Public interest legal organizations react to proposed BC Society Act changes
VANCOUVER – Legal organizations reacted today to the news that the provincial government has removed a problematic provision from its proposed new Society Act. Draft legislation had included a provision that would have made it possible for members of the public to file legal challenges against non-profits when, in the opinion of the individual, the non-profit had acted “to the detriment of the public interest”.
In October 2014, more than two dozen non-profits wrote to the government to object to that section of the new legislation, stating that permitting such litigation would “have the potential to intimidate many societies, and to divert resources away from the valuable work being carried out by societies.” The letter also indicated that the public interest was already protected in a number of ways, and that creating an open-ended ability to file challenges against non-profit societies is unnecessary.
“We’re delighted that the government has listened to hundreds of societies and tens of thousands of British Columbians, dropping a proposed provision in BC’s new Societies Act that could have seen non-profits dragged into court frivolously by their critics,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel at West Coast Environmental Law Association.
“This proposal made absolutely no sense, and we’re pleased the government has listened to the overwhelming concerns of non-profits in BC by getting rid of it,” added Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. “The proposal to allow legal challenges could have tied non-profit and volunteer organizations up in litigation merelybecause an individual disagreed with them, and threatened freedom of expression.”
Mary Childs, lawyer at Ethos Law firm who was closely involved in the efforts by the non-profit community to have the public legal challenge provision eliminated, added: “"The new legislation now strikes a better balance between accountability and autonomy. The changes mean that the potential for abusive litigation has been reduced."
Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association, 250-412-9784
Mary Childs, Lawyer, Ethos Law Group, 604-569-3022 ext.1
Josh Paterson, Executive Director, BCCLA, 604-630-9752