History of the Canadian Weed Science Society aka the Expert Committee on Weeds 1929-2002 William H. Vanden Born1 and Jack F. Alex2
1Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
2Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
The organized life of Canada's weed science community was conceived on 4 October 1929 when a group of eighteen people who were gathered in Edmonton asked the National Research Council to appoint a committee to find answers for weed problems plaguing farmers. The fetus, named the Associate Committee on Weed Control, went through several developmental stages, though not exactly in utero, during a gestation period that lasted some 65 years. Labour pains began in the early nineties and lasted about ten years. The birthing process reached completion when, on 28 June 2002, the Canadian Weed Science Society was officially proclaimed.
Four quite distinct developmental stages can be identified in the history of the Canadian Weed Science Society and its predecessor organizations. Before 1929, there was no organization of weed scientists at all. From 1929 to about 1935 there was a committee funded by and under the auspices of the National Research Council. Between about 1938 and 1941 there was a gradual transfer of responsibilities to the variously named federal department of agriculture. The responsibilities (and the authority) remained there until about 1993, when a movement towards independence began. That movement culminated in the formation of the Canadian Weed Science Society in 2002.
Weeds have been a problem in Canada ever since people began to grow crops. As early as 1897, James Fletcher, then Dominion Botanist, published a bulletin on weeds, Canada Department of Agriculture Bulletin 28. The first full-time weed scientist in Canada is said to be George Knowles, who first was appointed in 1923 as assistant to someone else, and in 1935 was appointed as weed scientist for fiber crops. In My twenty-two years with weeds (1954) he wrote: ‘In the year 1932 when I was asked to devote my full time to weed control I felt greatly humiliated. This, in my opinion, was the lowest form of experimental work one could be asked to undertake.' However, he shared an office with Sidney Barnes, who painted for him ‘such a clear picture of the mustard-infested Regina Plains that I could see those Plains without looking at them. "Wipe mustard from the Regina Plains", he used to say, "and you shall have done something worthwhile".'
Bulletin No. 2 of the Field Crops Branch of Alberta's Department of Agriculture was entitled Alberta's Weed Problem and was published in 1928. It included The Noxious Weeds Act, complete with coloured drawings of fourteen weeds. Three were perennials (Canada thistle, perennial sow thistle, blue lettuce), and eight of the eleven annuals were members of the mustard family. Two quotations that caught my attention:
"Sheep are excellent weed controllers. A few sheep should be kept on every farm." (page 15)
"The Weed Burner has been greatly improved the past few years. Its use in the fall of the year, as well as in the spring, to burn dry and semi-dry plants, is particularly valuable. The public is much interested in this machine. There is a great need for it." (page 18)
In 1929, in response to requests from several organizations, Dr. Henry Marshall Tory, president of Canada's National Research Council, invited eighteen people to a conference at the Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton, on 4 October, to talk about the Destruction of Weeds by Means of Chemicals.
The proceedings of the conference constitute a court-record-type verbatim account of the discussion (52 pages), followed by 114 pages of experimental results and related observations about weeds. Clearly, research in weed control already had been happening in each of the three prairie provinces. The term ‘herbicide', however, was not yet in vogue. Chemicals that were used included sodium chlorate (sold as Atlacide), iron sulfate, and sodium arsenite. Chlorates cost about $58 per acre! Wild oats were reportedly bad, as were perennial sow thistle, quackgrass, and Canada thistle. Weeds were said to ‘have come from the East to the West', along with settlement.
Clinton Evans, an author with a little different slant on things, wrote in The War on Weeds in the Prairie West, An Environmental History (2002): ‘By 1905, therefore, all the basic elements of modern prairie weed culture were in place. Governments had assumed command of the war on weeds by providing weed experts and weed police, through the enactment of increasingly draconian noxious-weed laws, and by launching a massive propaganda campaign. Extensive, ecologically unsound farming was well on the way to becoming entrenched and the majority of today's problem weeds were already proclaiming their presence.'
The chairman of the 1929 conference (Mr. F.E. Lathe, assistant to Dr. Tory who was ill) pointed out that ‘the destruction of weeds by chemicals must of course be supplementary to crop rotation, summer fallowing and other control methods, which will always have a prominent place.'
At the end of the discussion it was ‘moved that this conference recommend to the National Research Council that they proceed with a programme of research with reference to the destruction of weeds.' The motion was carried. The word ‘chemical' was purposely left out of the motion. A further motion asked ‘that the National Research Council be requested to appoint an Associate Committee on Weed Control.' This motion also was carried. The Associate Committee was duly appointed, with Dr. Robert Newton (University of Alberta) as chairman. The other fourteen members were Mr. G. Batho (Manitoba Agriculture), Dr. A.W. Henry ((University of Alberta), Mr. E. S. Hopkins (Canada Agriculture, Ottawa), Dr. L.E. Kirk (University of Saskatchewan), Mr. F.E. Lathe (National Research Council), Mr. J.M. McKay (CPR, Manitoba), Dr. R.E. Neidig (Consolidated Mining and Smelting, British Columbia), Dr. J.W. Shipley (University of Manitoba), Dr. F.T. Shutt (Canada Agriculture, Ottawa), Mr. W.G. Smith (Alberta Agriculture), Mr. H.G.L. Strange (Canadian Seed Growers Association), Mr. S.H. Vigor (Saskatchewan Agriculture), Dr. G.S. Whitby (National Research Council), Dr. H.M. Tory (National Research Council, ex officio). The last page of the proceedings lists the people as one from British Columbia, four from Alberta, two from Saskatchewan, three from Manitoba, five from Ottawa.
A few months later, on 30 December 1929, Robert Newton sat in Edmonton as chairman of the first day-long meeting of the newly formed Associate Committee. Many tasks were assigned at the end of the day's deliberations, and the committee ‘expressed the hope that the Federal Department of Agriculture, the Provincial Departments of Agriculture, and the Provincial Universities would cooperate with them in carrying out the programme of investigations outlined.' A subcommittee of three was appointed to plan field plot experiments with chemicals. Chemicals suggested included sodium chlorate, sodium chloride, sulfuric acid, iron sulfate, calcium cyanamide, creosote. In addition, a long list of cropping and tillage practices was drawn up, ‘which it was felt should be included in the investigations.' The seven worst weeds to be included in ‘chemical' experiments in the prairie provinces were perennial sow thistle, Canada thistle, wild oats, couchgrass, wild mustard, stinkweed, povertyweed.
The subcommittee of three soon was expanded to a formal Subcommittee on Chemical Experiments. This five-member group (L.E. Kirk, J.W. Shipley, W.G. Smith, J.M. Manson, G.L. Godel) had its first meeting on 24-25 February 1930 in Saskatoon, as an early version of what many years later became known as the Research Planning Committee. Three months later, on 30 March 1930, the four-member Executive of the Associate Committee on Weed Control met in Ottawa, again under the chairmanship of Robert Newton. Mr. J.M. Manson was to be engaged ‘to give his full time to the work of the committee', at a salary of $2700. They decided to try and borrow a car somewhere. If that did not work, Newton was authorized to buy a Ford or Chevrolet from the committee's funds.
The Proceedings of the Second Meeting of the Associate Committee on Weed Control, held 9-10 January 1931 in Edmonton (attendance 20) make up 18 pages, followed by 338 pages of appendices, consisting mostly of weed survey and research reports. Appendix C by J. Manson reads like a mini-textbook on weed distribution, and consists of some 75 pages of data from weed and weed seed distribution survey work done. Manson's next (and last) weed survey report, presented in 1932, contains distribution maps for perennial sow thistle, Canada thistle, wild oats, wild mustard, stinkweed, couchgrass, and povertyweed, the same seven weeds that were declared ‘the worst' in December 1929.
The Committee at this point seemed to function largely as a research coordinating group that received and discussed reports on weed control research from its members and some others and, in addition, served as a granting agency that responded to applications for funds to support weed research, especially from university personnel.
In 1935, there suddenly were two ‘sections' of the committee, eastern and western. It is not clear how or by whom that was decided. The main reasons apparently were the difficulty of getting the entire membership together at one time, and also the differences in climatic conditions and farming practices between the eastern provinces and the prairies. The first meeting of what was called the Western Division was held in Saskatoon on 19 July 1935; the Eastern Division held its first full-fledged meeting on 3-4 July 1936 in Ottawa. Manson's name no longer appeared. A report on weed control legislation from British Columbia was included in the proceedings from the Western Division-apparently the only time someone from that province was involved in the early years.
Sponsorship of the Committee also had changed, and the cover of the meeting's proceedings says ‘Dominion Department of Agriculture and National Research Council'. The records provide no explanation for the change, and no information as to how it came about. During the deliberations, the name of the committee was changed slightly by dropping the word ‘control'. According to Robert Newton, the use of the word might infringe on provincial prerogative.
The proceedings include a report on Thomas Pavlychenko's extensive work at the University of Saskatchewan, including the information that several of his mounted washed root systems were on display during the conference.
The Executive met in April 1939 and, among other things, recommended to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture that the Associate Committee on Weeds become a subcommittee of the National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Services. The recommendation was based on the premise that such a nation-wide weed committee could do a better job than what was being accomplished by the existing organization. The change occurred promptly, Robert Newton continued as chairman, and the committee was renamed the National Committee on Weeds, later shortened to the National Weed Committee. The composition of the committee changed a bit also, with conflicting reports about the details. According to one report, there were ten representatives from universities and provincial governments, and seven from the federal government. According to another report the numbers were fifteen and eight, respectively. There was no one from industry, no one from the railway companies, and no one from the seed growers organization.
For the Fifth Meeting of the Western Division of the Associate Committee on Weeds, in Regina in July 1939, E.S. Hopkins of the Dominion Department of Agriculture is listed as chairman. Responsibility for the committee apparently had shifted away completely from the National Research Council. The title on the cover of the 1942 report of the new committee shows:
Dominion of Canada
National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Services
REPORT OF THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON WEEDS FOR 1940-1941
Being a continuation of the work previously carried on by the
Associate Committee on Weed Control of the National Research Council
There was no meeting of the committee during 1940. Robert Newton prepared a report, however. A concluding comment in the report reads: ‘The results of controlled experiments in this country leave no doubt that weeds are a source of loss comparable with plant diseases and insect pests. We have built up large organizations to deal with the two latter, while with minor exceptions weeds are still an incidental responsibility of agronomists and botanists.' This concern is repeated from time to time in reports from both earlier and later meetings.
The Executive Committee met in February 1941, and its members agreed that it would not be advisable to call a meeting of the full committee. Committee members did, however, submit brief progress reports that were copied and distributed.
Again, only the Executive Committee met in September 1942, and ten members from the Eastern and Western Sections met in Ottawa in June 1943. No formal record of the meetings appears to be available. E. Grant Anderson reported in 1969, in Some comments on the history of the Canada Weed Committee 1929 - 1969, that they discussed ‘the comparison between the attention and money given on the control of insect pests and diseases and the lack of coordinated effort given to weed control. It was hoped that they could draw the attention of Dominion and Provincial Governments to this discrepancy . . . .'
They further agreed that there was a real need for a first-class publication dealing with weed and weed seed identification. In 1944, there was no meeting, but arrangements were put in place for the production of a motion picture ‘Just Weeds', with $10,000 in funding from the Massey-Harris Company. In 1946, another film was produced, dealing with four deep-rooted perennial weeds (hoary cress, leafy spurge, Russian knapweed, and field bindweed), this time with funding from the Chipman Chemical Company.
During that same year, R.O. Bibbey was selected and appointed as ‘permanent secretary' to the committee. The importance of having such a person had been emphasized at every meeting of the committee. Bibbey served until 1948, and was succeeded a year later by E. Grant Anderson who served in that role for some twenty years.
In 1942, Robert Newton had resigned as chairman, to accept other responsibilities. He was replaced by Ken W. Neatby who, in turn, was replaced by Henry Wood of the Manitoba Weeds Commission in 1946. It is worth noting that, prior to 1991, Henry Wood was the only chairman who was not an employee of the federal government. Wood served until 1949, when he was replaced by P.O. Ripley, and the leadership role reverted to federal government personnel.
The first report of a nation-wide weed survey was issued in February 1944, as the Canadian Weed Survey, First Report (1942). Its importance was stressed in the foreword: ‘It is with this broad outline that the first issue of the Canadian Weed Survey is handed to the public. It is ardently hoped that this entirely original presentation of an annual weed survey will soon win for itself the support of all who are concerned with weeds and all those who regard weeds as their concern.'
In June 1945, the full Committee met again, for the first time since 1939, this time in Saskatoon. One of three resolutions passed was the following interesting one: ‘That in the opinion of this Committee it would be a mistake to limit the membership of national committees to public servants, as there are many persons outside the Government Service who can contribute much to agriculture by serving on national committees, provided that all committee members are approved by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture.'
In 1946, the advisability of setting up Eastern and Western Sections came under discussion again. Such separate sections also had existed between 1935 and 1939. They were duly organized in 1947, although the nature of their organization is not clear from available documents.
The first Western Canadian Weed Control Conference was held on 26-28 November 1947 in Regina. The event was held ‘under the auspices of the recently organized Western Section of the National Weed Committee of Canada.' It brought together 142 weed workers from provincial governments, universities, federal government, and commercial organizations, to present and discuss the results of their research. These Western Weed Conferences were held every year from 1947 to 1953, and then every second year until 1961, when the last one took place in Edmonton. On two occasions, in 1952 and in 1959, the meetings were held jointly with the North Central Weed Control Conference. The conferences were ‘sponsored' by the Western Section of the National Weed Committee, but otherwise seem to have had a quite separate and independent existence, because the regular Western Section meetings continued during the conference ‘off' years. In the ‘on' years of the conference, the Western Section meetings were held in conjunction with them. The Eastern Section held its first meeting in January 1948.
Current records indicate that the 1947 western conference is taken as the first meeting of what is now the Canadian Weed Science Society. There are good reasons, however, to suggest that the October 1929 meeting is more appropriately considered the first organized meeting. The group that met at that time was smaller in number but the people who participated were as diverse as those who attended the conference in Regina in 1947. More importantly, there is a much clearer continuity from the 2002 inaugural meeting of the Canadian Weed Science Society back to the October 1929 conference in Edmonton than to the Western Weed Control Conferences held from 1947 to 1961.
In the meantime, a new era in chemical weed control had begun, and a large section of the 1947 conference program was devoted to 2,4-D, its formulations, its concentrations, and its uses. Most of the research reports presented, if not all, dealt with 2,4-D in some form. The proceedings include recommendations as to what information should appear on the label of 2,4-D-containing products, what rates might be used to control a number of annual and perennial weeds, and what important features farmers should look for in sprayers. The importance of 2,4-D is exemplified by the fact that the proceedings contain a listing of all problematic annual and perennial broadleaved weeds as to their susceptibility or resistance to 2,4-D.
Grant Anderson reported in 1955 on the number of herbicide products that were registered. In 1946 there were 56, in 1948 and 1949 the number had increased to 131 and 190, respectively, and in 1954 there were 308. Of the 190 registered in 1949, 147 contained some form of 2,4-D.
The first Research Report from the Western Section was produced and published in 1954, followed in 1956 by the first Research Report from the Eastern Section. According to Henry Friesen, in 1957, ‘At the first Western Canadian Weed Conference in 1947, each worker gathered together his interesting experiences with 2,4-D, presented them in whatever style he chose at the conference and these together with short discussions on various special weed problems by a few of the workers formed the Proceedings. Furthermore, it was on these "testimonials" that the Weed Control Recommendations were based. As the years went by, this approach had serious shortcomings . . . . . . Consequently, in 1953 the idea of the Research Report (a compilation of short reports or abstracts on individual projects) was borrowed from the North Central Weed Control Conference.' At some point after 1953, ‘project summarizers' were appointed. Each summarizer was assigned one or more weeds or a particular cropping situation, and was asked to prepare recommendations or changes in recommendations based on a careful review of the research information provided through research abstracts. Also, within both the Eastern and Western Sections, there were two subcommittees, each with a chairman/spokesman and with an unspecified and largely overlapping number of members: the Research Appraisal Committee and the Research Planning Committee. The functions of the subcommittees were embedded in their names, but the operational details were loose and sometimes mysterious. The outcome of the deliberations usually was quite clear, however. It was expressed in terms of recommendations for controlling a large number of different weed species, tentative answers that needed a further year's confirmation, or questions that needed a good deal more research before an answer could be given with confidence.
The proceedings of the Eighth Meeting of the Western Section (1955, Regina) contain a report by Henry Wood (Chairman, Weeds Commission, Manitoba Agriculture), entitled Fifty years of weed control in western Canada. He ended his talk with the comment ‘The day seems to be dawning when the farmer can truly say that he is mastering one of the most baffling of farm operations - weed control.' Well, perhaps!
At the 1957 meeting, Ken Hill (Ottawa) stated, with a touch of bragging: ‘Looking back over the past 30 years of our activity, we can be proud of much that has been accomplished. . . . It should be a source of pride to us that the work of the National Weed Committee is frequently cited as an example of a program that is well organized and well in hand.'
Not everyone was always happy with how things were going, however. For example, Vic Beck (Saskatchewan) spoke about a problem that ‘confronts the extension worker . . . the sale of chemicals in Canada for which no recommendations for suggested rates or uses have been made by the National Weed Committee or other official research group. The extension worker is in a rather ridiculous position when a chemical is licensed for sale and he is forced to admit that no official tests or recommendations are available in Canada to support the claim made on the label. Of even greater concern is the fact that the recommendations made by this committee are not necessarily adhered to in the registration of the chemical.' He articulated, of course, the lack of correspondence that sometimes existed between ‘recommendations' from the National Weed Committee and the information that was printed on Ottawa-approved product labels. That concern continued to plague the committee for many years.
In 1961, Categories A and B for herbicide treatments were put in place. They were intended to be used as the basis for planning further field experiments. Category A included promising control measures that had not yet reached recommendation status but might do so after one or more years of further testing. Category B included control practices ‘that have shown some promise' and seemed to warrant further testing. The category system remained in place until some time after 1994, when the summarizer and category systems were both abolished. At least part of the reason for dropping them at that time was the continuing disconnect between Weed Committee recommendations that were based on publicly reported experimental evidence of efficacy and crop safety on the one hand, and federal government agency approval of a label registration that was based on efficacy and safety data, including toxicology information, submitted in confidence by a product's manufacturer, on the other hand.
A related concern that arose in the mid-sixties was the potential liability of extension personnel (especially federal government employees) in making recommendations for chemical weed control that did not follow to the letter the information that was printed on Ottawa-approved product labels. The concern faded after some years, fortunately, and extension workers could again express some of their experiment-based judgment in dealing with practical weed problem questions.
At the 1966 meeting of the Western Section, Frank Nowosad, then chairman of the National Weed Committee, reported that several committees, including the National Weed Committee, had been transferred from the National Coordinating Committee on Agricultural Services to the authority of the Research Branch of Canada Agriculture. ‘Therefore, presently we are responsible to the Director-General, J. A. Anderson.' He went on to read the broad terms of reference for the committee:
1. To be fully informed as to Canada's weed problems.
2. To aid in the coordination of weed research.
3. To suggest programs and projects for the solution of Canada's weed problems.
4. To summarize, interpret, and make available research data for the guidance of research workers and for the use of those responsible for extension and regulations pertaining to weed control.
The minutes of the renamed (1968) Canada Weed Committee meeting of 4-5 December 1969 record approval of a more elaborate series of terms of reference:
1. Coordinate research on weeds and weed control by CDA, universities, industry, and provincial departments of agriculture.
2. Encourage agreement of outlook on regulations covering herbicide usage, residues, pollution, weed seeds and control of noxious weeds among Food and Drug, regulatory, industry, extension, and research personnel.
3. Publish annually abstracts of current research, minutes, and proceedings of meetings.
4. Review annually results of current work and suggest up-to-date control measures for consideration by provincial extension workers, provincial and federal regulatory workers, and industry.
5. Establish preferred terminology for weeds and herbicides and encourage use of uniform units of measurement in scientific and extension literature on weed control. Arrange for publication of accepted names where desirable.
6. Encourage liaison with weed scientists and weed societies outside of Canada.
7. Through extension and public relations activities, encourage safe use of herbicides and prevention of pollution of air, soil, and water by herbicides.
8. Make recommendations to CASCC on weed problems in Canada, weed research in Canada, and regulations governing weeds, weed control, and herbicides.
The organizational structure of the fifteen-member government-appointed Canada Weed Committee and its subsidiaries, the Eastern and Western Sections, continued to be fuzzy (at least in the minds of some), and a small committee was appointed in 1970 to provide more clarity. The 1971 minutes record that the fifteen-member committee henceforth would be known as the National Executive, with the names of the two sections to remain the same. To these authors the name always sounded a bit mysterious and inappropriate, describing as it did a most peculiar agency with almost a non-structure. It probably was a committee. And it was kind of national. But it was not really an executive of anything. And not all its members were experts on weeds.
Further change was to come shortly. A memorandum from Assistant Deputy Minister B.B. Migicovsky dated 16 September 1977 was presented by Jim Hay (chairman of the Canada Weed Committee from 1969 to 1977): ‘Effective September 1978, the Canada Weed Committee will become the Expert Committee on Weeds and will report to CASCC (Canadian Agricultural Services Coordinating Committee) through the (new) Canada Committee on Crop Production Services.' It had been so decreed. The minutes of the meeting reflect disagreement with the Expert Committee nomenclature from both the Eastern and the Western Section. Hay stated that he would forward the views of the Eastern and Western Sections to CASCC but he doubted that this would have any effect.' And indeed it did not. The ‘Expert Committee' name stayed for twenty-five years.
Despite the occasional cynicism expressed on these pages, it is abundantly clear that the operation of the Expert Committee on Weeds with its western and eastern sections was held in high regard by representatives of other Expert Committees, as reported at meetings of the Canada Committee on Crop Production Services. The setup of the Expert Committee on Weeds made it possible to deal with many types of information exchange, assessment of research results, and research plans and coordination, at the level of the personnel actually doing the work.
The first computer-generated reports of weed control research summaries (‘abstracts') saw the light of day in 1978, and many pages of experimental data were accumulated. The 1983 Research Report from the Eastern Section, for example, was 558 pages long, and the report from the Western Section was 1044 pages long, in three volumes.
Many other things happened during the seventies and the eighties, but there were no major changes in structure or operation. Position statements on herbicide use were prepared and published, in response to concerns expressed via public hearings. The Wild Oat Action Committee was appointed in 1973 and served for ten years. It distributed some research grant funds and organized workshops and symposia. The paper series The Biology of Canadian Weeds was started, largely overseen by Paul Cavers (University of Western Ontario). As of January, 2003, 117 individual papers in this series have been published, plus two updates, and an additional seven papers are in press. The first two collections of papers were re-published in 1980 and 1984. By 1995, 104 papers had been re-published, and the most recent fourth volume was published in 1999. The Quackgrass Action Committee organized a workshop in 1987 and a symposium in 1990. A report that listed all the accepted common names of weeds in Canada was prepared and published in 1969 as Agriculture Canada Publication 1397, Common and Botanical Names of Weeds, through the work of the Nomenclature and Terminology Subcommittee, to standardize that important component of working with weeds.
During 1990, pressure was exerted by the parental authorities to have the Expert Committee on Weeds merge with the Expert Committee on Pest Management (renamed from the Expert Committee on Pesticide Use in Agriculture, and focused mainly on insect pest control). The Weeds group politely declined and suggested, instead, that some joint meetings for the two groups be organized. The first such (partially) joint meeting took place in Victoria in December 1991, and served to establish a measure of communication between the two groups. Two more such joint meetings followed, in 1992 and 1993. The year 1991 also was the first time since 1946 that someone who was not a federal government (Agriculture Canada) employee was appointed as chairman of the National Executive (William Vanden Born, University of Alberta).
During all the preceding years, contact between weed research and extension personnel from the Eastern and Western Sections had been poor. Costs of travel undoubtedly had contributed to this situation. By 1991, however, the differences in cost between short and long-distance air travel had shrunk considerably, and the idea of joint meetings of the two sections began to take shape. The first such joint meeting was duly organized, and took place in Edmonton in December 1993, in conjunction with a well-attended symposium on herbicide resistance in weeds. Attendance at the joint meeting consisted of 78 people from the Eastern Section and 174 from the Western Section. One feature of the joint session was the demonstration of HERB, a computer search system that could extract from the Research Report data base all the accumulated research data for the efficacy of a particular herbicide treatment on a particular weed in a particular crop. A later version of a data retrieval system was named WEEDTRIEV, and the most recent version is called ASKSAM.
At the 1993 meeting of the National Executive, a decision was made to explore the possibility of merging the western and eastern sections and to have national meetings only. A ‘Joint Meeting Committee' was appointed, with representatives from both the Eastern and the Western Section, to consider the question and to prepare suitable recommendations. The merging idea, and the expressed desire for more independence from the parental authority, were given significant support through public and private comments by Brian Morrissey, Assistant Deputy Minister, who spoke at the Edmonton conference. There had been a growing feeling of frustration for some time with a structure that allowed for making recommendations at a national level only to a parent committee that was perceived more as a black hole by some than as an avenue to action. The frustration led to the view that more could be accomplished on the national front, on behalf of the discipline of weed science, as an independent, free-standing organization of weed science workers across Canada.
The Joint Meeting Committee prepared a survey form that was sent to some 500 people, 166 of whom responded, with 83 per cent in favour of the proposed merger. The merger would see only a single national meeting each year, alternating between east/central and western locations, with the first regular joint meeting scheduled for Montreal in December 1995. Approval was duly confirmed by the Western and Eastern Sections in December 1994 and January 1995, respectively, and the real work of joining the two essentially separate (though parallel) organizations into one could begin. The new joint life was to mean much more than simply joint meetings-there had to be a redefinition of purposes, roles, and relationships.
All of that began to happen during and after the 1995 meeting in Montreal, where the merger report and its recommendations, including a draft statement of purpose, were approved unanimously. The new organization was to have a twelve-member executive board. The existing National Executive had its last meeting on 28 November 1995 and was promptly replaced by a newly elected interim board for 1995-96 (with considerable overlap from the just discontinued body). Its main responsibility was the development of operational guidelines for the new organization (though still bearing the same name, that of Expert Committee on Weeds, and still with the expectation of bringing a report and recommendations to what by this time was known as the Canada Committee on Crops).
Project summarizers no longer existed, and the nature of the meetings began to be shaped along the lines of Action Committees or Working Groups in a range of areas. These got off the ground in 1997, and in 2000 nine such groups were active.
During 2001 and 2002, much work was done in giving shape and content to the newly independent organization, to be named the Canadian Weed Science Society. A paid membership base already had been in place for several years, an Executive Assistant had been appointed, and the new name and by-laws were officially proclaimed on 28 June 2002. The 2002 inaugural meeting of the Canadian Weed Science Society in Saskatoon saw an attendance of 230. There are ten working groups, six of which had organized sessions at the meeting. Society membership stands at a total of 165, with 134 of these as regular members. The organization is on its way. The journey to independence had been completed, and a new journey has begun.