Group apologizes for neglect of Loretta Saunders scholarship donations

A Halifax organization that committed to donating to a scholarship in honour of a murdered Inuk woman and university student issued an apology Monday after discovering four years worth of donations weren't delivered.

South House Sexual & Gender Resource Centre, located on Dalhousie University's campus, calls itself a student-funded gender justice centre. Its board of directors announced Monday it was taking responsibility for the group's failure to issue four $1,000 cheques to the Loretta Saunders Community Scholarship.

"Our current board has discovered that though this money was allocated to the scholarship fund, it was never distributed and as a result has sat untouched for the last four years," the statement said. 

The scholarship, devoted to Indigenous women in Atlantic Canada, is named for Loretta Saunders, a Saint Mary's University student who was murdered in 2014. Scholarship awards can be anywhere between $500 and $2,000. 

According to its website, South House — formerly known as the Dalhousie Women's Centre — advocates for people struggling with oppression on the basis of sexuality and gender. 

'A strange thing to miss'

The error was discovered last fall after "a bit of digging," according to current board member Jennifer Allott. 

"I was really surprised. It's just a strange thing to miss," Allott said. "I don't know what past boards were focused on or how they did their accounting and treasury work in order to miss [it], so I was a little curious about that."

That curiosity will not take them down a path of placing blame, she said. Instead, she says the group has retroactively paid the $4,000 in a lump sum to the fund's stewards, the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia.

Angela Bishop, the foundation's executive director, said the foundation was not aware of any previous commitment from South House to donate to the Saunders scholarship. 

Preventing future oversights

Allott said she wasn't sure what relationship previous boards of directors had established with the foundation. She said the current board wanted to nonetheless acknowledge the mistake, especially since theirs is a feminism-based organization advocating for marginalized people. 

"This has been a failure to uphold our mandate and our values," she said. "This specific situation just reaffirms the board's intent to really remember who we're trying to centre in our work." 

Allott says their upcoming budget needs to be approved by its student membership, but it does have $1,000 earmarked for the fund going forward. 

She says documents preventing future oversights will be prepared in time for the next board of directors rollover coming at the end of April.