North Vancouver's community associations search for meaning and a mandate
Entering a period of existential crisis, North Vancouver’s neighbourhood associations are finding themselves at a crossroads.
The soul-searching was precipitated by the District of North Vancouver’s decision this summer to end its official recognition of community groups.
That move triggered a vote earlier this month by the umbrella Federation of North Vancouver Community Associations to launch a task force examining what communities actually want from their neighbourhood associations.
The central questions the task force will be looking to answer when it delivers its report on how best to proceed with public consultations at the next FONVCA meeting on Oct. 17 are: What are community associations and should some have to meet specific criteria?
At FONVCA’s annual general meeting at district hall Sept. 19, many different visions for the future of the DNV’s neighbourhood associations were presented.
But the two opposing visions — of which all others were of varying shades — were those of status-quo stalwart Corrie Kost and relative newcomer Doug Curran, playing the young turk.
Member of the Edgemont Community Association and one of FONVCA’s 1993 founders, Kost argued for the maintenance of the current, self-regulatory system wherein no association big or small is necessarily required to keep meeting minutes nor a registry of membership, and for their troubles receives no external validation nor accreditation as a group.
“We [FONVCA] have become the shining prototype for associations everywhere,” Kost told the meeting attendees, including the district’s corporate and planning services manager, Charlene Grant. “We don’t have anything that’s broken, in my opinion. What we have is some criticism of the organization which is unwarranted. It has worked very well for almost 20 years. We need to consider perhaps what we are doing to this organization by trying to tear it down and re-establish it.”
Kost was not without support, including from Delbrook Community Association president and Save Our Shores Society member, Diana Belhouse, who argued that community associations should be allowed to remain dormant and their membership fluid, only coming to life and coalescing around issues as they affect a neighbourhood.
But Curran, chair of the upstart Capilano Gateway Association, also had the support of a fellow FONVCA attendee in Lynn Valley Community Association president Eric Miura. Both argued for the establishment of a two-tiered community association model wherein small or issue-based associations like the Deep Cove Community Association could maintain a loose, amorphous membership while larger groups like the Lynn Valley Community Association and others that sought some sort of official status — through either FONVCA or district hall — would be required to register their membership, submit meeting minutes and hold leadership elections among members.
“If you can’t say you support annual elections and contact with the community — or that most fundamental core of democracy which is that the community gets to elect their officers for their associations — if you can’t say that you support that in its entirety and at its core, I don’t see that there’s any discussion to be brought,” Curran told the meeting.
Miura agreed, advocating that the two-tiered approach should at least be explored.
“When you’ve reached a certain criteria where you’ve engaged enough and held these elections, that should put you into another level,” Miura said. “When you’re at that level, you [still] cannot say that you’re representing the community, but when you’re asked by a district councillor or somebody… then because it is a structured organization that has gone through the process and registered, we feel that we can speak on our members’ behalf. And that’s where there should be some ground rules to those that can do that and those that can’t.”
Both Kost and Curran were nominated to the four-member FONVCA task force “to recommend at the October meeting a process for consulting community associations and the public on what community associations should be.”