The Delta Hospice Soceity operates the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner. (James Smith photo)

The Delta Hospice Soceity operates the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner. (James Smith photo)

Court affirms order Delta Hospice Society accept memberships rejected in medically assisted dying controversy

No error in earlier finding the board acted contrary to its bylaws by denying applicants who support MAiD

The Delta Hospice Society’s appeal of a court order compelling the society to admit hundreds of prospective members whose applications were blocked earlier this year has been dismissed.

In a judgment released Friday (Nov. 13), a panel of B.C. Court of Appeal judges dismissed the society’s appeal, finding the judge in the original case had not erred in law when she found the society’s board had acted contrary to its bylaws “which gave no discretion to reject applicants for membership based on their apparent views towards medically‑assisted dying (“MAiD”).”

“It is not the role of courts to resolve the debate as to whether MAiD should be provided by the society. However, courts may intervene under the remedial provisions of the [Societies] Act where a society acts in breach of its bylaws or the act,” Justice Mary Newbury wrote on behalf of herself and Justices Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten and Peter Voith.

“Charter values of freedom of association and freedom of conscience do not support a right of the board to control the society’s membership lists, and by extension the outcome of proposed special resolutions, on the basis of criteria not stated in the bylaws.”

In February, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the Fraser Health Authority had given the Delta Hospice Society (DHS) a year’s notice that it would terminate its contract with the society after the board voted not to provide medical assistance in dying (MAiD) at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner. The facility is located on Fraser Health property, rented to the society for $1 a year, and the health authority provides the hospice with $1.5 million in annual funding, which covers 94 per cent of the 10-bed centre’s operating costs.

Members of the Delta Hospice Society (DHS) were advised in May of proposed changes to the organization’s constitution and bylaws aimed at transforming it into a faith-based society, as such groups are exempt from the requirement to deliver MAiD. An extraordinary general meeting of the society was scheduled for June 15, followed by a vote by mail-in ballot to close on June 26.

News of the proposed changes, coupled with word that hundreds of membership applications had been rejected — allegedly because the applicants did not support the board’s anti-MAiD position — drew sharp criticism from many in the community, including Delta Mayor George Harvie, Delta MP Carla Qualtrough, Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon and Delta South MLA Ian Paton, who wrote a joint letter to Dix asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the situation.

Meanwhile, three former DHS board presidents filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. in an attempt to stop, or at least postpone, the special meeting and vote, alleging notice of the meeting contravened the Societies Act, Emergency Program Act and the society’s own bylaws.

Among other actions, petitioners Sharon Farrish, Christopher Pettypiece, and James Levin asked the court to order the society to provide them with a list of all the DHS’s members (including contact information), as well as a list of all persons whose membership applications were rejected by the society since Nov. 28, 2019.

The petition, filed June 5, alleged “the board of the society has manipulated the membership list to stack the deck, by holding back for up to six months, and ultimately rejecting without basis, hundreds of membership applications by community members concerned by the direction of the society, all the while selectively accepting members supportive of their philosophy and direction. […] It is intended to change what was always an open, secular community organization into a closed, religious organization.”

A week later, on June 12, B.C Supreme Court Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick found the DHS board had acted with an “improper propose” that “lacked good faith,” contrary to the society’s bylaws and the Societies Act, by screening potential members and denying the applications of those who “indicated a contrary view or who [could not] be confirmed to have the ‘correct’ view.”

“In my view, this is not the open and democratic process that is the objective for the society as evidenced by the [Societies] Act and the [DHS’s] bylaws. Simply, the clear inference from the circumstances here is that the board has been attempting to manipulate the membership for voting purposes at the meeting.”

Fitzpatrick ordered that the meeting on June 15 be cancelled, and that the society must seek the direction of the court before giving notice of any future meetings. As well, the planned use of mail-in ballots was prohibited, and Fitzpatrick ruled the court may appoint an alternative chair for future society proceedings.

The board was also ordered to provide a list of all society members to Farrish, Pettypiece and Levin, as well as a list of all the people whose membership applications had been rejected. Further, those whose applications had been rejected by the board were to be accepted as members in good standing of the society.

READ MORE: Protest walk turns celebration as B.C. court rules against Delta Hospice Society board (June 13, 2020)

The society filed a notice of appeal on June 18, amending it July 3, saying Fitzpatrick had erred in finding jurisdiction to order the forced admission of members who do not share the society’s purposes, and in ordering the admission of applicants due to wrongly finding that the membership rejections were made in bad faith or for an improper purpose.

On June 25, the court granted a stay of Fitzpatrick’s orders pending hearing of the appeal.

The DHS’s appeal was heard on Oct. 7, and the stay extended until the appeal court’s judgment was rendered on Nov. 13.

— with files from Tom Fletcher



editor@northdeltareporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Delta

Just Posted

Councillor Doug Elford. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Elford to join Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society as a director

Fellow Safe Surrey Coalition Councillors Laurie Guerra, Mandeep Nagra and Allison Patton will be re-appointed to the board

(Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey council moves to reduce parking along rapid transit corridors

This also targets rental housing developments in Rapid Transit Areas

Big Splash water park is located in Tsawwassen. (submitted photo)
Big Splash reopens Canada Day with changes to keep the water park ‘safe for everyone’

Executive Hotels & Resorts has owned and operated the attraction since 2017

A cyclist stops traffic to allow a gaggle of geese cross the road. (Tino Fluckiger photo)
White Rock man asks motorists to be mindful of wildlife after close call

Impatient motorists drives into oncoming traffic

West Coast Duty Free president Gary Holowaychuk stands next to empty shelves inside his store on Tuesday (June 15). (Aaron Hinks photo)
Revenue down 97% at South Surrey duty free as owner waits for U.S. border to reopen

Products approaching best before dates had to be donated, others destroyed

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read