The General Congress is the supreme authority of the Centrale, where the general policies, the major objectives, the main lines of action and main priorities are determined. Exceptionally, specific policies, special objectives or immediate action programs may be established at the Congress.
The Congress happens every three years. Such a big event needs lots of preparation. In fact, as soon as one congress ends (even before!), the organizing committee starts planning for the next one.
The hotel rooms must be booked for close to a thousand attendees almost four years before the event. The preliminary agreement with the venue that hosts the Congress also needs to be signed three years in advance.
A very different scenario from what was planned
In March 2020, no one expected that the June 2021 Congress could be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We believed, wrongly, that Québec would only pause for two weeks and that all this would then be nothing but a bad memory.
In late Spring of 2020, the hope of holding an in-person gathering persisted within the organizing committee. Québec was starting to slowly reopen, summer holidays were happening almost normally. It was a good sign for the Congress scheduled for the following summer.
With the arrival of the second wave, in the fall, discussions about the possibility to hold a hybrid event were held. The committee was considering inviting part of the delegates to attend on-site, while offering other participants the option to remotely attend the event through online streaming.
However, the governmental decree of January 2021 changed everything by preventing gatherings of more than 25 people in the same room. The committee still hoped that the rules would be softened before the event, to allow it to happen in person, at least in part.
As it is difficult to organize a gathering of this magnitude based only on hope, different formulas had been planned. The members of the committee almost had the impression of organizing multiple conferences at onceHowever, they had to keep in mind that it might have to cancel at the last minute.
A platform to the rescue
The main scenario ultimately chosen for the June Congress rests on the live streaming of the proceedings from a recording studio on a Web platform.
"The event is also shortened and the agenda has been lightened. The Congress this year will happen over three days," explains the CSQ’s general director, Marjolaine Perreault. As the statutes and by-laws of the Congress provide that the event shall happen over four days in person and with a traditional vote, amendments had to be adopted.
An anticipated event
The Web platform that will be used will allow the attendees to discuss among themselves, consult documents, access information, etc. Votes will be tallied by software and the result will be known quickly.
Besides the issues about the content, the organization of a virtual conference also presents challenges as to the content's presentation because of the time constraints, as well as to recruiting and training the delegates who will ensure that the event runs smoothly.
Still, the attendees won't be disappointed.They can expect a few surprises and special collaborations.
The organizing committee innovated in preparing the 2021 Congress. And in the originality department, the event will certainly make its mark in the Centrale's history!