Corner Post
Quarterly Newsletter of the Saskatchewan
Land Surveyors

President’s Message

Akbar Karsan

CLS, BCLS, SLS, P. Surv.



I was born in Uganda and in 1972, together with more than 50,000 other residents, I was expelled from Uganda by President Idi Amin Dada. I became a refugee and had a choice of settling in Canada or the UK. Fortunately, I chose Canada. I consider myself extremely lucky to be kicked out and ending up in Canada. Thank you, Idi Amin Dada.


While planning for my university education, I told one of my teachers that I was considering a BSc. Degree in Surveying and Photogrammetry but I did not understand the meaning of “photogrammetry”. He said, “Ok, let’s see. From Latin, ‘photo’ means light and ‘grammetry’ means measuring and so “photogrammetry” probably means, “measuring with light”. I found that very interesting and so I graduated with a degree in Surveying and Photogrammetry from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.


Firstly, I settled in Edmonton. On the final approach to Edmonton Airport, I noticed underneath the rectangular farms and roads in a regular grid pattern. I thought “WOW! Who laid these out? Holy moly!” Over time, my fascination with the Township System has only grown. As Canadians, we should all be grateful for that ‘Vision of an ordered land’.


I went to a land surveying company in Edmonton looking for a job. An Alberta Land Surveyor (probably, the owner) told me that with a BSc. Degree I was better off working for government and directed me to the Director of Surveys Office (then under Alberta Transportation). I was offered $836 per month for 37.5 hours workweek. To that, I said “I am worth at least a $1,000 per month” and I added, “I guarantee you that you will not be able to challenge me on a survey calculation”. I do not know why I said that. I have always carried that over confidence and sometimes with negative consequences. I ended up with $1089 (the pay scale greater than $1,000) per month for 37.5 hours workweek. I was working 40 hours per week in the field and my monthly pay was over $1160. In 1975, that was a good pay. In this case, the over confidence paid off, except I really did not know much about surveying.


I started working for the Director in the geodetic unit conducting 2nd and 3rd order control surveys in various cities and towns in Alberta. My first winter in Canada involved fieldwork in Ponoka, Red Deer, Innisfail and Olds. Before, I had only seen snow on Mount Kilimanjaro afar.


The following year, Alberta Land Surveyors Association had an AGM at the Westin Hotel (I think) in Edmonton. I had permission from my supervisor to visit the exhibit area for 2 hours on a Friday afternoon. I was disappointed to learn that 3 Alberta Land Surveyors in my unit attended the AGM for 3 days – took time off work. Therefore, I obtained an ALS Commission so I could also take time off work. I was impressed with the Township system but struggled with the concept of “correction line”. My master would send me to a “correction line” and I would be looking for a single surveyed line on the ground. I was scared to ask to avoid ridicule. Then, I obtained CLS and SLS Commissions.


I started working for SGB Yellowknife office on November 2nd 2009. I was transferred to Regina to manage the SGB office. It took all of the above events to line up, for me to be where I am today. A different outcome of any one of the above events could have changed my life journey and I would not have met so many land surveyors.


It is a great privilege and an honour to serve as a President of our Association. I accept this position with much humility, especially, having been a refugee and having difficulty with the spelling of Saskatchewan. We have had so many members with significant contributions to SLSA. I must admit that when I became the President at the last AGM, I felt the weight of the Association on my shoulders and was a little apprehensive. The question in my mind was, ‘can I be like Jack Webb?’ Then I realized that I had Council members to lean on.


We should all be grateful to Lee Anderson to serve as SLSA President during very trying times. Lee and his team organized a great AGM in Lloydminster this past June. Thank you.


We have a great Council and members enjoy cordial relations. Terry Alm, our public member, provides constructive feedback and suggestions. Carrie Weir has demonstrated professionalism with a very short learning curve. I am pleasantly surprised. I am sure all the Council members are with me to thank Carrie for making our work easier. Of course, I am waiting for her to love our Association.


Akbar Karsan,