There are approximately 9,000 societies in BC. About half of these could be put into the “social” or “small business” category.
The BC Societies Act White Paper was distributed on November 28, 2016, to be enacted on November 28, 2018. This act covers all societies registered in BC. It has had several modifications since its introduction.
The original draft named the Civil Resolution Tribunal as the body to resolve conflicts arising between and within societies. This did not make it into the White Paper. The only defined recourse for conflicts was the BC Supreme Court. Financially, this was extremely restrictive for an individual or a small group.
In May 2018, the Civil Resolution Tribunal Amendment Act passed third reading. One of the changes is to send certain society issues relating to member discipline, interpretation of society bylaws, and production of society records to the CRT rather than the BC Supreme Court. This would cover board promoted or condoned items like abuse of authority, improperly conducted elections, uncontrolled spending, gross misrepresentation of governing rules, bylaws or laws, denying members access to records to which they are entitled and many other complaints that may arise in a social or small business society. Under the proposed language, the tribunal does not have jurisdiction in a matter relating to the termination of membership in a society.
The BC Societies Act Part 8 Sections 102 and 103 cover “oppression” that is very likely to occur in social or small business societies and can only be resolved by the BC Supreme Court. Section 102 of the White Paper allowed claims by any interested parties. The current act only allows claims by members, not any interested party.
If the claim is relating to the improper termination of membership in a society, what avenues are open since that person is no longer a member?
Considering the requirements of the Registrar of Companies and all of the authority given to the Small Claims Court and the Civil Resolution Tribunal relative to the procedural portions of the BC Societies Act, sections 102 and 103 appear to be the only sections that come under the jurisdiction of the BC Supreme Court, where a small social society is involved.
Large societies, such as unions, may be better served by the Supreme Court but the expense involved could be prohibitive to a sports group, a cadet league, a school parent advisory committee or a seniors’ society.
I have spoken to our local [Powell River-Sunshine Coast] MLA Nicholas Simons about this barrier for small social societies. He seemed to be quite concerned as smoothly operating societies and their volunteers are vital to the health of a community. He has asked for a formal report on current examples and potential examples that he can take to the Registrar of Companies for redress or reasons for the current limitation.
If any society member has examples that they would like him to be aware of, contact Simons’ Powell River office at 604.485.1249.
Jim Rose is a Powell River resident and past member of the Senior Citizens Association of BC Branch #49.