A Brief History

ORCKA's History

Compiled by Eric Williams from interviews with past ORCA Executive, Minutes of ORCKA Meetings, and CANEWS Magazines. Eric's goal was to make this history as accurate as possible. Corrections and additional data are most welcome.
In the Beginning There was a Committee "the further we look back, the further we can look ahead..." Winston Churchill
The year was 1975. While a lot of paddling had been done prior to that date, the year was significant in that canoeing organizations were beginning to form in Ontario. It was felt that if the recreational paddlers did not unite, then the other newly formed Canoe Ontario Affiliates may well claim recreational paddling for themselves. A small group of paddlers felt it important to meet to discuss their place in the developing environment, and organized a meeting to determine their future.
About fifty recreational paddlers, representing various diverse backgrounds responded to the voyageurs’ cry. Those attending the meeting were mainly canoe trippers. At that time the University of Toronto was operating a successful canoe trip leadership program.
That first meeting decided that a recreational canoeing organization was indeed required, and formed a committee to put into place the organization which we to-day recognize as ORCA. The original committee was comprised of: Bill Simmons, King Baker, Jim Gear, Jim Wood , John Strickland (of Gore Bay), and Karl Hartwick. Jim Wood was nominated as Chairman (since he was the most vocal), and subsequently drafted up the original ORCA constitution. The other committee members looked after safety, liaison, promotion, and administration.
The Canoe Ontario Annual General Meeting in 1976 was held at Camp Kandalore. At the meeting ORCA proudly advised the other affiliates that the recreational paddlers of Ontario would be represented by the Ontario Recreational Canoeing Association, and that ORCA wished to be an affiliate of Canoe Ontario with equal rights to the other affiliates. There was considerable debate about how many votes ORCA should have. Flatwater voted by clubs, and the clubs were members. ORCA suggested that schools could be ORCA members, and each have a vote with Canoe Ontario. This would have given ORCA a large advantage over the Flatwater Affiliate. Recognizing the perils of forcing the issue, Flatwater and White Water agreed to recognize ORCA as an equal, each with two votes on the Canoe Ontario Board of Directors. This agreement continues today. Bill Simmons and Jim Gear were ORCA's first representatives on the Canoe Ontario Board of Directors.
A similar occurrence was experienced with the Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association (CRCA) at the first meeting that ORCA attended as an organization. Prior to the Squamish (Vancouver) meeting everyone in attendance at the CRCA Annual General Meeting had a vote. Obviously the CRCA AGM Host province had an advantage up to that point. At that meeting it was suggested that each Province / Territory should have a vote. This was enacted at the CRCA's next AGM, and is still the current-day arrangement.
In 1976 ORCA held its first Annual General Meeting. Decisions were made on the basis of one member, one vote. Seventy five people attended that first meeting. At the meeting ORCA was voted into being, and Karl Hartwick was elected as ORCA's first President. The meeting recorded ORCA's original fundamental values. These were:
1.    Once an Instructor, always an Instructor. (no need to re-qualify).
2.    Annual skills sharing session clinics to provide an exchange of new skills and ideas.
3.    Two-side paddlers were recognized. For the paddlers from Millbrook it was the only way to paddle.

ORCA's first President, Karl Hartwick, recorded ORCA's major concerns from that first meeting:
1.    Who did ORCA represent?
2.    How does ORCA represent them?
3.    Were paddling standards required? What were the standards?
4.    How could ORCA best serve its membership without infringing on their individuality or need for freedom?
5.    ORCA had to be careful not to over-regulate while still providing a service to its membership.
6.    ORCA did have a role to provide canoeing information and route descriptions.

From that point on, the Ontario Recreational Canoeing & Kayaking Association (ORCKA) has continued to grow. Today it has matured and developed into the provincially recognized provider of recreational canoeing and kayaking programs and instruction ... helping the people of Ontario to become safe, competent and knowledgeable recreational paddlers!