Six community associations pursue legal action against Vancouver park board
A spokesperson for six community centre associations that have launched a lawsuit against the Vancouver park board says the groups felt taking legal action was their “only option” to halt what they allege is a plan to centralize revenue and control of community centres.
“We did not take doing this lightly,” said Ainslie Kwan, president of the Killarney Community Centre Association, one of six groups that have filed the lawsuit.
“In my 12 years as a volunteer with the community centre, this is by far the largest and most heart-wrenching decision our association has had to make, so what we want is a fair, equitable, joint operating agreement so that we can continue to bring programming at affordable prices to our community, because that’s what they’ve come to rely on us for.”
The notice of claim (below) filed in B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday (August 20) describes the historical role of the community associations in fundraising and helping to build and run the facilities.
“The associations, as legal entities, are trying to ensure that the rights under the contractual agreement with the parks board are being adhered to, and if not, then they want the court to recognize the decades and millions of dollars of time and effort that they’ve put into the community centres, and deal with…the fairest way to divvy up, or compensate them for those efforts,” Dean Davison, the lawyer for the six associations, said in a phone interview.
“In many instances, these community centres were built with very large contributions from the associations, and then also they’re run with very large contributions from volunteers.”
The six associations, part of a group called My Vancouver Community Centres, have been speaking out for months against the park board’s proposal to change its funding model for community centres across the city. Other community associations have been involved in facilitated negotiations on a new agreement between the park board and the centres.
An interim agreement was reached between the board and 15 community centre associations to remove membership fees with community centre associations as a requirement for program registration, according to a statement posted on the Vancouver park board’s website on August 20. The implementation of the OneCard, an access pass for the park board’s network of pools, rinks and fitness centres, was also part of the agreement.
The six associations behind the lawsuit have been speaking out in opposition to the OneCard since it launched in June. While the park board says the passes will provide universal access and incorporate a low-income leisure access program, Kwan said the six groups see the initiative as a plan to “remove local community control and centralize revenue”.
“It’s a very key change, because it takes away the associations’ ability to A: get members, B: get membership funds, and then C: actually have any say in what programs and things are done in the community,” said Davison.
Kwan noted that the community associations have existing low-income access programs at their facilities.
"We’ve always said that we didn’t need to go with a one-card system," she said. “We just want to negotiate a fair joint operating agreement, and...we certainly hope that the parks board will sit down and do that with us,” she said.
The Vancouver park board declined to comment on the legal action.