Ontario Herbalists Association

Promoting safe & natural healing with plants since 1982

Presented by Susan Elliotson, RH
Sunday October 3rd, 2021

In 1982, a group of herbalists came together to form an association to promote herbal medicine in Ontario. In 1983, the Ontario Herbalists Association was incorporated as a non-profit organization. The many aims of the new OHA included setting standards for the qualification of herbalists as professionals delivering safe and effective treatment using herbs. This has been achieved and the OHA has received recognition by the provincial and federal governments and by the public for the professionalism and quality of care provided by its professional members who have earned the designation of Registered Herbalist, RH. OHA Boards have worked hard over the years to maintain and improve the reputation of its professional members.

While the OHA itself has not been able to establish its goal of a school to train herbalists, several of its members have begun schools which are producing young and highly qualified professional herbalists. These new RHs have energy and enthusiasm which has benefited the OHA as its membership grows.

The SNRH (Student and New Professional members or RHs) Committee has been very active. With a goal of helping students and new RHs enter into the world of practicing herbalists, they have had monthly events which include case studies, supervised by seasoned herbalists, social events and have brought in speakers on topics of particular interest to herbalists beginning their journey and to the seasoned herbalists as well.

The SubCommittee for Accessibility gave careful deliberation to set goals for the OHA to fulfill and expand the OHA’s commitment to equity and accessibility, with a specific focus on supporting BIPOC, 2SLGBTQI+, and disabled community members within the OHA and the herbalism community as a whole. A bursary was set up to further these goals. Unfortunately, the SCA currently has no members, and thus no one to administer awarding this bursary or carry out the goals.

A security breach in February, 2021, made a revision to the OHA website security essential. A committee was formed to define what was needed so the job could be put out to tender. The contract was awarded to Zhyfhs Millicent who was a student member at the time, but is now an RH. As often happens, this restructuring turned out to be more time consuming than expected but is nearing completion. Members will at first see little change in how the website looks and works but there are plans to add new information areas. Watch for this over the next few months.

Another new team member this year is Laura Holloway, RH, who took on General manager responsibilities in November, 2020. In addition to redesigning the newsletter format, Laura sends monthly newsletters packed with information. She has been redesigning some of the website pages, posting new material, and supporting the goals of the OHA in many other ways, relieving the President’s and the other volunteer Board Members’ workloads.

Anitha Venkatesan, our office manager, has been handling the growing amount of administrative tasks that have to be managed as the OHA membership grows. As well as sending renewal reminders to professional members and ensuring that the paperwork of all membership applications, renewals and payments is complete, she now also sends renewal reminders to student and general members, something not done previously. She receives and directs questions to the appropriate person if unable to answer them herself. This process has become more complex as more questions have been added to the application and renewal forms. Anitha will also handle processing and shipping orders for merchandise, something the BOD hopes to expand in 2022.

SMCO – Social Media Communication Officer, i.e. Instagram This was a new initiative begun last November which Allanah Canal has done so successfully that other herbal organizations have used the OHA postings as an example for their own outreach. Feature Friday has given faces to OHA RHs and helped members learn a bit about each other. Winning photos in the successful monthly photo contest will be shared in the first ever OHA calendar for 2022, something members can use to promote the OHA and professional herbalists.

I have to admit that the BOD was very nervous about adding additional paid staff, but quickly saw the work that both Laura and Allanah were doing made their contribution to the OHA well worth their payment.

OHA picnic, plant, book and bottle exchange went ahead in June despite COVID, with attendance spread over preregistered time slots. The food was potluck, many plants were exchanged (and dug from my garden), second hand books exchanged and single bottles purchased for bulk prices.

OHA barbecue – Thank you, Rick DeSylva, for your many years graciously hosting OHA professional and student members, and partners. Unfortunately, the work he puts into it for the effortless enjoyment of attendees, has made it impossible for him to continue and the Board is looking for another venue so professional and student members will be able to socialize this way in the future and enjoy organic corn in August.

The OHA began the 2020-21 year with seven directors. In February, 2021, Dee Gaultier resigned due to ill health. In August, 2021, Chris Lamont, also resigned. Both Dee’s and Chris’s terms would have ended as of this AGM, as does mine, leaving three vacancies. Chris had a very active role as director of admissions, and we have yet to find a replacement, someone urgently needed as the October 15 deadline for applications is almost upon us.

Unlike other years, when there were more applications for directors than vacancies, this year, we received only two. Fortunately, these were both from well-qualified people who will add talent and experience to the OHA.

Zhyfhs Millicent recently moved from Student to Registered Herbalist, has been active on several OHA committees and most recently has been restructuring the OHA website. This alone has kept her very busy but she has also taken on the role of Volunteer Co-ordinator and membership in the SNRH.

Although Karim Jivan is relatively new to herbal medicine, he brings years of experience in marketing, communication, branding, social media and writing, all skills that will benefit the OHA. Writing articles and letters has taken up much of the president’s time.

Last year, OHA members voted to increase CPD requirement to 40 hours annually. Because of the disruption caused by COVID shutting down the in-person events many members rely on, the BOD decided to delay that increase to 30 hrs for the 2022-23 renewals which will be due in Oct, 2022. To assist members in finding courses which would qualify, Laura Holloway, General Manager, has been able to include options in the monthly newsletter. In the last month, Amber Westfall and Carol Little have begun researching to expand options. If anyone can recommend courses that would qualify, Amber and Carol would be happy to hear of them. We are particularly interested in courses to add to
those offered to qualify for the now mandatory Awareness training required to renew annual membership.

The OHA will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2022. It is a young organization and has been very trusting. Herbalists are most happy when surrounded by their plants, either as medicine or growing in their gardens. Unfortunately, events over the past year brought to light weaknesses in existing protocols, protocols that are intended to protect the integrity of the OHA and its professional members. The Board felt that these weaknesses required legal guidance to correct. This absorbed the Board’s energy and focus, taking away from the true purpose of the OHA which is to promote herbalists and the practice of herbal medicine.

Breach of confidentiality is a breach of trust, trust which has been automatically given to all OHA members, especially those serving on committees. This doesn’t mean members should not talk about anything that is discussed at PMC meetings, or about concerns they may have or suggestions for projects they would like the OHA to undertake or ways to improve how the OHA operates; however, Board discussions are by their very nature confidential until information is gathered, plans are finalized and details worked out for the benefit of members. That is the role of an executive body in any organization. Once ideas have some shape, the membership is invited to comment, make changes and suggestions. Although nothing in our by-law requires this consultation, it has been an OHA tradition to put changes to the membership by vote to either approve or refuse.

Results of the vote which ended on 30September2021, were sent to the members on Oct. 1, and again, in the newsletter on Oct.2.

Unfortunately, issues with the OHA Disciplinary Procedure, which must remain confidential, have taken up a great deal of the BOD’s time and energy, distracting from the BODs goal of supporting herbalists and bringing to members activities directed to learning about herbs and their use. That has had a greater impact on the OHA than COVID, which herbalists know how to deal with.

Events this past summer have disclosed holes in the OHA Disciplinary Procedure/Complaint Process which was originally adopted from another herbal organization, with revisions approved by vote completed on 9 January 2021. There is a committee to review and recommend changes, which will then be vetted by the OHA lawyer and sent to the membership for comment, followed by a vote to approve or refuse changes.

Despite the distractions, the Board has continued to make plans for events and speakers which will enrich the learning of its members. Events and meetings will continue to be over the internet, via Zoom, until COVID restrictions are lifted to permit the more enjoyable in-person gatherings. The Board has instituted a sliding scale of admission fees so that all people interested in this learning will be able to participate.

Back to the 40th anniversary of the OHA, and ways to acknowledge and celebrate, there are plans, but the Board welcomes other ideas. This is another opportunity to join a committee or just bring your ideas to the BOD or PMC.

The OHA is mainly a volunteer organization, and everything it does is a result of team work. Volunteers sacrifice time from their personal lives and responsibilities to donate energy and talents which benefit the OHA. The OHA could not continue without its valued volunteer members, but as the OHA grows, it has been necessary to hire staff with specialized skills for some of its work. These staff people work closely with volunteers. Together we are stronger and accomplish much more.

A special thank you goes to Elena Pintilie, the OHA Secretary, who does so much more than prepare minutes of BOD and PMC meetings.