This week column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Changes unfairly target non-profits.
This week’s topic: Should proposed new rules be enacted allowing B.C. non-profit societies to be taken to court?
Make no mistake, the legislative changes to the Society Act proposed by the B.C. government are not about keeping registered societies accountable and transparent. The changes are yet another assault against the democratic rights of Canadians, and a sign the government has taken a lesson from the Stephen Harper playbook.
Contrary to my partner’s assertions, it’s not just environmental groups who are alarmed — I’ve been contacted by people from small community groups who advocate for good stewardship in city planning who are worried as well. If they speak out against irresponsible developments and municipal policy in favour of responsible and sustainable planning, would heavy-handed developers with deep pockets take them to court for “acting against the public’s interest?”
As with most onerous legislation, the devil is in the details, and how the proposed wording is interpreted and used by the courts in any litigation. How will the court determine who is an appropriate person to act in the public’s interest? How will the public’s interest be defined? And why is it even necessary to enact Section 99 in the first place, when there is nothing to prevent anyone from suing a society right now?
I’ve already heard from a party who is a member of a society that has been entrenched in litigation that appears to be a SLAPP suit — a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. SLAPP suits are an insult to everything Lady Justice stands for, and are increasingly being used to legally silence community groups, organizations and individuals who speak out.
Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.
This kind of legislation signals the BC Liberals’ intention to encourage these kind of pesky lawsuits with motives that are anything but altruistic. The courts in this province are already so back-logged that people facing DUI charges have walked free because their right to a speedy trial has been infringed upon. Yet the same government that has over the years cut access to legal services, legal aid and other supports, is now enabling vexatious actions that waste the court’s time…
Read the rest of this weeks column, vote and comment at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/10/19/changes-unfairly-target-non-profits
And in case you missed it, head to the main page and scroll down to read about the Little Pop-up Soup Kitchen that could!