Residents strike back with credit union resolution

Members threatened with branch closures seek vote of full membership to overturn board decision

SOINTULA—Threatened with the loss of their banking services by the board of Coastal Community Credit Union, three small island communities are seeking assistance from an unlikely but potentially powerful ally — the credit union’s 80,000-plus members.

CCCU announced two weeks ago the closure of its branches in Alert Bay, Sointula and Cortes Island, effective July 5, claiming they were no longer financially viable.

A caravan of North Island residents is expected to travel Wednesday to Nanaimo for CCCU’s annual general meeting. There, they will present a resolution calling for a vote of the credit union’s full membership to rescind the planned branch closures.

“The question remains why it was done,” said Jeffrey Jones, a Sointula-based lawyer. “No information been given about the financial status of these branches. They could easily address this by providing the information.”

And, now, the three islands’ residents may be forcing the CCCU board to provide that information — or, better yet, to back off on its plan to close the three remote branches and reduce service at its Quadra Island branch.

Through research, Jones discovered a section in the Credit Union Incorporation Act that requires the board to call a vote of its full membership on any resolution that can generate at least 300 members’ signatures.

In just three days after Jones drafted the resolution, it drew nearly 600 signatures, including a number from members not directly impacted by the closures.

“It’s quite a robust, democratic factor that is in the credit union movement,” said Jones. “And it’s consistent with its roots as a cooperative.

“The specific concern is for impacts on our communities, which is significant. But there’s a wider concern that the credit union is moving away from its roots and starting to mimic the corporate structure, which does not have its focus on people or on members, but on profits.”

When the closures were announced without warning on Apr. 1 — the first day of the new fiscal year — civic leaders and concerned citizens in each of the three communities quickly banded together for a unified response.

An Alert Bay delegation of Mayor Michael Berry, George Speck and ‘Namgis administrator Heather Nelson-Smith joined Regional District of Mount Waddington Area A director Heidi Soltau of Sointula and Strathcona Regional District Director Noba Anderson of Cortes Island in a meeting last weekend with CCCU’s board chair and CEO during the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities (AVICC) meeting in Parksville.

“Basically, we asked them if they’d ask their board to consider extending the deadline for closure, so we could consult with our members,” said Soltau. “Our feeling was, look, we’re not going to negotiate with a gun to our heads. We need to negotiate in good faith.”

All three communities would be left without a physical banking presence on their islands, as the proposed branch closures include removal of ATM machines. Local businesses have said full closure would be devastating to the economies of the communities and necessitate costly, time-consuming and potentially risky trips to Vancouver Island to make deposits and conduct other business.

A press release sent out this week by a hastily formed Sointula committee noted the community had its own credit union, formed in 1949, before it was essentially forced to merge with Evergreen Credit Union in 1999. Evergreen was later absorbed by Coastal Community in the first decade of the 2000s.

Sointula Credit Union possessed a new building and assets of about a half-million dollars when it was merged, said the release. And now CCCU is proposing to abandon the community but keep those assets.

“That’s theft, morally if not legally,” resident Clement Lam said.

Jones couldn’t help but notice the irony in the credit union’s closure in Sointula, which was built as a utopian socialist community by Finnish settlers early in the 20th century.

“It’s a sad irony, but there is a wider trend to consider,” he said. “The credit union movement and CCCU in particular, I hope they re-think their strategy. The credit union movement was created in 1930s to combat the corporate lack of responsiveness to the needs of the people. If they turn into a bank, they’re not going to survive.”

 

Just Posted

MLA Claire Trevena blasts Island Health for neglecting North Island villages, Island Health responds back with statement

MLA Claire Trevena wrote a critical letter about Island Health’s plans for Port Alice and Alert Bay.

Port Alice gets two RCMP officers stationed in the village

“The second Port Alice RCMP position has been filled”

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

New look and feel on the horizon for Gate House Theatre in Port McNeill

“We are hoping between now and then to do another fundraising campaign for acoustics”

North Island Bantam Eagles capture Tier Three banner with win over Powell River Kings

The Eagles next game is Jan. 19 against the Juan De Fuca Grizzlies at 4:00 p.m. in Port McNeill.

Fashion Fridays: Inspirational gym outfits

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

High court ruling allows long-term expats to vote in byelections across Canada

Supreme Court decision enfranchised an estimated one million or more Canadian expats to be able to vote

B.C. university students dumpster dive to shed light on food waste

Eating only from dumpsters, the students hope to raise money for food banks in Northern Canada

B.C. woman posts to Facebook after she and nephew reported missing for days

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

Company issues lifetime ban after man jumps from cruise ship

Nick Naydev posted the video last week showing him standing on the balcony of the Symphony of the Seas

The debate over how to teach math in B.C.

Tutoring businesses growing with concerns

Unruly passenger forces B.C.-bound flight to divert to Calgary

Police say charges are pending against a woman in her 40s

Telegraph Cove Resort one of many venues to featured at Hitched wedding fair

Black Press Media’s annual Hitched Wedding and Events Affair is Sunday, Jan. 27, in Courtenay

Inflation rises as higher airfares, veggie prices offset cheaper gas

Statistics Canada says inflation accelerated to two per cent in December

Most Read