Delta Hospice Society (DHS) will reconvene Saturday’s annual meeting, dubbed the “Battle Royale,” after being forced to abandon the original date a week earlier due to technical issues with the online meeting platform.
At stake is control of the nonprofit and a $4 million charity shop and estate in Tsawwassen.
On one side is Take Back Delta Hospice, a local advocacy group that gathers and votes members to return the Society’s assets and focus to the Delta community.
On the other hand is the current DHS leadership, which since taking power in 2019 has been actively recruiting members sympathetic to its religious and pro-life beliefs from across Canada and beyond.
The society has been mired in controversy and court battles for over two years after the board’s refusal to offer medically assisted dying at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner, resulting in the province cutting $1.5 million in annual operating funds.
Fraser Health now operates the hospice after evicting the DHS from the hospice and the adjacent Harold and Veronica Savage Center for Supportive Care in 2021.
The key showdown on Saturday is the vote to hold future AGMs online rather than in person as the Company’s Articles of Association currently mandate. (A BC Supreme Court judge allowed a one-time virtual shareholder meeting in a 2021 decision.)
DHS President Angelina Ireland said virtual general meetings are the way of the future.
“Regarding the pandemic, we have entered a world where we cannot count on always being able to get together even with our neighbors. So in a world we live in now, we have to make contingency plans,” she said.
Take Back Delta Hospice organizer and former DHS President Jim Levin said his group hopes to thwart the proposal.
“It shouldn’t be people from the UK or Newfoundland or North Vancouver [making decisions]. It should be people from Delta,” Levin said. “Our #1 goal is to stop the bylaw change so they have to return to in-person meetings, which will result in Delta residents having a say in what’s going on.”
Of the 13,518 DHS members entitled to vote at the AGM, 2,919 are from Delta, according to figures provided by Take Back Delta Hospice. The adjacent parishes of Richmond and Surrey have a combined membership of 839.
Other parts of BC account for 4,819 members. Ontario is the second most represented province with 2,362 voting members, followed by Alberta with 1,248. Internationally, there are 177 voting members in the United States and a handful each in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia.
Since losing provincial funding and operation of the two buildings, DHS has focused on providing a 1-800 palliative care hotline. Ireland said the Society is now a national organization rooted in Delta.
According to Ireland, at the first attempt at the AGM on March 26, around 30 percent of the participants had serious problems with the online platform, which affected their ability to attend. Another 30 percent reported no problems, while the remaining 40 percent fell somewhere in between, she said. Only part of the agenda was completed.
Ireland could not say what might happen if problems with Converso’s virtual meeting and voting platform persist when AGM resumes on Saturday.
“The vendor has been working hard to iron out the bugs,” she said.
CBC reached out to Converso for comment but received no response.