Secular Ontario AA Roundup

SOAAR 2019

SOAAR 2019

By Murray J.

What is SOAAR 2019 you might ask? And what is “Widening The Gateway?” They are the Secular Ontario AA Roundup and the theme for the event. Mark your calendar for September 7th, 2019 for the next SOAAR event in Hamilton. It will be held at the First Unitarian Church at 170 Dundurn St South.

In 1957, Bill W., co-founder of AA, in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, wrote about “the great contribution of our atheists and agnostics. They had widened the gateway so that all who suffer may pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief.”

Why have a Roundup? Roundups are great opportunities to share your journey with fellow alcoholics and to learn new information about research or different methods of treatment.

First Unitarian Church

Easy to get to! Just off the 403 Highway. Free parking. And the GO bus from Toronto stops a few hundred yards away, at Main and Dundurn.

First a bit of history. The first SOAAR occurred in Toronto on September 16th, 2017. There was much talk in the secular AA community in Ontario in 2016 about making a bid to host the International Conference of Secular AA or ICSAA for 2018. Simultaneously there was discussion about a provincial secular roundup. In a stroke of genius, it was decided to do both! And, surprise, both events occurred. Both 2017 and 2018 have been exciting growth years for our secular community. There are more meetings, more attendance and for the first time in Canada a LGBTQ+ secular inaugural meeting that occurred on March 12th in Toronto.

Now back to SOAAR.

The inaugural 2017 event was a day-long affair with three meals, a keynote speaker, panels and entertainment in the evening. Over 120 people attended. And as any committee should do, the wrap up meeting suggested several key learning points. What went well? The venue was good, the food was phenomenal and the speakers and panels offered excellent sharing and information. What didn’t go so well? The day was too long. The food was great but costly. The venue, while good for space, was not appropriate for those with mobility issues. And a better effort could have been made to reach out to our traditional AA friends.

So, have we applied these learning experiences to SOAAR 2019?


The day will be shorter, the food will include a healthy lunch with coffee and munchies available throughout the day. The venue is excellent. The roundup is close to a major highway, parking is ample and free, it is completely accessible for mobility challenged folks and the agenda has been well thought out and exciting. And a concerted effort has been made to reach out to our traditional AA community.

What are some of the highlights for the day? Joe C. a co-founder of one of the first secular groups in Canada Beyond Belief in 2009 will speak on the history of secularism in AA. Joe speaks with humour and knowledge.

In addition, there will be panels on service, secular 12 steps, spirituality, meditation, how to start a secular group and sharing about your group’s history.

As mentioned above there will be a panel of particular interest about “Service in AA”. We are pleased that the following long term AA members will be on the panel.

  • Jim W., past Area 86 Delegate and Chair of the Hamilton AA Central Office, will Chair the panel.
  • Richard B., from Montreal, was  the Eastern Canada Regional Trustee on the General Service Board from 2014 to 2018.
  • Anna P. a member of the Burlington Central Group, has held numerous service positions and is currently the DCM for District 10. And finally,
  • Dale S., whose home group is Thursday Night in Milton, is the current Delegate for Area 86 where he serves on the General Service Conference of AA.

Dr Vera Tarman

The resumes of the people listed above point to a wealth of experience in AA. Service is a vital component to many in recovery.

Dr. Vera Tarman, an Addiction Medical Specialist at Renascent Centres, will be the afternoon keynote speaker. She is an excellent and informative speaker.

Consistent with the theme Widening the Gateway, the day will be diverse and sure to offer something of interest to all.

The  SOAAR 2019 committee is dedicated and committed to ensure the day will be inclusive, interesting and educational.

Come join us on September 7th, 2019. Come soar with us at SOAAR! It will be an exciting and enlightening day.

Murray J. got sober in traditional AA in 1996. He attends both secular and traditional meetings. His secular group is Beyond Belief Suburban West that meets every Wednesday at 7pm at The South Common Recreation Centre and Library at 2233 South Millway Mississauga in the Ivor Woodlands Room. He is past Treasurer for SOAAR 2017 and current Registrar for SOAAR 2019.

For a PDF of a pamphlet about the roundup, click here: SOAAR Brochure.


3 Responses

  1. bob k says:

    I had to miss in 2017—my stupid niece refused to move her wedding. She had some lame excuse about invitations sent and deposits paid. I will be there this time. For many years, I’ve dreamed of meeting Joe C., and getting him to autograph my cleavage.

  2. life-j says:

    I got to attend both the Olympia WA event and 2017 SOAAR. and these are great for giving a sense of us as a movement. Regrettably I’m not in shape to attend anymore, but would encourage that you make sure there is a place where someone who really needs to, can lie down to rest. That was my main complaint in 2017. Granted, I may be the only one ornery enough to travel 3000 miles to attend an event like this when I really should just have stayed at home on my couch. But just in case there’s someone else…

    I keep hoping we could pull something like this together in Northern California. I think events like this are real important.

  3. Thomas B. says:

    Thanks Murray for this informative article about SOAAR 2019. I was privileged to attend SOAAR 2017, and I look forward to be on the author’s panel this year. I especially appreciate how the organizers have endeavored to have many representatives on the program from so-called “traditional AA.” This insures the intent of secular AA to be an integral part of AA in accordance with our legacy of Unity. We may have different beliefs, but we work together to insure that anytime anyone anywhere reaches out for help, the hand of AA will always be there.

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