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Happy anniversary, CJA: Here’s looking at the first 95 years

Founded in 1918, the CJA likely stemmed from the Jewellers Security Alliance of Canada, a group formed in 1884 to educate the industry on strengthening security measures, among other things. The association’s main mission initially, though, was to stamp out a five per cent excise tax on all jewellery products, a levy that funded Canada’s efforts in the First World War. This was the beginning of an 88-year-long battle to repeal the tax, which by 1986, had been raised to 10 per cent.

A 2004 bulletin described the excise tax as “job-killing,” “unfair,” “complicated,” and without a “legitimate policy rationale” other than working against a $1.2-billion-a-year industry that employed 40,000 Canadians in mostly small, family-owned businesses.

Yet, a private member’s bill introduced by John Duncan, MP for Vancouver Island North, B.C., set the wheels in motion to change all that, as did the efforts of then-CJA president Pierre Akkelian, who chaired the association’s Government Relations Committee in 1993. Duncan’s work on a Natural Resources Committee looking into the development of the Canadian diamond industry alerted him to a CJA report outlining what many considered the tax’s counterproductive and discriminatory effect on the industry.

“I thought from the very beginning my private member’s bill to get rid of the excise tax on jewellery might succeed because from private discussion, I knew there were several MPs from the other three parties, including the governing Liberals, who agreed with my position,” Duncan tells Jewellery Business.

No doubt, the tax’s elimination put the Canadian jewellery industry on a more even playing field. It is also a prime example of how the association works for the betterment of its members and the greater jewellery community.

“The CJA was built on having a well-equipped organization that is ready for action at any time,” says its current president, J. David Ritter. “It represents the best of our industry, and supplies a strong presence for the Canadian jewellery community, both domestically and internationally. Over the past 95 years, the CJA has been there when it has mattered most.”

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In addition to abolishing the tax, Ritter counts the sale of Jewellery World Expo to Reed Exhibitions in 2001 as another noteworthy accomplishment. Rather than running a trade show, the CJA could now focus on the issues affecting the industry and the task of growing membership.

“It also gave us a solid financial foundation,” Ritter says. “[The sale] was a turning point for the association. It allowed us the ability to provide and develop new products for our members that we would be unable to if we did not have that financial base. It put us in a position where we could strategically think to the future of building the association and building on our successes.”

Anti-money laundering legislation is one of the issues currently in the association’s crosshairs. Introduced in 2007, the regulations are meant to curb the funding of terrorism and organized crime through jewellery products. Although the legislation initially introduced with a $3000 threshold for reporting a jewellery purchase, the CJA lobbied government agencies to raise that amount to $10,000, lessening the load placed on the industry.

“It is just as strong an issue as the excise tax was because it was a huge burden on the industry and can take a lot of time and effort away from the day-to-day operations of our independents and chains,” Ritter adds.

So what do the next 95 years have in store for the CJA? Ritter says advocating on behalf of the Canadian jewellery industry is a given.

“We will continue to be the voice of the industry.”¨” [The Canadian jewellery industry] understands the viability and relevance of the association”¦ Our members have also been very supportive about what we have been able to do, which is represent them, since they do not have the resources to lobby or communicate with government, or network with international associations that can indirectly or directly affect the Canadian jewellery marketplace.”

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Mission accomplished so far.

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