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Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Native centre wants to expand service to Welland, Fort Erie
The board of directors at the Niagara Regional Native Centre is planning to expand its region of service. Evan Loree

The Niagara Regional Native Centre wants to update its bylaws to expand the area it serves, which will allow people from other Niagara municipalities to serve as board members.

The centre, based in NOTL, wants to expand to Chippawa, Crystal Beach, Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Ridgeway and Welland, the board said in a Facebook announcement.

Resigned executive director Karl Dockstader said the board does not have the legal authority to update its bylaws until the board has a minimum of five members.

“They need five or more board members to operate the board,” Dockstader explained. 

The centre’s bylaws allow the board to “fill vacancies” as long as the board has a majority of its nine members. 

The bylaws allow the board to add members from a pool of directorial nominees raised at “the last meeting during which an election was held.” It also allows the board to appoint directors when when no nominees are available.

However, the bylaws also say the directors should “immediately call a meeting of the members” if the board no longer has a quorum. 

Dockstader describes the board’s actions as “​​completely outside of process” and said the moves demonstrate “a lack of understanding” of their own governing policies.

“You can’t put forward a bylaw amendment proposal if you don’t have a board in order to do it,” he said.

If approved, the expansion will “ensure that community members will not be turned away from fully participating as a board member,” the board said. 

One current board member, Bobbi Japp, lives in Welland, which is outside the centre’s service area.

The expansion will help to resolve the conflict between Japp’s residency and position on the board.

According to the centre’s bylaws, all board members should be residents of a community the centre serves, which includes Grimsby, Lincoln, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham, St. Catharines, Thorold, Wainfleet and West Lincoln.

Dockstader told The Lake Report if the centre expand its service area, it may cause overlap with the neighbouring friendship centre in Fort Erie. 

This was concerning to the former staff director because much of the money friendship centres receive is determined by the region they serve.

He was worried the proposed bylaw amendment could result in the centres competing for funds.

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