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General News · 21st May 2014
Noba Anderson
“Curiouser and curiouser! cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”

Although Alice was talking about “opening out like the largest telescope that ever was,” she could have been commenting about the closure of the three ferry dependant Coastal Community Credit Union branches of Cortes, Alert Bay and Sointula. It just keeps getting stranger – read on…

Historical
So, first we were given notice that our credit union branches were closing. Elected reps met with the CCCU chair and CEO to express our concern with the lack of member consultation about this decision and attempted to support them in retaining their membership in exchange for a delay in branch closure. They declined. 944 CCCU members filed a formal requisition (petition) under section 76 of the Credit Union Incorporation Act requiring the CCCU board to put a vote to its membership to reinstate service to these three communities. We were told that this was an ‘operational matter’ and a vote of the membership on this topic would not bind the board.

We, the elected reps from our three communities, then wrote to the CCCU board on May 1st requesting a meeting and stating that this was “our second offer to work in collaboration with you, and our second request that you make a more sincere effort to work with the communities you serve and indeed with your members.” All letters and media up to this time I posted on www.cortesisland.com.

New Developments
The week before, the Strathcona Regional District board directed the Chair to write a letter expressing our concern to close the Cortes CCCU branch without member consultation, http://srdws.strathconard.ca/section_rdb/minutes.asp?id=2754&collection=6&AgendaType=1&MeetingDate=4/24/2014&MeetingType=52.

May 2nd, Chief Bill Cranmer of the ‘Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay wrote a very strong letter to the CCCU board (see attached). He opened by stating that the Alert Bay Credit Union had been in existence for nearly 70 years and that the ‘Namgis had over $1o million on deposit with what is now the CCCU. He writes “As Chief I understand that there are times when difficult decisions need to be made. I have learned, however, that the process by which those decisions are made is often as important as the actual decision.” He continues, “When the news broke about the CCCU’s decision to close the three branches I was stunned. I know our branch has been struggling, but I could not believe that a decision that would have such a huge negative impact on our communities would be made without prior discussion…” He states that the CCCU values have changed. “At the root of it all” Cranmer writes, “is a lack of integrity, as demonstrated by the abandonment of the core values that define the credit union brand.” “We would rather work with you, but if you choose to close your doors and your ears and not sit down and hold meaningful discussions with our community we will abandon you as you are abandoning us.” He concludes by asking for a meeting with CCCU staff and a community working committee and encourages them to do the same in Sointula and on Cortes Island.

On May 6th Chief Cranmer received a response (see attached) asking that he ‘support the scheduled meeting we have between our teams on May 9th. Asking a Nation, and such a substantial client, to fit into a pre-arranged meeting three days out is NOT real engagement!

Also on May 6th, the Campbell River Mirror ran a story titled “Credit union says branch closure issues are resolved” where I am quoted extensively with a very different message. http://www.campbellrivermirror.com/news/258183421.html?fb_action_ids=10152427492462375&fb_action_types=og.comments

The next day, May 7th, the crafters of the member requisition, the one that was signed by 944 CCCU members from all three affected communities and beyond, received a response from the Credit Union (see attached) advising that the CCCU board ‘will not be calling a special general meeting of the members… or putting the proposed special resolution to the members for a vote, as was requested pursuant to the requisition dated April 11, 2014.” They stated that because some members signed the back-side of the requisition page “it is not at all clear that many of the signing members even saw a copy of the full requisition.” They are accusing you of blindly signing a blank piece of paper. They are also concerned that signatories were not aware that the petition would “require spending the Credit Union’s and members’ money to vote on a non-binding special resolution…” They state that “the Board is still unanimously committed to stand by our original decision and timelines…”

May 12th, we as elected reps from the three affected communities received a letter of response to our May 1st request for a meeting with the CCCU board. Our request for a meeting was denied. Instead, they write that they believe their “resources at this time are best used supporting our members and communities through this transition.” I do not know of any way that they have reached out to our community. Why not through myself, the island’s elected representative, or Cortes Island Business and Tourism which have both reached out to them, is beyond me.

The ‘curiouser and curiouser’ news…
All of our collective efforts and offers turned down from the CCCU, Jeff Jones, the legal advisor to the CCCU members who crafted the requisition (petition), then contacted the Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM), a regulatory agency of the provincial Ministry of Finance that regulates financial institutions for the protection of the BC public. However, FICOM has no procedure in place to process an appeal under section 76 of the Credit Union Incorporation Act, a formal legal statute; no one had even filed an appeal before! When Jeff finally spoke with FICOM’s lawyer from the Attorney General’s office, he asked if FICOM might have been involved in the decision by the CCCU to close our branches. Long pause…. She said that it was not relevant. Jeff was informed that they could begin the appeal process by sending in a letter by May 21st. From there it sounds like it will be a lot of back and forth with the seven FICOM commissioners and most likely on technical grounds rather than ones of useful substance.

Next Action…
So, an appeal will be filed, but the more useful course of action seems to be submitting a new requisition to the CCCU that is clean from a technical perspective and possibly one that calls for a member meeting and vote on a matter of policy, or request an action that the membership is allowed to do in the Credit Union Act and Bylaws. What fun! If you are keen to help craft the wording of the next member requisition (petition), please let me know and I will put you in touch with the Sointula organizers.

On May 5th, Cortes Island Business and Tourism and I hosted a community meeting to gather input on how to proceed. One suggestion was that we look into what other financial institutions may be able to provide to Cortes, which I am doing. No silver bullets yet.

Open to any and all good ideas about how to proceed…

Noba Anderson