Ireland responds to Delta Hospice membership denials controversy

They’re been inundated with membership requests by those who have malicious intent.

That’s what Delta Hospice Society president Angelina Ireland contends in an interview with the Optimist this week, responding to allegations her board has been acting inappropriately and in contravention of the Societies Act in denying membership applications, saying they are a private society who have the right to vet applications.

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“It’s right in our bylaws, there’s nothing new about this. We have been entirely inundated with memberships. Our society swelled from a couple of hundred members to fifteen hundred. Just the sheer administration of that, and where do we put all those people for a meeting? We’re just a small 10-bed hospice, a few volunteers, and we understand there was a huge campaign to inundate us,” Ireland said.

“It was quite planned to completely overwhelm us and we don’t have the staff to take care of the request of all these people, I think, have fairly malicious intent to come after us. The membership is at the full discretion of the board of directors and it’s the board’s responsibility to take a look at every single application. We did our best to provide as many members as we could,” Ireland explained.

Saying their main concern is to protect their 10 beds for hospice palliative care, Ireland said the intent of the Delta Hospice was never to be a euthanasia facility.

Social media has been abuzz this week with irate Delta residents saying they’ve been denied membership to the society which, ironically, saw a large number a late sign-ups by opponents of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) just prior to an annual general meeting late last year. The newly signed members were enough to change the balance of power of the board, which promptly cancelled a policy by the previous board to allow MAiD at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner.

The new board is now being accused of breaching the Societies Act by not allowing other people, including those who had contributed to the building of the centre, to sign up in an effort to keep the current membership stacked with a minority imposing their religious viewpoint.  

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Ireland says they are affirming their heritage and identity as a Christian, life affirming society. The board has been accused of hijacking the society and stacking the membership with supporters, while keeping everyone else out by blocking their memberships.

Ireland said Delta South MLA Ian Paton, Delta Mayor George Harvie and others don’t know or won’t tell the whole story, instead resorting to slanderous comments.

“They’ve taken rumour, they’ve taken innuendo to enflame a mob against us. They should be acting more responsibility,” said Ireland.

“Just because you want to, and it’s just not possible given the resources that we have at this time, to accept everybody. They want to make it ugly and make it seem there’s ulterior motives…We have people who have maliciously and intentionally inundated the society with their memberships, so we unfortunately had to draw the line somewhere,” she added.

Noting those who are in favour of MAiD should form their society and space for the end of life procedure, and that the provincial government has been trying to steal the private Delta Hospice by imposing it, Ireland said the society’s special meeting scheduled for June 15 will ask the membership whether it wants to formally affirm the Christian principles hospice care is based.

She said the government shouldn’t be able to terminate funding and block a faith-based society from providing palliative care.

Ireland also noted Fraser Health has already asked the society what their transition plan will be as the province intends to terminate its contract with DHS, even though the society has asked for an extension.

Ireland through legal counsel also responded to Paton’s letter to her asking her to reconsider the membership application refusals.

Ottawa lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos wrote to Paton saying while it is true that a number of applications for new membership were denied, it is not correct to say that the applications were made by individuals who are part of the community or who have been partners in DHS.

ian paton

MLA Ian Paton wrote to Ireland saying, 'I further urge you to operate a transparent, democratic Annual General Meeting, and allow the voices of Delta Citizens to be heard, and their votes counted.'

Polizogopoulos also noted, “Your letter further goes on to state that DHS’s ‘membership must remain open to all Delta citizens.’ On what point of law or which DHS bylaw is this statement based? DHS, like all societies in British Columbia, operates pursuant to bylaws that have been approved by its membership as well as with the Societies Act. “

He also suggested Paton review the Societies Act and DHS bylaws.

“Your letter suggests that you have not. In fact, your letter seems to suggest that membership in DHS is a right individuals have? The DHS is not a government body. It is a private society that operates pursuant to a specific and unique constitution and bylaws. Despite this, you have used your position as a Member of the Legislative Assembly to try and intimidate a private organization into a specific course of action. You have further threatened to encourage people to pursue regulatory proceedings and litigation, despite not pointing to a specific individual or a rule or law which would give them standing to do so.”

He added membership in private and voluntary associations are discretionary and not a legal right.

In response, Paton issued a statement noting, “It is already well documented that the Delta Hospice Society has rejected numerous membership applications without explanation. The list of rejected applications includes many current and former employees and volunteers of the Delta Hospice Society, as well as prominent community members and former politicians. I stand by my letter to the Hospice and reaffirm my call for the board to abandon plans to restructure their constitution and keep membership in the Society open to community members of all faiths.”

Ireland said Paton nor Harvie have tried to call her to discuss the situation.

“Regardless of what the government does, we have a future. The Delta Hospice Society has a future and we need to figure out what that looks like and where we go from here. (Health Minister) Adrian Dix does not kill us because we won’t perform euthanasia. As a society for the future, we need to establish who we are and what our identity is, and that’s the question for our membership” added Ireland.

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