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- Amnesty International
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4.6 m of textual records
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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.
Two cartons of Amnesty International secretarial records were transferred to the Mount Allison University Archives in 1986 and a further carton of minutes was deposited on 18 February 1991, by former secretary Janet Adams. Fourteen cartons and 11 posters, representing the records of Laing Ferguson in his various capacities at both the local and national levels, were donated in 1986 and transferred from off-site storage on 6 December 1990. Ferguson also deposited two more cartons of textual records which had originally been overlooked, on 12 April 1991, as processing was in progress.
Scope and content
The fonds spans the time period from 1969 to 1989 and appears to cover the administrative organization of AICS (ES) at both the local and international levels until ca. 1980/81 when Group 4 became virtually dormant and Ferguson's involvement at the national level lessened. Although Group 4 reactivated in March 1983, Ferguson did not run for an executive position and thus there are fewer files, especially after 1985, when Group 4 relinquished the operation of the greeting card campaign.
Apparently it was AICS (ES) policy to request the return of prisoner files to the National Office "for shredding" after the release of the prisoner. Therefore there are only a few complete prisoner files, making it difficult to obtain a clear understanding of the way in which Group 4 acted on behalf of prisoners of conscience.
The fonds has been arranged into three subgroups. Subgroup I consists of secretarial files deposited by Janet Adams which date from 1979/80 and contains minutes, information concerning annual general meetings, etc. Some duplication with Ferguson's files exists; however, much of Ferguson's papers were annotated and thus Adams' "clean" copies were retained. The early secretarial records of 1969/70 to 1978/79 and the treasurer's records of 1974/75 to 1986/87 were found interfiled with Ferguson's records. However, the processor decided to place them in Subgroup I as it appears that they had been given to him for safekeeping purposes and were not integrated with his other records.
Examination of Ferguson's records indicate that he created new subject files annually and, for any given year, national and local records were filed together. Although it was tempting to separate the records into a national subgroup and a local subgroup, it was determined this would not only destroy original order, but also fail to adequately illustrate the breadth of activities in which Ferguson participated in any given year. Therefore, in Subgroup II Laing Ferguson's records are arranged into six series which represent the various offices he held over time, and one series which holds various Amnesty International publications which were found loose in the cartons. Publications of bodies other then Amnesty International were discarded. Records of a housekeeping nature were found among "Finances" and the "Fund Raising Greeting Card Campaign" subseries and were discarded unless they contained other relevant information. In most cases, financial summaries and distribution charts exist that summarize the housekeeping records. Duplicates existed in many files and, if not annotated, were discarded.
Subgroup III consists of records created by Janet Adams in her capacity as member of the Nominating Committee for the years 1974/75 and 1976/77. These files were well organized and arranged chronologically.
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