Fifty-five organizations tell province Revised Societies Act harmful to non-profit groups

Fifty-six organizations have submitted a joint letter to the BC government raising concerns about the act.

Photo by Evan Leeson via Flickr

With the opportunity for the public to comment on the Societies Act overhaul coming to an end, fifty-six organizations have submitted a joint letter to the BC government raising concerns of the White Paper.

The long document has BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association among other non-profit organizations worried that this will have a major impact on the groups in the future, according to FIPA. These non-profit groups may have to avoid activities that could be seen as controversial, in case they are taken to court.

Section 99 says any person, which includes corporations, can take any registered society to court if they believe they are “detrimental” to public interest.

Here is the section igniting discussion:

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).

(3) Section 98 (4) applies for the purposes of this section.

The intention appears to silence and intimidate non-profit groups, particularly environmental ones, under the threat of the law.

FIPA says volunteers run majority of British Columbia’s societies on a limited budget, and they do not have experience with the law or enough resources to hire lawyers.

“While transparency and accountability are desirable, over-regulation of societies—and particularly small and grassroots organizations—can be harmful, intimidating, and a waste of both public and private resources,” argued FIPA. Christy Clark’s Societies Act overhaul is unnecessary, because “the public interest is already protected through the laws which govern charities, and through contract terms when organizations receive public money.”

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