Despite the recent controversies that have cast a shadow on the international chapter of the Bitcoin Foundation, its local affiliate chapters are in the midst of developments that are highlighting the organisation’s purpose in both the bitcoin industry and the world at large.

In Canada, the foundation is growing, and those who are getting involved in the structure are hopeful about its ability to positively influence the local bitcoin space.

The Canadian Chapter of the Bitcoin Foundation (hereon referred to as Bitcoin Foundation Canada) recently elected two new members to its board of directors – one to fill the Industry seat, and one to fill the Individual seat, with the election fully concluding this past week.

Both new members have been met with optimism from the community, though challenges for the ecosystem lie ahead, especially in light of recent announcements from the Bank of Canada that have cast doubt on bitcoin’s long-term viability.

Bitcoin Foundation Canada is the official chapter of its parent organization – the Bitcoin Foundation – and, as such, seeks to accomplish the same: ‘standardise, protect and promote’ bitcoin.

The chapter is focused solely on the inclusive and transparent ways to defend these interests in Canada.

Emerging leaders

Throughout March and April, Bitcoin Foundation members across Canada were invited to submit their candidacy for a seat on the board of directors for the Canadian chapter.

Six individuals applied for the Individual seat, and four companies competed for the industry seat. The Canadian Bitcoin Foundation opted to use Helios, a voting platform that sought to ensure transparency via ballot encryption.

Voting commenced on the 28th 11:59, with a further round of voting beginning on the 13th due to a tie in the industry election.

On 5th May, the individual seat was awarded to Jillian Friedman, with 50% of all ballots cast.

The victory was seen as a positive for the foundation and Canadians, as Friedman is a Montreal-based legal expert who advises clients in the digital currency industry and acts as general counsel to the Bitcoin Embassy.

Friedman has also proved open to collaboration – especially with the other Canadian national non-for profit, which could be seen by some as a competitor: the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada.

Her goal is to put a ‘face’ on bitcoin, so Canadians can shift their perception from “thinking that bitcoin got shut down or is illegal to understanding how disruptive and awesome this technology really is”.

She hopes that the Foundation will help as a “unified voice to the public” and “speak to politicians, and the public sector, as well as players in the public sector” about the incredible technology.

Furthermore, she would like to see it as a place for people to go to acquire resources, to learn more and to interact with the technology and currency.

Boots on the ground

This should be good news for the bitcoin industry to hear. Transparency, process and clarity on how decisions are made are essential for any organization to grow, thrive and contribute positively to the environment in which it operates.

Friedman’s first steps as a new board member include possibly setting up CBF meet-ups all over the country, to grow the organizations’ presence across Canada.

“As I understand,” she explains, “the bitcoin community in some Western provinces like Alberta is not as robust as in Ontario or Quebec – CBF can share knowledge and capacity to help change this”.

Guillaume Babin-Tremblay, founding member of the CBF, believes Friedman is a positive choice for the foundation.

Babin-Tremblay said:

“Jillian will make a great addition to our team. Having a Bitcoin legal expert on our board will be a great advantage in our ongoing discussions with regulatory agencies.”

Exchanges aim to lead local industry

With regards to the industry seat, the first round of voting resulted in a tie between British Columbia-based exchange Quadriga CX, represented by Gerald Cotton, and Quebec-based exchange Morrex Inc., represented by Philippe-Antoine Plante.

After the second round of voting, Morrex Inc. took the coveted industry seat.

Located in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Morrex Inc. appears to be the only Quebec-based exchange in operation.

Francis Pouliot, director of Public Affairs for the Canadian Bitcoin Foundation helped organize the elections on behalf of the board, and was pleased with how the process was conducted smoothly and without controversy.

He said:

“[I was] very pleased with the high participation rate and general conduct of this first Board of administrator’s elections.”

Local competition

Of course, one potential roadblock to these goals is community support.

Bitcoin Foundation Canada is Canada’s second national ‘Bitcoin board’, with the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada looking to accomplish a similar set of goals. Given that there two organisations seeking to promote the industry, there have been questions regarding whether the two organizations work together.

Canada is known for its openness to our new technology. Many businesses set up shop in Canada due to our (seemingly) secure financial position in the world marketplace. By comparison, the US can often be seen as a hostile environment in which to operate business given the uncertainty and high cost of regulation.

However, issues still remain: bitcoin has bad PR in Canada. People who know of it know of the scandals. As such, there is hope that these organisations will be able to advance the conversation in an organised manner.

Challenges ahead

Although bitcoin in general is not faced with the type of resistance in Canada as it is elsewhere in the world, Canada has hurdles to mass adoption.

CAVirtEx, one of the country’s largest digital currency exchange, explained quite clearly in a Senate hearing earlier this year that they needed bank accounts, or would continue to face operational difficulties.

As such, Friedman envisions BFC as “…a bridge for the traditional financial services economy and anyone for that matter”.

She told CoinDesk:

“One major problem many bitcoin businesses encounter is maintaining banking relationships.

While this may change with greater clarity as to the legal obligations of bitcoin businesses with respect to anti-money laundering compliance – this is an issue that is on CBF’s radar – as it directly prejudices the growth potential of the industry here in Canada.”

Ms. Friedman hopes to increase the visibility of the Foundation to the Canadian mainstream, and also “create a transparent organization – where members know what is going on and how decisions are made”.

One way to do this, she says, is by having more frequent updates and newsletters.

With the elections concluded, the local ecosystem is optimistic that both the Alliance and the Foundation will cater to those it serves: members and the general public.

Remaining focused on the overall goal and not getting influenced by politics, competition and in-fighting will prove to be the largest challenge for these two centralized organizations.

Image via Bitcoin Foundation Canada

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