The annual general meeting of the Nelson and District Women’s Centre next week will be run according to the terms of a court order.
A final consent order filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Nelson this week is a result of a lawsuit brought against the Nelson and District Women’s Centre Society by members Donna Macdonald and Lisa McGeady in August, in which they asked the court to rule on a number of procedural, financial, administrative and legal issues. The suit did not ask for money.
The consent agreement, approved and signed by Justice Karen Douglas of the B.C. Supreme Court, was reached by negotiation between Macdonald and McGeady as the petitioners and the Women’s Centre board as the respondents.
A consent order is an out-of-court settlement, and has the same force as if a judge had made the order. It is public and is filed as an official court document. A copy of the consent order is attached at the end of this article, as is a copy of the original petition to the court that initiated the lawsuit.
In their lawsuit, Macdonald and McGeady alleged the board was not following the society’s constitution or abiding by the Societies Act in a variety of areas of the operation of the centre. Their attempts to intervene in these issues resulted in their expulsion from the society, their lawsuit claimed.
Many of the irregularities claimed by Macdonald and McGeady centred around the 2018 annual general meeting and how it was run.
As an indicator of the level of mistrust within the organization at that meeting and since, their petition to the court asserts that Macdonald was assaulted by a member of the society at the meeting, and that the same member had accused Macdonald of assaulting her. No charges were laid.
The consent order:
• Names an an interim board of directors in effect until an election at the upcoming annual general meeting on Dec. 4.
• Lays out minimum requirements for the agenda of the AGM, including use of Robert’s Rules of Order, approval of last year’s minutes, presentation of financial statements, presentation of an annual report, election of board members, and consideration of nine member proposals (see below).
• Outlines a detailed process for conducting the board election, including specifics about nominations, ballots, scrutineering and voting.
• Designates Alison Sayers as meeting chair and requires the attendance of a parliamentarian.
• Outlines how the meeting must be advertised.
• Requires the society to provide Macdonald and McGeady with a copy of the society’s official membership register.
• Requires the society to re-instate Macdonald and McGeady as members in good standing of the society and allows them to attend the centre.
The member proposals that must be presented to the meeting are:
1. Membership form
Change the society’s membership application form so that it does not ask prospective members to agree with any statements as a condition of membership, other than with the objectives and policies of the society as stated in its constitution.
Publish the society’s 2018-19 and 2019-20 budgets on the society’s website, and publish future budgets when they are approved by the board.
3. Resource allocation
Develop a policy and procedure to track how grant funds are being used for the stated purposes of the society.
4. Engagement process regarding marginalized genders
Develop a public engagement process to “seek resources for, and then conduct, a well-planned and facilitated engagement process to satisfy the society’s mandate and its approach to serving marginalized genders. Such a process may include patron surveys, an open public forum, small group conversations and information sessions presenting different viewpoints.”
5. CRA reporting
Immediately file the society’s registered charity information return with the Canada Revenue Agency, having missed the March 19, 2019, deadline.
6. Rescind bans
Rescind all bans against members from attending at the women’s centre, and revoke in writing all trespass notices, on the grounds that many have been done without due process.
7. Co-ordinating collective
Overhaul and clarify the society’s policies and procedures regarding the composition of the board, its duties, and how it is elected. Details of what a new policy might look like are included in the appendix to the order.
8. Elections policy change
Remove the policy that current board members must approve new board members, and leave board member approval up to member voting, not the preferences of the current board.
9. Member discipline
Establish clear guidelines for the discipline or expulsion of members.
The annual general meeting will take place on Dec. 4 at the Adventure Hotel banquet room, 616 Vernon St. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the meeting starts at 6:15.