Mike Thomas/Yukon News Workers at Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services are set to go back to work Feb. 7.

Future of YG funding for Many Rivers remains unclear

Although employees are set to return back to work after an 11-week long strike, the future status of Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services as a not-for-profit – and, therefore, its eligibility for core government funding in the 2019 fiscal year – remains in question.

The most recent financial statements for Many Rivers, filed September 2017, show the society received $2.04 million in territorial government funding that year, a number which is consistent with funding contributions from previous years. It received $55,000 in funding from other sources, such as donations in the same year, making its total income around $2.1 million. The society lists yearly expenses for 2017 as $2.03 million, with a $65,000 surplus at the end of the fiscal year.

Many Rivers has been under investigation since late November 2018 following “several complaints, including (alleged) breaches of legislation and/or its bylaws,” Community Services spokesperson Bonnie Venton Ross said via email.

CBC has previously reported some of these complaints included allegations the organization’s board of directors had not followed due process surrounding notifying members of general meetings.

According to the Yukon Employees Union (YEU), the society’s board held a Sept. 28, 2018 meeting passing a motion to institute a moratorium on new members to the society, claiming it was worried about potential conflicts of interest from members, or groups becoming members “with purposes not consistent with the organization’s purpose.” The YEU argues that goes against the society bylaws.

The organization is also considered “in default” under the Societies Act as it failed to file its annual reports – including its financial statements – as required by the Societies Act. That paperwork was due July 31, 2017 – four months after the end of the fiscal year

“As a result, Many Rivers is considered to be ‘non-compliant’ with these filing requirements of the legislation,” Ross said. Many Rivers has recently filed some documents with the registrar, but they are “incomplete.”

As they “form part of the the subject matter of the investigation” they can’t be processed until it’s over.

“Many Rivers will therefore continue to be ‘non-compliant’ under the legislation until such time” as the investigation completes. If it is “determined that breaches in the legislation… have occurred” then the registrar will be “in a position to make any orders that are considered appropriate” based on the law,” she said.

If the society is found to be in violation of the Societies Act, the registrar will do “what is required to bring Many Rivers into compliance,” she said, but it is the Department of Health and Social Services to decide if Many River’s in-default status and the outcome of the investigation regarding its compliance with the act “affect their ability to make continued payments under the applicable contribution agreement.”

Although it remains under investigation, at present, the “legal status of Many Rivers as a society has not changed,” Ross said.

“Any funding is contingent on their status as a not-for-profit,” said Patricia Living, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services. While that body doles out the funding to Many Rivers, the current investigation – and the organizations future status – are handled by Community Services, under which the Societies Act falls. A decision cannot be made until the investigation wraps up, she said, and that decision – the status itself – is what the Department of Health and Social Services will go on.

The investigation is expected to wrap up sometime in February. With the new fiscal year beginning in March, that could create a very uncomfortable situation for Many Rivers – and its workers.

Brent Ramsay, executive director of Many Rivers, did not return calls or emails to the News seeking comment on the situation and on what the organization will do if it is found ineligible for funding.

Many Rivers employees are set to return to work Feb. 7.

With files from Amy Kenny

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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