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Battle for memberships to control Delta Hospice Society

Not clear when next annual general meeting will be held
delta hospice memberships - pixabay
The Delta Hospice Society’s current board had another setback in the courts last week. Pixabay

Both sides in the heated battle for control of the Delta Hospice Society are locked in a fight to sign up members ahead of the next annual general meeting.

The current board of the society has reportedly launched a nationwide membership drive, appealing to all Canadians who oppose euthanasia.

The Campaign Life Coalition has joined in by encouraging Canadians to pay the $10 membership, noting those who sign up to be a voting member don’t have to be B.C. residents.

“Changing its character to become an officially Christian organization is the only way for this British Columbia hospice to escape the provincial NDP government’s plan to force it to commit euthanasia and suicide on its patients,” stated Jeff Gunnarson, national president of Campaign Life Coalition in a news release.

The citizens’ group Take Back Delta Hospice, meanwhile, is calling on Delta residents to sign up as members “to put a stop to the recklessness demonstrated by this Board of Directors. We must ensure that Supportive Care services remain intact today and for future generations.”

The group’s Chris Pettypiece told the Optimist in a previous interview they’ve talked to hundreds of people who are upset about what’s been happening to their hospice.

He said his group will continue to reach out to educate the community on how it can get involved.

The B.C. Court of Appeal last week denied the current society board’s request for a stay of proceedings while it seeks leave to appeal a recent judgment against it to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The B.C. Court of Appeal last month dismissed an appeal by the board, which was attempting to block membership applications to the society.

Last week’s decision further strengthens the efforts of Take Back Delta Hospice, said Pettypiece.

The board earlier this year filed an appeal to overturn a petition to the B.C. Supreme Court which successfully halted a planned meeting by the board to have the society’s constitution amended to become Christian-based.

The June 15th meeting, which would have been followed by a mail-in ballot of registered members, asked to change the constitution to include several statements including “To function as a Christian community that furthers biblical principles governed by the Triune God.”

The successful petition by Pettypiece, Sharon Farrish and former board president Jim Levin followed the current DHS leadership rejecting many society membership applications by Delta residents opposed to the board’s actions.

Accused of stacking the membership to impose their religious viewpoint, including signing up many non-Deltans, the current board is opposed to providing the legal procedure medical assistance in dying (MAiD) at the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner.

The board reversed a decision by the society’s previous board to allow MAiD, alleging MAiD does not align with the philosophy of palliative care.

Board president Angelina Ireland earlier told the Optimist they are a private society and her board has the right to vet applications, adding they were inundated with requests including “people who have maliciously and intentionally inundated the society with their memberships.”

Social media for months been abuzz with irate residents saying they’ve been denied membership to the society which, ironically, saw a large number a late sign-ups by opponents of MAiD just prior to a heated annual general meeting late last year.

The newly signed members were enough to change the balance of power of the board.

It’s not clear when the next AGM will be held.

“Whether the current board chooses to pursue an annual general meeting of any kind, or if the membership chooses to pursue requisitioning a meeting of the members, in any case, the court ruled back in June it will determine whether things are right in order to proceed with the meeting. So, the court will have to approve that meeting,” Pettypiece added.

By next February, the battle for control of the society could be a moot point.

Fraser Health has mandated that non-faith based hospices offer MAiD to those who ask for it, putting Delta Hospice on a collision course with the health authority and the province, which announced earlier this year the society would lose its funding by Feb. 25, 2021.

Health Minister Adrian Dix told the Optimist that no matter who controls the society by then, it would also not be permitted to provide hospice palliative care by that date.