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Petition opposes BC's 'potential muzzling' of non-profits

A Lower Mainland man has launched a petition asking British Columbia Finance Minister Michael de Jong to abandon a proposal that would open non-profit societies to attack.

Bertrand Lau said he read on The Tyee about the proposed changes, which include a section that would allow members of the public to apply to the B.C. Supreme Court to intervene if they believe a society is acting in a way that is "detrimental to the public interest."

In August, the province opened a public consultation on the proposed changes and will continue receiving comments until Oct. 15.

"It deserves a bit more attention," said Lau. While it's hard to predict how the new provision will be used, in principle it has the potential to open organizations up to abuse, he said. "I think the concern's pretty obvious."

Lau launched the petition on the Avaaz website on Sept. 29 with a write up that says, "This could potentially muzzle any less than rich non-profit societies from raising concerns on issues." Within the first few hours it was up to 18 signatures.

He said it's the first time he's used Avaaz to draw attention to a local issue and he'll be interested to see if it gets traction.

There are some 27,000 non-profit societies in B.C., including many that advocate on wide range of public issues. Andrew Gage, a staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, published a blog post last week that detailed concerns with the government's direction.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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