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Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre loses charitable status

New executive director says steps are underway to recover charitable status for centre, foundation
Denny Warner, executive director of the Mary Winspear Centre, said she and the board of the Saanich Peninsula Memorial Park Society are working hard to recover the charitable status of the society, as well as the Mary Winspear Foundation, the society’s fundraising arm. (Black Press Media file photo)

As the Mary Winspear Centre prepares to welcome returning and new clients with record-breaking bookings this fall, its leadership is trying to recover charitable status for both the society that runs the centre and the foundation that raises funds for various projects.

According to documents available through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the Saanich Peninsula Memorial Park Society lost its charitable status on Nov. 6, 2021, while the Mary Winspear Foundation lost its status on May 7.

Denny Warner, who became the new executive director of the Mary Winspear Centre on Aug. 2, said she discovered the loss of charitable status as part of her general research for the position. “But I wasn’t aware when I took the position if the board knew what had happened.” She stressed later that the centre does not find itself in any financial jeopardy with the loss of charitable status of the society and the foundation, and said it is temporary.

‘The board (of the Saanich Peninsula Memorial Park Society) and I are working to resolve this as quickly as possible because it is in all of our best interest and in the interest of the community, given the place that this centre holds in the community, to clean this up and make sure that we move forward with all transparency.”

Both organizations lost their charitable status for failing to file T3010 Information Returns. While the Income Tax Act exempts charities from filing income taxes, charities must submit T3010s annually, no later than six months after the end of the fiscal year, to document activities and assets among other information.

Charities that fail to file lose their registered status and the ability to issue donation slips to donors. According to the CRA website, the last filings for both organizations cover the reporting period ending Dec. 31, 2018.

RELATED: Familiar face arrives at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre

“At this point, we don’t know why the former executive director did not file the appropriate information returns,” said Warner. “We are hopeful the audit process will provide more clarity.”

Both the society and the foundation can regain status by filing the necessary paperwork, a process that has seen the board start auditing the books of the society for 2019 to 2021. The foundation, meanwhile, will undergo a review (rather than a more detailed audit) with the centre receiving advice from a lawyer specializing in charities.

Warner said the board will keep donors updated about when they will be receiving their tax receipts, but could not give an exact date.

When reached Wednesday morning, former executive director Bradley Edgett told Black Press Media he had no comment at this stage and directed questions to Warner and the board.

Sheilah Fea, who chairs the board of the Saanich Peninsula Memorial Park Society, said the board did not find out until Warner brought the issue to the board’s attention. “The fact that we lost charity status is just something that is shocking to us and we are having to deal with it going forward,” she said. “The board is totally unanimous about moving forward, getting our audits done and hopefully our charity status will be reinstated … by the end of the year so that we can keep moving forward. (The Mary Winspear Centre) is so important for Sidney. It’s the hub of the community.”

More than one month into her tenure, Warner said the first month has been very busy but also rewarding.

On the booking side, the centre has a lot of new clients. Notable acts coming later in the fall include singer-songwriter Janis Ian and Buffy St. Marie.

Black Press Media has also reached out to the Canada Revenue Agency for additional details and context.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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