Amnesty International

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Amnesty International

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Description area

Dates of existence

Began activities in 1969


The first meeting of Amnesty International in Sackville, New Brunswick, was took place on 8 December 1969, at the instigation of Elizabeth Boyle, who with her husband, John, had been members in their native Ireland. The executive elected at a second meeting on 6 April 1970 included Boyle as secretary, Lesley Read as treasurer and a vacant chair. The International Secretariat titled them "Canada Group 4" and immediately assigned them two prisoners of conscience. The several Amnesty International Groups of Canada were each administratively separate and received direction from the International Secretariat in London, England.

Laing Ferguson of the Geology Department of Mount Allison University served as chair of the group for 5 years. A Christmas greeting card campaign begun in 1972 continued for 13 years becoming a major national fundraiser effort involving virtually all of the 50 or 60 groups across Canada. Artist David Silveberg of the Fine Arts Department of Mount Allison University donated the use of one or two of his engravings each year with profits forwarded to the National Section.

Three members of Group 4, Laing Ferguson, Ken Adams and Janet Adams, traveled to Longueuil, Quebec to participate in the founding meeting of the independent Amnesty International groups on 12-13 May 1973 where a constitution and by-laws were formulated and Amnesty International Canada was established.

Shortly after this meeting, Robert Boyer Inch of Brandon University, Manitoba (a former Director of Alumni and Public Relations at Mount Allison University) was became national director. John Humphrey, Professor of Law at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, was the first president. Laing Ferguson became anglophone Vice-President in 1973/74 and president in 1976/77. In 1976, Montreal Group 7 proposed that Amnesty International - Amnestie Internationale, Canada Section Canadienne be split into two. A compromise was reached by 1978 in which the Canadian Section has two branches, Amnesty International Canadian Section (English Speaking) and Section canadienne francophone.

Locally, Group 4 in 1980 hosted the national annual general meeting. During the following year and a half the group was virtually dormant, but in March 1983 a membership drive focused on Mount Allison students brought in enough new members to resume regular meetings and to apply for prisoner dossiers. Group 4 remains active to date.


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