The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28. The organization announced they will follow a recent registrar decision and accept Yukoners previously shunted as members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Many Rivers accepts registrar’s order, will accept new members

The society had considered legal action, but will be putting clients ahead instead, says a press release

Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services will follow a recent registrar decision and accept Yukoners previously denied as members.

Marina Bailey, Many Rivers’ executive director, is attributed in a press release as saying that clients “can’t afford any further delays.”

“For this reason, the society intends to comply with the registrar’s order,” according to the release, which was distributed to local media on April 2.

Many Rivers has not been offering services for about five months — first because counsellors were on strike and later when a lack of funding meant those counsellors were laid off.

On March 22, Yukon Registrar Fred Pretorius ordered the society make nine complainants new members, reasoning that there was no basis for rejecting them on the grounds paperwork was incomplete.

While the society accepts the decision, Bailey suggests in the release it could have launched successful legal action.

“The society is disappointed by the registrar’s decision and has carefully considered the merits of appealing that decision to the courts,” it says.

Due in part to the investigation, Many Rivers has not been considered in good standing under the Societies Act. As a result, it has not qualified for government funding.

In order for Many Rivers to become compliant, it needs to schedule an annual general meeting (AGM) and notify its members, including those who were previously rejected, said Bonnie Venton Ross, spokesperson for the Yukon Department of Community Services, in a written statement.

Bailey did not respond to requests for comment.

She is however quoted as saying in the press release that directors “unanimously affirmed” that membership applications would be reopened, an AGM rescheduled in order to “actively repair relationships strained by these events.”

It’s unclear when such a meeting will be set, exactly.

Venton Ross said there are other criteria Many Rivers must meet before it’s considered a legitimate society. Outstanding documents like annual reports and financial statements for the preceding fiscal year must be filed. They have to be approved at an AGM.

“The objective of the decision was to provide Many Rivers a clear path to address the relevant issues and guidance on what is required to bring the society into compliance,” Venton Ross said. “It is always encouraging when a society is expressing the willingness to cooperate in order to become compliant.”

It’s also unclear when Many Rivers will supply the aforementioned documentation or hire counsellors.

The News reached out to the Department of Health and Social Services to determine when the society could have its funding turned back on, but didn’t receive comment before press time.

“For the society, the issue has never been about generally excluding people with divergent views from the societies membership,” Bailey says in the release. “The society has always, and continues to welcome members from a wide range of backgrounds and political views.”

In a letter dated Nov. 22 that was sent to complainants, Many Rivers accused them of being part of a “conspiracy” at the behest of the Yukon Employees’ Union to “disrupt the legitimate business activities of Many Rivers for the primary purpose of advancing the narrow self-interests of the YEU and its members in the context of ongoing negotiations of a collective agreement.”

Bailey steers criticism away from the union in the release, however.

The issue, Bailey says, “morphed to be more about the scope of the registrar’s authority to interfere with a Society’s management” once a new collective agreement was struck with the union.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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