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Legal advocacy group regains its charitable status
John Howard Society president credits new executive director Robert Hawkins for getting paperwork in order

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It is full steam ahead for the NWT's John Howard Society now that the accounting books are back in order and the organization has regained its charitable status.

The society's local president Rick Alexander said the change took months of hard work dealing with accumulated issues with Revenue Canada.

"That was something that was missing for us for a period of time, several times actually, the latest being in 2009," he said about having the status.

Alexander said having charitable status is important for non-profit organizations because it affects federal funding and contribution amounts from the national John Howard Society.

He said the national funding is about $12,000 a year. He added the organization is under a federal umbrella, so it is important to keep in good standing with the national office - something Alexander said has also now been regained.

The charitable status was lost under the previous executive director Lydia Bardak, who was let go by the society after 12 years at the helm back in November. Bardak told Yellowknifer at the time her termination may have been linked to tardiness with filing paperwork, which had resulted in the group losing its charitable status.

Alexander, who became president in 2015, said the missing paperwork became a problem.

"When that happens, the federal government doesn't take kindly to that kind of thing," he said.

"A good financial base means fiscal responsibility and having the records in order and submitting things on time."

Alexander credited the current executive director, Robert Hawkins, for working diligently to get the society's finances back in order since being hired in December.

The society's local vice-president Marcelle Marion, a Yellowknife lawyer, said regaining charitable status and getting the books in order also helps the organization regain credibility with the public, including anyone who might be considering making a donation to the society.

The society is paid by the Department of Justice to co-ordinate a community justice committee meant to bring together perpetrators and victims in an effort to achieve resolutions outside court. It also administers the Fine Option Program, which gives people the ability to work off fines through community service.

Marion is also a volunteer who sits on that community justice committee.

The society will continue with those programs. It is also now the provider of the A New Day program, which helps some men in the NWT deal with their involvement in domestic violence through counselling.

Bardak had also not responded to questions as of press time.

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