An organization that has helped people with disabilities pursue active lifestyles in the Greater Victoria area for more than 30 years says its future has been thrown into doubt after three long-term municipal partners announced they were ending their contracts with them.
The Capital Regional District (CRD) — the regional government for southern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands — as well as the districts of Saanich and Oak Bay have decided to end their contracts with Recreation Integration Victoria (RIV) this summer.
RIV provides volunteer training and leisure access passes for persons with disabilities, according to Yvonne Locke, president of the Victoria Integration Society, the non-profit partner that operates RIV.
“We felt like we had been blindsided,” Locke told Gregor Craigie, host of CBC’s On the Island.
She says the possibility of ending partnerships had not been raised in a January meeting between RIV and the municipalities when the latest contracts were signed.
Oak Bay and the CRD will end services with RIV at the end of June, and Sannich will end services at the end of August.
Locke says RIV will work with their remaining partners to discuss the future of the organization.
“We hope that somehow we can reconfigure to provide those same services in the future. But we really don’t know if we’ll have enough resources to do that.”
In the summer, RIV provides service to 70 children who want to have one-on-one recreation services for one week, says Locke. The activities range from attending soccer and basketball camps to kayaking. Services are available to adults as well.
“The idea originally was, rather than each municipality providing service to their local community, it would be better to have an integrated service,” Locke said.
Locke is concerned the municipalities will not be able to provide replacement services in time. But Saanich and the CRD’s Panorama Recreation Centre say there are plans already in the works.
The Panorama centre says it is allocating funds to programs supporting inclusion.
“We understand the change may raise concerns so we have a series of actions we are taking to continue to provide inclusion support and services,” the CRD said in a statement.
Those actions include enhanced support services over the summer, continuing to offer the access pass currently offered by RIV, and improving accessibility.
Kelli-Ann Armstrong, senior manager of recreation in the District of Sannich, said the municipality’s decision to end the contract is due to an effort to improve other services.
“There are new, unanticipated and expanding areas that also require support, such as growing older adult populations, youth at risk and new Canadians,” Armstrong said.
“With two of the region’s departments also terminating the agreement, we felt it was an appropriate time to do the same.”
According to Armstrong, Sannich’s decision was well planned and communicated in advanced.
“It’s unfortunate the RIV felt that this was a surprise,” she said. “But we feel we have had discussions with them leading up to this decision.”