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Saskatoon Lighthouse: Court overturns decision that called for director's removal

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A 2021 court order to remove Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. director Don Windels from the organization has been overturned by the Saskatchewan appeal court.

The March 20 decision written by Justice Brian Barrington-Foote says the King’s Bench judge failed to give Windels the opportunity to “know and meet the case against him,” and applied a remedy far beyond what was asked for by those who brought the case.

Several board members pursued the action in 2021 under a law that allows stakeholders in an organization to seek a remedy for misconduct, referred to as an “oppression remedy,” following an investigation by MNP that revealed a pattern of financial misconduct.

The case focused on a number of loans from the Lighthouse to Windels and his associates, and potential misappropriation of money from the Blue Mountain Adventure Park, which the Lighthouse owns, through a summer-student funding scheme involving a separate organization owned by Windels.

“I do not suggest that the respondents did not have a legitimate cause for concern or to assert what they reasonably believed to be in the best interests of this important charity,” Barrington-Foote wrote.

The King’s Bench judge put “an extraordinary measure of responsibility and authority” on Windels, overlooking the actions of the board and other actors, the appeal says.

“There is no doubt that Lighthouse made an ill-advised personal loan to Mr. Windels to enable him to buy the Walmer house. That loan did not advance its charitable mission. Mr. Windels does not dispute these facts. Nor does he deny that he received other loans from Lighthouse and that he and members of his family rented houses to Lighthouse, which it used in carrying out its charitable mandate by providing low-income shelter to clients in Saskatoon,” Barrington-Foote writes.

The appeal court did not weigh in on whether Windels had committed acts of oppression — that will be up to a Court of King’s Bench judge to decide as the case is retried.

Windels returned to his role at the Lighthouse in February, although the organization remains under the financial control of an MNP auditor following a Feb. 24 court decision. A judge will review the status of the financial receivership again on April 13.

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