Interview with the Honourable Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House of Commons

I was very pleased to meet the Honourable Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House of Commons, when he arrived at the Billy Bishop Toronto Island Airport on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. I was at the airport to drive him to Ryerson University, which is where the CSA 25th Anniversary Conference was held.

With the Speaker’s permission, I set up an audio recorder so that I could record our interview, as we were driving through Toronto traffic. Afterwards, I was very pleased to hear Geoff Regan’s keynote address at the conference.

The Speaker of the House of Commons had a speech disorder during his childhood and his early twenties. He was able to overcome the disorder through speech therapy, and a lot of practice.

A key point that stayed in mind from the Speaker’s keynote at the CSA 25 conference is that, all through his life, Geoff Regan has aimed to do always try to do better, at whatever it is that he does.

His approach to life is an inspiration for all of us – including the 1 percent of the adult population who stutters, the 5 percent of young children who stutter during the years they are learning to speak, and the 99 percent of the population – I hear they are sometimes called “fluenters” – who do not stutter.

Articles about Geoff Regan

A Dec. 3, 2015 CBC article is entitled: “Meet Geoff Regan, the new Speaker of the House of Commons: Liberal MP is the 1st Atlantic Canadian in nearly 100 years elected as Speaker.”

A Jan. 2, 2016 CTV News article is entitled: “The Speaker’s speech: How therapy helped Geoff Regan find his voice.”

The Halifax speech clinic that the Honourable Geoff Regan attended, and that he refers to in the CTV broadcast, was run by Joy Armson.

The latter speech therapist and academic is now Director and Graduate Coordinator at the School of Human Communication Disorders at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

I met Joy Armson years ago, when I made a workshop presentation at a national Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) conference in Halifax. I believe the conference was in 1998, or close to that year.


Geoff Regan speaks at April 2016 SAC conference (Speech-Language and Audiology Canada)

A May 16, 2016 Speech-Language and Audiology Canada article is entitled: “Geoff Regan speaks at SAC conference (Speech-Language and Audiology Canada)”.

The article includes the following excerpt from his speech:

“I am myself a grateful beneficiary of the valuable work performed by speech-language pathologists.

“When I was younger, I found that I was so eager to express my thoughts and ideas that I couldn’t slow down enough to get the words out clearly, and the delivery would get tangled up. As you can imagine, this affected my sense of confidence, and by the time I reached my twenties I decided I had to find a way to correct the problem.

“So, during the summer of 1982, I dropped into the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic in Halifax to ask for some help. There I met with Dr. Joy Armson, and over the ensuing weeks, she and her student taught me relaxation and visualization techniques, along with the Slow Normal speech pattern. I can’t remember exactly how many weeks or months this lasted, but I found it very helpful.”

He noted, as well:

“Today, I have the honour of serving as the 36th Speaker of the House of Commons. I can honestly say I never imagined I would occupy this position, and I can also say, with gratitude, that I could certainly never have done so without Joy’s help and encouragement.”

[End of text]

Closing of BCAPS

BCAPS is the British Columbia Association of People Who Stutter.

Andrew Harding, National Coordinator of CSA, has informed us that BCAPS is closing, and that CSA will be carrying on, as a legacy project, a bursary program that BCAPS has been running for many years, as a way to help young people who stutter (who otherwise would not be able to afford it) to get treatment for stuttering.

Below are some thoughts that have occurred to me, on the occasion of the winding down of BCAPS.

BCAPS has done tremendously valuable work for so many years. In a sense, a part of their legacy is that CSA will be able to build upon some of the great work BCAPS has done over the years in British Columbia. BCAPS had its origins, as I recall, in a meeting that Allan Chapman called, of attendees from British Columbia, when we were outside during an event or a break at the first-ever CSA national conference in Banff in August 1991, 25 years ago. I met Allan Chapman in Edmonton in July 1987 when we were both attendees at a three-week ISTAR (Institute fir Stuttering Treatment and Research) clinic.

Allan Chapman – originally from Winnipeg and later living in Victoria, as I recall – later became a leading hydrologist in British Columbia. Michael Niven of Calgary attended the ISTAR clinic just a short time earlier, prior to the July 1987 clinic. He became a leading lawyer in Calgary and also played a key role in the development of the CSA constitution. He had lost his job as an articling student at a law firm, because he stuttered severely. Michael went to ISTAR as a last resort. By that stage he had already started a family, had a nice house in a nice part of Calgary – and was without a job. Then he decided to follow up on an article, that someone had previously shown him, about the ISTAR clinic in Edmonton.

At that stage, Michael Niven was quite interested in finding a way out of his dilemma. When he was at ISTAR, he wrote a note in some ISTAR guestbook. That was my first introduction to him. The note said, in so many words: “Having fluency is like walking along a cliff. If I work at the maintenance of what I have learned, during the years after the clinic, the walk along the cliff will work out fine. I am going to work at it.”

The key player for the drafting of the CSA constitution was Peter Wyant of Regina, also an ISTAR alumnus from those years. Allan, Michael, and Peter were key players in staging of the meetings – where people broke into groups of eight – at the Banff conference. The final meeting, chaired by Peter Wyant, asked attendees if we should form a national association.

I recall Peter saying, in so many words: “It’s up to the people here to decide; it’s not our job as workshop leaders, to make any such decision; it’s up to the attendees to decide what we should be doing.”

Peter became a leading executive in the oil sands industry. When we were writing the draft of the CSA constitution, and developing it, a point that was repeatedly made was that CSA as an organization would be open to everybody – to those who advocate fluency training as a way to deal with stuttering, to those who had no use for fluency training, and for any person who had any interest at all in how to deal with stuttering.

Another key player in the early years of CSA -and who remains a key player even now – is Arun Khanna, who has recently taken on the role of CSA Treasurer.

Arun has been involved with CSA since 1991 and as a board member since 2007. Arun’s financial expertise will serve the organization well. Arun brings a great deal of valued experience – both to his role as an accountant (for many years he was a manager at the Canada Revenue Agency) and as a CSA co-founder beginning with all of the public speaking he was engaged in at the Banff 1991 conference.

Arun Khanna was also a key player in SAT, the Stuttering Association of Toronto (founded in 1988), which along with the Stuttering Association of Alberta was directly involved in the early deliberations starting in 1989 that led to the Banff conference.

As I recall, Arun remarked in 1991, after the Banff conference, that it was the first time in his life he had done much in the way of public speaking – and, he added (again, if I recall correctly), “This is fun. I like public speaking!”

Arun is not an ISTAR graduate. As I recall from conversations years ago, Arun hasn’t had much in the way of formal speech therapy. However, he found the regular meetings of the SAT group in Toronto, in the late 1980s, of much benefit. As a result of the meetings, he began to let people at work know that, yes, he is indeed a person who stutters. He also became fully at ease with public speaking – speaking to large audiences – which was helpful in his progress in his career as an accountant.

Leadership succession and continuous improvement

From the start we also emphasized leadership succession and continuous improvement in the organization. We knew that was the key thing, to ensure that CSA would grow and flourish in the years that followed.


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