Dear Members and Friends,
As 2016 comes to a close, I have the pleasure to share with you the highlights of a very busy and successful year for the BCBC. For the second year in a row, we have held a significant number of high-caliber events, and have continued to build on new initiatives to serve you better.
We have added a partnership with CHOQ-FM/GrandToronto.ca and Aline Ayoub HR to those signed previously with the Alliance Française, CanCham BeLux, and MTFX, and we are exploring several others as well.
2016 has been a tumultuous year for Belgians worldwide, and in Toronto in particular. It began with some great news, as just before the New Year, Brussels Airlines announced that they would be launching a new direct flight between Brussels and Toronto; they further approached the BCBC to help with the promotion of this new flight, beginning with an Executive Luncheon in January. We continued to work closely with Brussels Airlines in anticipated March 27th launch of this new service.
Alas, as we all know, March 22nd was a dark day for Belgians as Brussels was the target of coordinated terrorist attacks striking Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek metro station in downtown Brussels. That evening, the BCBC organized a press conference and candlelight vigil at Nathan Phillips Square during which we shared statements from H.E. Raoul Delcorde and ourselves, followed by Mayor John Tory sharing a few words of his own; we are particularly grateful to Mayor Tory for having taken time away from the memorial for his predecessor, Rob Ford, which took place simultaneously at City Hall. The following week, our media partner, CHOQ-FM, provided members of our community with the opportunity to reflect on these atrocities and what it means for Belgians, both at home and abroad.
With the ensuing closure of Brussels Airport due to damages sustained during the attack, Brussels Airlines was obliged to postpone their launch of the new Toronto-Brussels line to April 21st, and once again asked for the BCBC’s support in re-enhancing the image of Brussels in the aftermath of the attacks, both as a travel hub and as a destination, be it for business or pleasure. On May 10th, we were pleased to receive Bernard Gustin, CEO of Brussels Airlines, and Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company, in their first public appearance outside of Belgium following the attacks. Mr. Feist expressed his gratitude for our efforts, saying:
“Thank you for your support, which was very heartwarming. I was impressed by the images of your press conference; I had not imagined such a surge of sympathy and compassion so far from Belgium. This gives us the energy to continue!”
The following two days saw Belgium put at the forefront of the Toronto business community with the Embassy’s “Belgian Days”, presided by Belgium’s Federal State Secretary for Foreign Trade, Pieter de Crem, and H.E. Raoul Delcorde.
We have continued our very successful Business with Belgium series, with events taking place in late-April and early-December of this year, both of which included timely updates on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union. In addition to insights from our Presenting Sponsors, Dentons and KPMG, as well as both Belgian and Canadian Trade Commissioners, we heard from Export Development Canada and the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters, Inc. (IE Canada).
For the fifth year, we also partnered with the International Economic Forum for the Americas on their Toronto Global Forum, which is committed to heighten knowledge and awareness of the major issues concerning economic globalization, with a particular emphasis on the relations between the Americas and other continents. We also partnered with the Economist for their second Canada Summit this summer – some of you may recall that we partnered with them for the inaugural summit in December 2014 – as well as with CIMA Canada for their CGMA Conference on Diversity and Inclusion as a Source of Competitive Advantage in a Global Economy.
It is noteworthy that organizations such as Export Development Canada, CIMA Canada, and IE Canada attended some of our events this year; this shows us that other organizations are being drawn to our doorstep as a resource for international learning and networking. We continue to be recognized as the go-to organization for guidance and representation of all things Belgian.
In addition to our recurring series – Belgians in Canada (BIC), Business with Belgium (BWB), and Frites Night – we have partnered on several events with our friends at the British and Bulgarian Chambers, with topics as diverse as “Why Online Presence is critical to your success” and “FinTech: Ride the Disruptive Wave of Mobile Money and Digital Payments.” CHOQ-FM also asked us to take part in the launch of their new program schedule, with an increased focus on current events and/or business affairs; as we partnered with them a number of times this past year on such topics, they requested that we speak to our collaboration.
In November 2015, we held our first-ever charitable event; a fundraiser benefitting the Labatt Family Heart Centre for Sick Kids Hospital for whom we managed to raise $1,398. Due to the success of this event, we decided to make this an annual undertaking, and have moved it to the more symbolic date of December 6th, better known in Belgium as Saint-Nicholas; as the patron saint for children, it seems only fitting that we come together as a community to support Sick Kids on this date. In addition to the continued support of Labatt and the Alliance Française de Toronto, this year we were able to hold a raffle with a number of prizes supplied by PreNup Pub, Sin & Redemption, Town Crier, Calissons du Roy René, and Koi Story, as well as two grand prizes of a round-trip ticket from Toronto to Brussels offered by Brussels Airlines.
As some may recall, six years ago the chamber was on the verge of closure. At the end of 2015 we closed the renaissance phase of the BCBC, having successfully rebuilt it to be one of the most active and vibrant European chambers in Canada. 2016 saw the start of the next phase of growth and expansion, in which we will be offering more and new services for business, more opportunities to network and learn, more events, and more added value for your BCBC membership. We are going to continue to build a solid reputation as the go-to point of contact for both Canadian companies wanting to do business with Belgium as well as Belgian companies expanding into Canada. We thank you for your continued support as we continue to build a better and stronger Belgian Canadian Business Chamber
Without our sponsors much of what we do would not be possible. We would like to thank and welcome our new sponsors that came on board this year: Brussels Airlines, MADD Virgin Drinks, Mardalvi, TWC International Executive Search, Traduction Léon Collet Translation, and Gerrard-Boden Management. We are also very thankful for the continued support from our established sponsors: Labatt, AGFA Gevaert, Aird & Berlis LLP, Dentons LLP, KPMG, KF Aerospace, YAOL, Nigel Bagley Graphic Design, Puratos, McCain, CRH, Ouest Business Solutions, Atlas Copco, Goslett Wong – Business Immigration Law Group, MTFX, HRWare, and The Law Studio.
2016 has been an exciting year, and we are already getting geared up for an even more exciting 2017. We really do appreciate your feedback; I encourage you to get in touch with us via the “Contact Us” page on our website and let us know what you’d like from your Chamber. If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to join our social networks on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
I look forward to seeing each and every one of you at our upcoming events in 2017!
President and Chief Executive Officer
Belgian Canadian Business Chamber