Things are proceeding well in the community’s effort to take back the Delta Hospice Society, says a spokesperson behind the recent successful court petition against the society’s board.
Chris Pettypiece told the Delta Optimist that a date has been set in the DHS board’s appeal of his petition to the B.C. Supreme Court which halted a planned meeting by the board to have the society’s constitution amended to be Christian-based.
That appeal is to be heard in mid-August, he said.
The date was set this week following the board’s request to have an element of the judgment stayed until the appeal was heard.
Pettypiece noted the board was able to have the court stay a ruling that the register of members had to be rectified to include those residents whose applications to DHS were rejected without explanation, although the board is not able to add its own members either.
“While they cannot take new memberships, the need to generate awareness and have people prepared for the day their membership can be processed is definitely underway,” he said.
“There’s really no change in the activities that are happening around the issue. The important thing is the matter will be heard sooner than we imagined possible. That should put us in a good position to instate those members and any that are interested between now and when the hearing starts.”
The petition this month by Pettypiece, Sharon Farrish and former board president Jim Levin blocked the June 15th special meeting, alleging the notice contravened the Societies Acts.
The court action followed the DHS board rejecting many society membership applications by Delta residents opposed to the board.
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.”
It was the latest move by the current board which is opposed to providing the legal procedure medical assistance in dying (MAiD) at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner, having reversed a decision by the previous board to allow it.
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 next February.
Pettypiece at the recent community rally at Paterson Park noted the court ruled the board does not have the right to screen out members and that president Angelina Ireland and the board acted in bad faith to manipulate the vote.
Mayor George Harvie at the recent rally said he would ask the province to conduct an audit of the DHS books. He also asked that Fraser Health conduct a full inspection and audit of the hospice, saying 'some serious questions have been raised about the current management of Delta hospice in terms of staffing levels and resident care.'
He said the court also decided no meeting of the society can be held without the direction of the court and that the court may appoint an independent chair.
Social media has been abuzz with irate residents, many having started a letter writing campaign to government, 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 an annual general meeting late last year.
The newly signed members were enough to change the balance of power of the board.
The new board and Ireland are now being accused of breaching the Societies Act by not allowing other people to join, including those who had contributed to the building of the centre, in an effort to keep the current membership stacked with a minority imposing their religious viewpoint.
The petition, among things, sought an order for the society to provide a list of all the people whose membership applications were rejected and the society rectify the register of members to include the names of all persons whose membership applications were rejected since Nov. 28, 2019.
“The board of the Society has manipulated the membership list to stack the deck, by holding back 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. Once this manipulation was complete, the Society has now given minimum notice of an extraordinary meeting. It is intended to change what has always been an open, secular community organization into a closed, religious organizations,” the petition stated.
“The Society seeks to effect this very fundamental change by excluding those legitimately entitled to participate and by means of a voting process that is not permitted under the bylaws of the Society or Societies Act.”
Former Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington was one of many whose membership applications were rejected. She said it was clear the current board was going out of its way to stack the membership with supporters only.
Noting the April 15, 2020 list showed approximately 800 members added and that about half of the members reside in other communities, the petition stated the past practice of the society has been to accept memberships that are submitted in the proper form with the proper application fee.
The petition added the board’s “wrongful rejection of the Applications contravenes the open membership provided for in the bylaws of the Society, in breach of the duties of directors, and violates the Petitioners’ reasonable expectations.”
The well-established practice that memberships are processed automatically can be considered an implied term of contract between the society and its members, the petition explained.
The petition further stated, “The proposed bylaws seek to require that members of the Society make a commitment to the Christian faith, and seek to provide the Incumbent Board (and any future board) with the power to terminate memberships of people who, in the board’s discretion, do not share that faith-based commitment.”
The petition had a number of affidavits attached from those whose membership applications were rejected including several prominent names such as former MLA Vicki Huntington, former mayor Beth Johnson, former police chief Jim Cessford, school board trustee Daniel Boisvert and others.
The court ruled in favour of the petition just a day before the rally at Paterson Park this month which saw hundreds of people show up, many signing up to become members.
The Optimist has reached out to Ireland for comment on her board’s appeal.
In a recent interview, she denied her board had 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.
“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 beds for hospice palliative care, Ireland also pointed out the intent of the Delta Hospice was never to be a euthanasia facility.
She said it does not align with the principles of hospice care and that MAiD is available next door at Delta Hospital.