plan to be completed in the spring of 2021. Deliberations were greatly assisted by the presence at the Convention of two members of the Continental Board of Counsellors, Ms. Shabnam Tashakor of Toronto and Dr. Borna Noureddin of Vancouver.
Delegates from all provinces and territories elected Ms. Deloria Bighorn, Ms. Karen McKye, Dr. Mehran Anvari, Ms. Hoda Farahmandpour,Ms. Elizabeth Wright, Mr. Enayat Rawhani, Ms. Judy Filson, Mr. Ciprian Jauca, and Dr. Gerald Filson to serve on the National Spiritual Assembly for the coming year. Those elected to the Baha’i National Assembly come from Vancouver and Vancouver Island, Hamilton, Quebec City, and Toronto. Ms. Karen McKye will serve as the Secretary, the chief executive officer of the National Assembly, over the coming year, Ms. Deloria Bighorn will serve as Chair, and Dr. Mehran Anvari will serve as Treasurer.
A highlight of the Convention, attended by more than 500 members of the Baha’i community, was an evening devoted to what Baha’is know as “the Tablets of the Divine Plan” written by then Head of the Baha’i Faith, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, in 1916-17. The tablets were written in the Holy Land in the midst of the First World War, and addressed to the North American Baha’i Communities in the United States and Canada. The tablets set the pattern of development that has served to establish Baha’i national communities around the world.
The Baha’i election gives to each elector unfettered freedom to vote confidentially for those entirely of his or her own choosing among all the adults of the national community. It is a democratic process that is sacred and dignified, free from the personal ambition and partisanship by which the intrigue of nomination and propaganda of campaigning infect and distort the democratic process. The result is at once joyous and profound in its implications. It generates and sustains a healthy and mature relationship between individuals and the institutions that guide the community and tend to its administrative arrangements.
The prayerful and reflective atmosphere at the convention created a spirit of dignity, which Baha’is view as an essential element of elections, an aspect of the reciprocity and respect that should infuse the relationship between individuals, institutions and the community. Elections for Baha’i local and national governing councils are held each year during the most important of the Baha’i holy days, the Festival of Ridvan, which lasts for twelve days, this year from 20 April to 1 May.
The Five Year Plans, both the one just completed, and the one now begun, address some of the most fundamental challenges facing humanity at this time. Central to the plan and its current success has been an upsurge throughout the world of coordinated and coherent action at the grass-roots level that involves meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community, classes that nurture the hearts and minds of children, groups that empower youth to serve their communities, and study circles aimed at applying Baha’i teachings to individual and collective life. Convention delegates spoke movingly of the importance of working, hand in hand, with Canada’s Aboriginal peoples in order to overcome injustice, giving particular attention to the capacity and potential of the younger generation of Canada’s growing Aboriginal population.