Proposed Changes to Act Open Societies to Attack

legal AttackThe BC Government is proposing changes to the Societies Act that would allow any “interested party” to apply to the courts to have the actions of the society ruled “not in the public interest.”

This single change could tie up enormous amounts of time and money as non-profits are forced to defend themselves against any person or organization with a different agenda or a grudge.

The proposed changes are set out in a white paper written by the BC Ministry of Finance. They are seeking public input only until October 15 so we need to move quickly to get our opinions heard.

The language that has many in volunteer driven societies concerned is in section 99:

Complaints by public
99 (1) A person whom the court considers to be an appropriate person to make an application under this section may apply to the court for an order under this section on the grounds that a society

(a) is conducting its activities or internal affairs with intent to defraud a person or to otherwise act unlawfully, or
(b) is carrying on activities that are detrimental to the public interest.

(2) On an application under this section, the court, with a view to remedying or bringing to an end the matters complained of, may make any order it considers appropriate, including an order referred to in section 98 (3).

The order referred to in section 98 (3):

may make any interim or final order it considers appropriate, including an order
(a) directing or prohibiting any act,
(b) regulating the conduct of the society’s activities or internal affairs,
(c) removing a director or appointing a new director,
(d) varying or setting aside a transaction to which the society is a party and directing any party to the transaction to compensate any other party to the transaction,
(e) varying or setting aside a resolution,
(f) requiring the society, within a period specified by the court, to produce to the court or to a specified person financial statements or an accounting in any form the court may determine,
(g) directing the society to compensate an aggrieved person,
(h) directing correction of the records of the society,
(i) appointing a receiver or receiver manager,

Two organizations have done very credible and interesting analysis of the proposed changes:

  • The West Coast Environmental Law Society here
  • And the BC Non Profit Housing Society here

Board Voice is adding its name to a list of organizations that are opposed to these changes.

We are also recommending that our members send letters to the Ministry at opposing these changes. If there is not enough time for your agency to respond, consider sending a letter as an individual volunteer board director.