The Times they are a-changing: Society Act Changes Continue to be Debated


In the last several years we have seen  substantial changes to a number of important provincial statutes.  Recently, fundamental changes have been made to the Family Relations Act.  In  our  blog we have just recently commented on the proposed changes to the Limitation Act which will have significant implications for many British Columbians as to when they must commence a lawsuit.  Changes have already been made to the Power of Attorney Act and of course, there are further  far reaching changes proposed in the entire area of  Wills and Estate law in the legislative package known as WESA (See some of  our  blog posts and articles in the Wealth Preservation section of  the Clark Wilson LLP website.)

But there is yet another set of proposed changes in legislation which applies to the governance of those non-profits and charities that come within the Society Act’s legislative framework.

In December 2011, the  Provincial government, through the  Ministry of Finance,  published a discussion paper on various proposed changes. (See Society Act Review Discussion Paper on Ministry’s website). Now the British Columbia Law Institute has released its response entitled Supplementary Report on Proposals for a New Society Act.   The British Columbia Law Institute undertakes major law reform initiatives for the Province. You can read the full supplementary report on their website which contains a useful summary of the differences between the Ministry of Finance’s draft and the Law Institute’s recommendations.

The Society Act is a critical piece of legislation for the non-profit sector. There is unanimous support amongst the Institute and the Ministry for changes which minimize the burden to the non-profit sector in transitioning to a new regime. Some differences remain in areas of voting; harmonization with the Business Corporations Act;  member access to records; conflict of interest disclosure; dissolution issues ; director residency requirements; options for dispute resolution;  public access to documents and other issues.

For those engaged in the non-profit sector, following the discussion between the Institute and the Ministry will be both interesting and important. Ultimately B.C. will end up with a new Society Act and those affected can continue to provide input to staff lawyers and the appropriate elected representatives.