Victoria charity sued over ‘misleading’ SAR fundraising

Victoria charity sued over 'misleading' SAR fundraising

WATCH: A Victoria charity is being sued for allegedly misleading the public with its SAR fundraising. Tess van Straaten reports.

Day and night and in often dangerous conditions, volunteer search and rescue crews try to save lives.

They couldn’t do it without donations but one of the province’s most famous SAR teams is now suing a Victoria non-profit it claims is deceiving the public with its telephone fundraising.

“It is widespread and it’s being going on for a number of years,” says Mike Danks of North Shore Rescue.

In court documents, North Shore Rescue says the Search and Rescue Society of B.C (SARBC). is claiming to raise money for “North Shore and/or other bona fide SAR teams.”

The civil suit also alleges North Shore has received complaints about the “aggressive” telephone solicitation.

“We actually got some complaints that said we support you, but this phone solicitation has to stop,” says Danks. “We’re not going to send anymore donations to your team until this happens.”

The claims, which haven’t yet been proven in court, even prompted the emergency preparedness minister to issue a warning.

“It’s very, very concerning,” says emergency preparedness minister Naomi Yamamoto. “I just want to let everybody know that no search and rescue team in British Columbia solicits for donations by phone.”

But SARBC, which was formed in 1983, does search for missing people and solicits donations by phone.

“We’re not competing with any other search groups and we do offer our services and equipment to them,” says SARBC vice-president Glen Redden.

CHEK was given a tour of SARBC’s Greater Victoria headquarters.

The non-profit has had numerous commendations its search and rescue efforts. 

They specialize in searching after the other SAR teams have gone home, often at the request of concerned families.

“The family can come to us and say we need you to search and often it’s the only option they have left,” explains Redden. “That’s why we exist and that’s why we need donations.”

SARBC, which has trained other search teams including North Shore Rescue members, raised $166,000 last year and say the allegations against them are false.

“We have not mentioned North Shore, we have not mentioned we’re affiliated with any local team and we’ve never represented ourselves as part of (the B.C. Search and Rescue Association).”

The B.C. Search and Rescue Association is the group that the 80 other search and rescue groups in the province, including North Shore, belong to.

Their spokesperson actually received a fundraising phone call from SARBC a few years ago and says it was very misleading.

“They didn’t say which search group they were, it was very vague,” says the B.C. Search and Rescue Association’s Jim McAllister. “I asked if they were involved with the latest high profile search on Vancouver Island and they said yes they were, which wasn’t correct.”

North Shore Rescue is seeking damages and an injunction preventing SARBC from calling itself a SAR team.

A court date has not yet been set.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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