The former president of Humane Society Yukon was sentenced this morning to two years probation and ordered to pay a $500 donation to the society for failing to follow government orders.
Shelley Cuthbert was at the helm of the society during a highly publicized investigation by the Yukon registrar of societies over the board’s refusal to reinstate memberships to six people they had previously denied.
Judge Karen Ruddy said that Cuthbert’s position as the president of the board gave her more responsibility to ensure the registrar’s order was followed, and that her inaction was a breach of her fiduciary duties to the society.
“In my view it was incumbent on Ms. Cuthbert to take some steps towards resolving the society’s position and complying with the registrar’s orders,” Rudy said.
But Cuthbert took no such steps. The registrar had ordered the board to call a special meeting to address the membership concerns, but Cuthbert maintained that calling such a meeting would have been a breach of the Societies Act. She claimed she was operating on flawed legal advice but couldn’t provide any proof of that legal advice.
“Passive ignorance is not a defence under Canadian law,” Ruddy said.
“The ‘it was my lawyer’s fault’ defence simply does not constitute due diligence,” she said.
Under the sentence, Cuthbert is prevented from being an officer or a director of any society for two years, and has 18 months to pay her $500 donation.
Cuthbert declined to comment after the sentencing, saying only, “It’s over. What’s the point?”
The former president, along with other members of the board of directors, were charged under the Societies Act last year.
In May, board members Maryanne Baer, Isabelle Cote and Gerald Thompson pleaded guilty in court for their role. They were each sentenced to two years probation and ordered not to serve on the board of any registered societies during that time.
Cuthbert chose to plead not guilty and went to trial in September.
On the stand in her own defence, Cuthbert insisted she did her best to follow the orders and believed that the society’s lawyer was going to file for a judicial review of the decision.
That never happened.
In December 2012, Justice Leigh Gower ordered the society to hold a special meeting to elect a new board and accept new members.
At the time of Gower’s decision, there were questions about whether or not the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter, which is operated by the society, could keep its doors open.
Since the new board was elected, they have been able to get back into good standing with the government. The non-profit was most recently in the news asking Whitehorse city council for help to expand the outdoor dog runs.
With reporting from Ashley Joannou
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