LETTER: Raising concerns, questions on volunteerism

Letter writer believes critical question must be resolved

Volunteerism in Mission has reached a consequential crossroad and a critical question must be resolved.

Recently, the mayor initiated a process which questions the integrity of, and could potentially lead to the unseating of, the board of Mission Community Services Society because the board had made decisions with which he very much disagrees. At the very least, staff and volunteer morale, if not already impacted, will be adversely affected. This is in spite of the fact that he is not privy to the determinate facts or board deliberations due to legally required confidentiality.

It should be noted that when the mayor speaks in a public arena, it is assumed that he speaks for all of council. The responsibilities of Robes of Office do not get put away whenever the mood strikes. Therefore, it is assumed that his actions have been taken with the support and/or concurrence of council members if they do not publicly indicate otherwise.

In the words of Yogi Berra, “Deja vu all over again.” We saw a disbanding process by mayor and council of the Heritage Park Association a couple of years ago. A board composed of volunteers, after years of dedicated service, was unceremoniously dismissed for not having conducted business in a manner suited to mayor and council. The decision was legal but the process appeared both disgraceful and inconsistent with compassionate governance.

The question that must be resolved is: Do committees (other than those of council) and non-profit boards composed of well-meaning and skilled volunteers serve at the pleasure of mayor and council, even though mayor and council have no jurisdiction over their governance, activities and decisions?

If the answer is no, then this interfering, undermining and damaging process by mayor and council ought to be ended with an apology to the board, staff and volunteers of Mission Community Services Society.

If the answer is yes, then volunteers no longer answer to an organization’s membership but to mayor and council. This goes against the very concepts of a democracy and changes autonomous governance of organizations to District of Mission autocratic rule.

Other community organizations may wish to consider a few thoughts. For example, does Rotary find this action by the club members involved consistent with the 4-Way Test? The Chamber of Commerce may wish to ask if the action by the involved members is consistent with the motto “Fostering a Thriving Business Community Through Advocacy, Benefits, Connections.” Perhaps other organizations would like to weigh the action against their vision.

As for myself, if the apparent propensity to punish and disparage organizations and individuals with which one disagrees does not stop, I am done as a volunteer in Mission. Serving on some 15 committees and boards, I cannot guarantee that my decisions will always meet with the approval of mayor and council but, then again, that is not what volunteerism is all about.

Volunteers are the backbone of our community. They do their very best to serve the greater good with the information, abilities, tools and advice at their disposal in creating a better home for neighbours as well as future residents. They ought to be celebrated, not denigrated.

There are recognized mechanisms for collaboration, co-operation and consultation between organizations and the District of Mission to ensure that where there may be disagreement, there can be respectful understanding.

Mayor and council must not dictate how committees and non-profits are governed nor the manner in which they serve their communities. Shame on them for trying – who is next? Maybe it will be you!

Bob Ingram