The fight for control of Vancouver's community centres

What causes Vancouverites to jump onto tables and shout invectives at each other that doesn't involve a puck?

Trevor Loke, Park Board Commissioner
Bing Crosby in Vancouver: 1949
It's not really about OneCard. It's about the city, the community, our history, and Bing Crosby.

The youngest person ever to be elected to a Parks Commission in Canada, Trevor Loke, 25, stepped away from the microphone to a loud chorus of boos. The passion in his voice was unmistakable as he railed against the inequalities in the current community centre membership system, but that was lost on an audience of senior citizens and blue-collar workers. The emergency meeting on January 29 failed to bring the Vancouver Park Board and a handful of community centre associations into agreement, and so forces that shaped community life in Vancouver together for generations are now at each others' throats.

A fight is underway at the BC Supreme Court, the outcome of which will define how we use our local pools and ice rinks.

While the flashpoint of the battle has been the introduction of the OneCard program, the dispute is really about who runs Vancouver's community centres. Is City Hall able to effectively deliver programming across the city, or is this best left to the volunteer groups that brought these community centres into existence?

CCAs and the Park Board have sparred in the past, even to the point of litigation, but this fight takes place in the Age of the Share Button. The video below shows Loke delivering that impassioned speech about equality of access, though he's delivering it to the wrong audience, and they let him know rather loudly.

The JOA renegotiation process has been far more dramatic than the phrase "JOA renegotiation process" would suggest. Loke described a meeting of association presidents that he attended in 2011. That meeting culminated in participants "standing on their chairs, yelling at each other." He described the atmosphere as "inherently toxic", but at least the chairs stayed on the ground – sometimes they fly through the air. We can be a passionate bunch.

(While the case is being heard, those to whom I spoke were polite in describing their opponents: a wise strategy during an active court case in which each side accuses the other of undue aggression.)

Holding out

There are 22 CCAs in Vancouver, running 24 community centres.

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While 16 community centre associations have since signed an interim agreement; the Hastings, Killarney, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Riley Park–Hillcrest, and Sunset CCAs have not.

For the Park Board, it's about the whole city. For each CCA, it's about their corner of it. They're speaking different languages, or at least different dialects.

The six holdout CCAs had filed an injunction against the Park Board, seeking to prevent the city from advertising OneCard alongside those community centres’ own offerings.

That injunction was dismissed by Justice Bruce Cohen on October 28.

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