British Columbia’s Societies Act: Three months into transition

  • March 13, 2017
  • Margaret H. Mason

While British Columbians can frequently be smug and particularly so with respect to our new and improved Societies Act which came into force Nov. 28, 2016, we are pleased to report that anecdotally, the transition process appears to be proceeding relatively smoothly.

The B.C. Registry and Ministry of Finance officials have done an excellent job in both communicating on the website and in taking every opportunity to speak to the sector.  As of this writing, 2,053 societies of the approximately 27,000 have transitioned – about 7.5 per cent.

Intriguing issues continue to arise.  It is important to note that the Act applies immediately to all societies, whether or not they have transitioned.  Those societies which may wish to take advantage of the new, reduced threshold for special resolutions (2/3 of those voting in favour) who have not transitioned may be surprised to learn that their current bylaws require a 75 per cent vote.

The Act permits those societies which receive funding, in essence, only from their members to become “member funded” societies which relieves them of certain disclosure requirements.  Dismayingly, the B.C. Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch recently announced that societies which claim member-funded status under the new Act will be ineligible for community gaming grants which can be a significant source of funding for many societies.  It is also important to note that a society which wishes to claim this status must do it on transition because post-transition a court order will be required.

The new “on boarding” and digital uploading/filing process is working well.  It still feels miraculous to be able to receive instructions from a client to proceed with incorporation without spending weeks circulating documents for signature, and then to obtain confirmation of the incorporation within minutes.

The process for the restoration of societies which have been struck or dissolved has been considerably simplified under the new Act.  The Chief Justice recently released a Practice Direction entitled the Restoration of Dissolved Society [sic] pursuant to the Societies Act which outlines the information the court required to be produced in affidavit form.

Margaret H. Mason is a partner with Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP