For the first time in 72 years, the British North America Philatelic Society (BNAPS) has cancelled its annual convention and exhibition known as BNAPEX.
Hundreds of collectors from around the world were expected to attend the 72nd annual BNAPEX in the Dartmouth community of Halifax on Sept. 4-6. But with flights grounded, non-essential businesses shuttered and social-distancing measures enacted by all levels of government due to COVID-19, there have been growing concerns about whether the convention could go ahead as planned.
“Many philatelic shows have been cancelled, and as a result, there have been serious discussions about BNAPEX 2020,” said BNAPS President Ken Lemke, who added organizers were discussing a cancellation “for the past few weeks.”
“The overwhelming decision was that we should cancel BNAPEX 2020 now.”
The decision came on April 17 as Nova Scotia reported its seventh death related to COVID-19. That day, 43 new cases were identified in the province, which has reported more than 650 cases altogether.
“This was not an easy decision,” said Lemke, who added BNAPS officials are planning to host BNAPEX 2023 in Halifax.
“Although there has been some encouragement with respect to the virus, there is still an expectation that restrictions and caution will be in existence for some time. Currently, non-residents of Nova Scotia must go into a 14-day quarantine if they wish to enter the province. Movement of Nova Scotian residents is currently highly restricted.”
Organizers considered several factors, including collectors’ potential reluctance to attend and future restrictions on group activities, before cancelling.
“The major factor, however, was the health and safety of our members where the age demographics of the majority puts them in a high-risk category,” added Lemke. “We trust everyone will understand and support the decision.”
Next year’s BNAPEX will be held in Winnipeg.
THIRD BNAPEX IN HALIFAX
This year’s convention would be the third BNAPEX held in Halifax since the first convention – in Buffalo, N.Y. – in 1949.
Only minutes by ferry to downtown Halifax, Dartmouth is near countless historic and scenic locales, including Peggy’s Cove, the two of Lunenburg (a World Heritage Site) plus the Halifax Citadel, Nova Scotia Archives and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, the iconic port of immigration from 1928-71.
“Past BNAPEXes in Halifax have been very successful,” convention co-chair Gary Steele, who’s in the final year of a four-year term as a BNAPS director, told CSN.
“In 2008, we had very strong exhibitors from the Halifax Region but a lot of people also came from Europe and the United States to exhibit. It was a very diverse group of people from all over.”
Because of BNAPS’ multinational flair – British North America (BNA) philately includes countries, like Canada, from around the world – the group’s annual gathering typically draws collectors from abroad.
“One of the most memorable was in 2008, when we had about 220 frames of BNA along with another 60 frames of worldwide material,” said Steele, of Sackville, N.S., which is about 15 kilometres northwest of Dartmouth.
Last year was no different, with “a tremendous number of visitors” coming to Ottawa from both the U.S. and Europe for BNAPEX 2019, according to that year’s convention chair Roy Houtby, of St. Catharines, Ont.