The fight for control over Vancouver’s community centres is ramping up.
Until recently, each centre ran independently, raising funds and issuing its own membership cards.
The Vancouver Park Board is pushing their One Card pass, which allows universal access to all community centres.
The community centre associations who used to enjoy the freedom of raising money on their own terms say it’s just part of an overall cash grab by the Park Board.
“The Park Board has imposed their will and said this is how we are going to do it,” says Dean Davison, lawyer for the community centres.
“The six associations have said, ‘no, we have rights,’ and the reason for the lawsuit is because we want a court to confirm those rights.”
Six community centres are pushing back, saying it’s a revenue grab by the board.
“The Park Board is clear they want to take over control of programming, and centralize all of the revenues, and we have a real concern about what that means for our communities,” says Aynsley Kwan, President of the Killarney Community Centre.
Thousands of people have already bought One Cards, but there is plenty of confusion over how they will work.
Even park board commissioners aren’t totally clear.
“I don’t have all the information on what exactly will be implemented,” says Park Board commissioner Melissa De Genova.
“I am hoping that as we move towards September 1 that will be clear for me and for all of Vancouver.”
A letter sent this week from the Board’s Recreation Director to the Riley Park Hillcrest Centre Association states if they continue to charge membership fees, they will be subject to future discussions with the board.
“The reality is that the Parks Board is a very powerful force and they have a lot of control,” says Davison. “The association is made of volunteers, so it’s not necessarily equitable.”
At the Kilarney Centre, the association says it will be business as usual, with the new cards being accepted as well as membership fees.
The Park Board has issued a statement today saying it will vigorously defend the legal action launched by the centre opposed to the One Card.
They say they stand behind the program and that it will better serve the community.