BC Supreme Court stops Vancouver Park Board from evicting renegade Community Centre Associations

BC Supreme Court prevents eviction of six renegade Community Centre Associations.

Back in the day, Bing Crosby broke ground for the Sunset Community Centre. Today, Sunset is staring down the City in a showdown over budget and program control.

They fought the law...

The BC Supreme Court has decided that the Vancouver Park Board cannot evict the six Community Centre Associations that have refused to sign on to the OneCard program.

Get the background story here:

The short version is that the Vancouver Park Board came up with a way to link all of Vancouver's community centres. OneCard is based on the idea that, with modern technology and data capture, the City is best poised to roll out community programs where the demand appears; and that any Vancouverite should be able to use any community centre with a flick of the card.

However, this isn't just about a plastic swipe card: the root of the issue is control over who gets to decide which programs are offered at a given community centre, and how those programs get funded. In arguing this point, the holdout CCAs point to their shared history, in which the City relied on the volunteers to get our community centres built, staffed, and run.

14 community centre associations (CCAs) have signed on to OneCard, but six have held out: Hastings, Killarney, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Riley Park–Hillcrest, and Sunset.

Previously, the Vancouver Parks Board was successful in compelling the renegade CCAs to advertise OneCard. The Park Board then moved to evict the holdouts, effectively declaring the long-standing marriage between the City and these particular volunteer groups to be past the counseling stage and headed towards straight-up divorce.

The holdout CCAs filed an injuction to prevent the eviction, which takes us to today.

You can read the entire decision at the bottom of this article; Justice Gregory Bowden wrote,

The effect of granting an interlocutory injunction in the circumstances of this case is to maintain the status quo between the parties until a trial. The relationship of the parties that has resulted in the successful operation of the effected community centres over the decades would be expected to continue until the trial of the Main  Action. I do not consider that the result will be irreparable harm to the defendant.

In the end result I have concluded that the balance of convenience favours the granting of an interlocutory injunction.

Ainslie Kwan, head of the Killarney Community Centre Society, believes that this calls for a change in nomenclature:

 

For those who aren't direct stakeholders, this has not been the sexiest story in the world. In an earlier conversation, Vancouver Parks Board Chair Niki Sharma had said, “It’s been a challenge even to explain the issue.”

However, it's a story couched in emotion and history. The City and the CCAs have acted as partners for generations, and the public has benefited from that partnership. This injunction says, in effect, that this is not how partners should treat each other.

“For the better part of 10 years, the city has been trying to update [the JOAs]. This, she admitted, has been met with “different levels of success” between the different CCAs. “14 out of 20 are hashing out all the issues to come up with a renewed partnership.” The six holdouts, she argued, “decided to litigate instead of negotiate.”

If you were to ask representatives of the holdout CCAs, though, you'd hear that it was the City that was sporting a set of tin ears. This is a recurring theme recently: recriminations stacking up as each side accuses the other of just. Not. Listening. Vision Vancouver faces such criticism not only from members of the public, but also from within City Hall.

Indeed, the NPA wasted no time in weighing in on the decision, seizing the opportunity to take a dig at the dominant Vision Vancouver party:

NPA spokesperson Natasha Westover says Vancouver’s Community Centre Associations have a long and exemplary history of volunteerism and each association plays a significant role within its respective neighbourhood.

“This costly and divisive legal battle was forced by Vision Vancouver and fuelled by their agenda to take control of community centres and centralize all aspects of community centre operations,” said Westover.

What if?

Had the Parks Board been successful, we'd probably have been facing a painful spectacle: all of the assets held between the City and each CCA would have to be divided. Take a moment to think about how ugly that could get.

Also, the Parks Board would have to form replacement CCAs, since running those sites without volunteer aid would be a non-starter, budget-wise. The question would be who would make up those new CCAs, and how that would sit with neighbourhoods stinging from the eviction.

Baby, it ain't over 'til it's over

This is not the end. The injuction prevents the dissolution of the Joint Operating Agreements between the six holdouts and the Parks Board, but the their dispute must still be fully aired in court.

Until then, as Ken Thompson, president of the Sunset Community Centre Association, had said earlier, it will be "business as usual".

BC Supreme Court ruling:

Park Board Ruling by sunciviclee

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