Following two rounds of consultations with stakeholders and members of the public, Bill 24, the updated Societies Act, was introduced in the legislature on March 25. If the Bill is approved, the revised Act will improve flexibility and accountability for non-profit organizations in British Columbia.
This Act will replace the existing Society Act, which provides rules for the creation and governance of non-profit organizations in our province. The current Act has been in effect since 1977 and required many much-needed updates and new provisions.
Significant changes to the Act include:
- Allows for filing of documents electronically with the corporate registry;
- Allows the alteration of previously unalterable provisions in a society's constitution. This would require changes to a society's bylaws to include additions of unalterable provisions;
- Clarifies and strengthens requirements for record keeping and the disclosure of a society's records;
- Requires that the majority of the directors of a society must not be employees or contractors, and limits the circumstances in which a director may be remunerated.
Concerns were raised during the consultation period by the non-profit sector regarding Section 99 of the White Paper, which stated that any “person whom the court considers to be an appropriate person” could bring a society to court for “carrying on activities that are detrimental to the public interest.”
The government took community feedback about this provision into consideration when drafting the new document; the aforementioned Section 99 does not appear in this Bill. Finance Minister Mike de Jong's quote in the government's media release speaks to the input received through the consultation process:
“The new Societies Act provides not-for-profit organizations with greater flexibility in their internal governance, while enhancing accountability and transparency among publicly funded and charitable societies. We received valuable input and feedback during the consultation process, which has been incorporated into the final bill.”
To view the first reading of the Bill, click here. Scroll to the bottom for a list of the changes.
If approved, the new Act would come into effect within approximately 18 months following Royal Assent, providing non-profit societies some time to ensure they are compliant with the changes.
Organizations can learn how to effectively transition under the new Act at an upcoming workshop presented by Non Profit Charities Legal Outreach, Wednesday, April 29 from 1:30 - 4 p.m. at the Alliance boardroom. For more information and to register for the workshop, visit thenewsocietyact.eventbrite.com.