Saanich-based search-and-rescue society target of lawsuit

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A society based in Saanich is the subject of legal action launched by a Vancouver-area search-and-rescue team.


North Shore Rescue has filed a civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court seeking unspecified damages and an immediate halt to the fundraising activities of the Search and Rescue Society of British Columbia. The society has its office on Burnside Road West.


A statement of defence has not been filed in court, but the vice-president of the Search and Rescue Society of British Columbia said he is “dumbfounded” by the legal action and the case has no merit.


“We do act in good faith, we are real,” Glen Redden said in an interview.


The search-and-rescue society is a registered charity that has been around for 33 years, and provides a last option for families when other searches have been called off, Redden said.


North Shore Rescue alleges in a statement of claim filed with the court that the society seeks public donations by claiming to represent the organization, adding that search-and-rescue teams do not raise money by phone in B.C.


None of the allegations have been proven in court.


Redden said his group raises money by phone because it does not receive any government funding.


Calls are only made to people on the group’s donor lists, he said. The society hires contractors to make the fundraising calls, but they never claim to represent any other group, he said.


“We don’t misrepresent. We clearly identify ourselves. We don’t mention any other team.”


A fundraising script dated September 2012, provided by Redden to the Times Colonist, does not mention any other search teams. It notes that the society is not affiliated with the Provincial Emergency Program.


“SARBC is not called first for traditional rescues,” the documents says.


“Our objective is not to replace existing local services but to augment them when requested by providing resources not normally available on a missing person incident.”


Court documents filed by North Shore Rescue allege that the society disrupts its fundraising.


Redden said he is concerned about how the lawsuit will impact his organization.


“It appears our reputation has been significantly damaged. And we hope that’s not the case and we hope the people of British Columbia recognize the value in what we do,” he said.


The society brought in a total of $166,578 in donations for the year ending Feb. 28, 2016. That represents the bulk of the total revenue of $167,847, according to figures on the Canada Revenue Agency’s website.


According to the site, a fundraising fee of $43,471 was paid for telephone and TV solicitations that brought in $159,021. The fundraising fee represents 27 per cent of the amount raised. However, when the total donations are considered, the fundraising fee is 23 per cent of the total revenue, according to the site.


Expenses for charitable programs for that year were $132,046, or 69 per cent of total expenditures of $190,001.


— With a file from Carla Wilson, Times Colonist

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