September 6, 2013 (Vancouver, B.C.).  The Vancouver Park Board’s recent decision to remove the democratically-elected boards of six Vancouver community centre associations, and impose a centralized governance model represents another Vision Vancouver assault on grassroots, neighbourhood-democracy.

“The legal action launched by the Hastings, Hillcrest-Riley Park, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Killarney, and Sunset community centre associations, and the Park Board’s draconian response in terminating their Joint Operating Agreement, and seizing unilateral control of these centres, is a sad result of the deteriorating relationship between a mismanaged Park Board and its longstanding community association partners,” says Anita Romaniuk, Chairperson of COPE’s Parks & Recreation Committee.  “The volunteers who devote themselves to building our communities deserve better than this.”

A renewed Joint Operating Agreement negotiation between Park Board and Community Centre Associations in 2012 was quickly overshadowed by the threat of Park Board management to centralize control of community centre operations, a move which would effectively terminate any CCA that did not adhere to the centralized model of governance demanded by Park Board.

“This plan was disingenuously presented by Vision Vancouver Park Board Commissioners as an initiative to ensure “equity” among the 23 CCAs, when it fact is was nothing less than a crass power grab by an arrogant Vision Vancouver dominated municipal government,” says COPE Parks & Recreation Committee member, Raymond Tomlin.

“At the February 4, 2013 Park Board meeting held at the West End Community Centre, it was clear that the trust between the Park Board and the majority of community centre associations was broken. The recent launch of legal action by the six non-ratifying CCAs in the Supreme Court, asking that an injunction be granted to prevent Park Board from imposing a centralized CCA governing model, represents the sad legacy of this breakdown in trust,” says Tomlin.

“The partnership between the Park Board and Community Centre Associations has successfully linked localized neighbourhood interests with the centralized interests of Park Board for many years,” says Nicholas Ellan, a COPE Parks & Recreation Committee member.  “Community Centre Associations lobby and fundraise for the operation of their facilities on behalf of their members, in addition to being active participants in their operation.” Under Vision Vancouver’s new model, the community associations will suffer a destabilization of their membership, a shrunken volunteer base, and a crippling of their fundraising capabilities.

“Our community centres serve geographically and demographically diverse communities, offering necessary, neighbourhood-specific programmes,” says Romaniuk.  “Vision Vancouver’s recent actions seek to remove the very notion of “community” from these vital neighbourhood centres, threatening the future of a community centre association model that is the envy of cities the world over.”

COPE calls on Park Board to immediately initiate a mediation process between Park Board and the six non-ratifying community centre associations to ensure an equitable compromise that serves the interests of the members of the six non-ratifying community centres, and by extension the interests of all Vancouverites.

COPE believes that the goal of universal access by the residents of Vancouver to all community centres is both desirable and necessary, and believes that goal is achievable. COPE believes equally strongly that a grassroots, neighbourhood-based governance model for the operation of Vancouver’s community centres, in partnership with Park Board, must carry the day.

COPE opposes hostile Vision Vancouver takeover of Community Centres