Four members on the board of the Nelson and District Women’s Centre resigned in April.
They were all on one side of a conflicted split that has existed at the centre for several years — a side that tends to be younger and wants the centre to move to more inclusion of non-binary and trans people, and to a more overt activism related to colonialism, class and race.
The board was elected in early December, and its make-up was seen to be an opportunity for reconciliation.
But Amanda Phoenix, one of the board members who resigned along with Sawah Danniels, Devon Brown, and Avery Alder, says that didn’t happen.
“I think that came from a resistance to having these sorts of [values] discussions, and feeling a pressure to address fiscal and operational issues, which are also very real,” Phoenix said.
The remaining board declined to be interviewed for this story but agreed to do so at a later date.
Board member Yvette Janzen said in an email to the Star, “Board members expect to work together recognizing that all board members represent the membership that voted us in. The board remains obligated to carry on with the tasks necessary to the continuation of the organization as we were entrusted to do by the membership.
“At present, all board members are completely immersed in tasks to stabilize the organization including hiring a new executive director and ensuring the women’s centre is ready when we move toward re-opening.”
“One of the directions the board received from members at the AGM,” Janzen said, “was to conduct an engagement process to review the mandate of the Nelson & District Women’s Centre. We are committed to developing an exciting and respectful process for that. With the interruptions caused by COVID and the Women’s Centre’s closure, this planning has been slowed for the short term. We will continue to plan and seek funding for an inclusive and meaningful process.”
Phoenix said that to deal with matters of operations and finances effectively, the board needs to know what its shared values are.
“We can’t continue to do the fiscal and structural pieces without looking at what are our values and our collective approach to that,” she said. “And how do we engage as groups who have been very clearly engaged in conflict for two years?”
The resignation letter from Phoenix, Danniels and Brown listed four values they hoped would be discussed: decolonization as one framework for the operations of the centre; opportunities for the most marginalized members of the community to be central in decision-making; elimination of oppression based on race, class, ability, age, and gender by dismantling patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism, and white supremacy; and inclusion of non-binary and trans people.
Asked how adoption of these values might change the operation of the centre, Phoenix said that question can only be answered by the board or by the full membership after discussing these issues in depth.
The women’s centre, which was founded 48 years ago, is currently unstaffed and has been closed since March 17 because of COVID-19.