British Columbia’s new Societies Act came into effect Nov. 18, 2016. Societies have a two-year period to be in compliance with the new Act. At BCAHA’s recent AGM & Conference in Kamloops, an afternoon session covered this timely topic. We spoke with its moderator, BCAHA past president Valerie Tribes.
Auxiliary Action: Hello Valerie. Your session was titled, “Constitution, Bylaws and the New Societies Act.” How did it go?
Valerie Tribes: I felt it was well received. The comments on the evaluations were very positive, and most attendees felt they were given valuable information in an easy-to-understand manner. Candice Sayer, a Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary member who is also a lawyer, led the discussion. She was very well informed and well spoken, and constantly reviewed the key points in the transition process. She was open to questions and had some informative handouts, as well as contact information for BC Registry and the Societies Act.
AA: What is the timetable for these changes?
Valerie: The new Act took effect November 28, 2016 and set in motion a two-year transition period after which all societies must be in compliance.
AA: What if an auxiliary is not a society?
Valerie: Only registered societies are affected by the Act; therefore, an auxiliary that is not a society need not be concerned with the new requirements. However, there are benefits to becoming a society. The Health Care Protection Program (HCPP) of the Ministry of Health covers all health care auxiliaries that are registered as a society. This program provides insurance for all auxiliary volunteers and for board directors. Also, a society is perceived as being fiscally responsible and may be looked upon more favourably when applying for grants and donations.
AA: What initial steps should auxiliary leaders be taking?
Valerie: Though auxiliaries have until Nov 26, 2018, they should start the process now, if they haven’t already. The first step is quite easy—to establish their online profile with BC Registries. Everything, now, is going to take place electronically. You can no longer mail paper amendments or your hard copy annual report. These must be electronic documents, and you submit them online by using your online profile and code.
AA: After registering online, what’s next?
Valerie: Make a digital copy of your constitution and bylaws—if you haven’t already done so—and upload it to BC Registries. You can request a transition package of documents from BC Registries that shows you exactly what’s on file for your auxiliary. For example, some societies have added amendments and you want to make sure that they were filed properly and that the copy that you’re using in this final transition process is the final copy, and is the one that is on file with the BC government. It’s also very helpful to have a record for your archives. It shows all your amendments and your special resolutions pertaining to those amendments.
AA: Are there resources available to assist auxiliary leaders with this transition?
Valerie: The staff at BC Registries is available and very helpful, as it is in their best interests to have the transition process go as smoothly as possible. When I was working on this for my own auxiliary, I called the Registry phone line and spoke with a very nice gentleman who was most helpful. Their contact information is:
Registry phone lines (1-877-526-1526) are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
There are also templates and examples of Constitution and Bylaw documents available online at BC Registry as further resources. As well, a law firm, if one is required, is recommended: Dye & Durham (dyedurham.com).
AA: Can you highlight some of the major changes ushered in by the new Act?
Valerie: Some of the major changes are the streamlining of the wording in both the Constitution and Bylaws. The new Act requires that extraneous content be removed. Many auxiliaries have bylaws that can be moved into their Policies and Procedures. For example, the role of a president can be stated as: “The president is the chair of the Board and is responsible for supervising the other directors in the execution of their duties.” Any other duties or responsibilities should be detailed in the Polices and Procedures document. This will allow for greater flexibility and will make it easier to comply with your bylaws.
AA: Some auxiliary leaders may be uncertain about this transition. Should they be? Might this be a timely opportunity to revisit and revise their constitution and bylaws?
Valerie: This is a great opportunity to make your leadership and your members aware of the importance of Constitution and Bylaws. It’s a great time to get everyone involved. The purpose of this new Societies Act is to make things simpler and more efficient. In reviewing and bringing your policies and procedures up to date, you are putting a new face on. And in updating and revising your roles and responsibilities, you bring clarity to your organization and this makes it easier to recruit executive and new members.
AA: In the fall, BCAHA will provide a further update. Until then, any parting words for our members?
Valerie: This is not a difficult process, especially if you start now. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, contact BC Registries for assistance, if necessary, and know that you are one of many going through this transition.