The Saskatchewan Court of King’s Bench has declared an election at the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) (IAS) invalid following internal conflict in the wake of a decision to terminate its Imam.
The IAS is a charitable organization that was established in 1972. The dispute centers around the control of the association following a contentious decision to terminate Imam IS in 2022 for alleged financial misconduct.
The dismissal of IS, which was not unanimously supported by the board, triggered a rift within the IAS, leading to allegations of social bullying, physical altercations, and disruptions of prayer services. This division was further exacerbated in March 2023 during a closely contested election for a new board, known as the Hassan Board, with results questioned by some members.
The Hassan Board’s decision to postpone a forensic audit into the alleged misconduct and their refusal to convene a timely general meeting, as requested by a faction supportive of IS (the Mastaan Group), heightened tensions. The Mastaan Group, feeling ignored, organized their own meeting and elected a new board, the Mastaan Board, in August 2023. However, this election, held at a different location with changing agendas and lacking proper voter eligibility verification, was fraught with procedural issues.
The Court, acknowledging the irregularities in the Mastaan Group’s election process and the Hassan Board’s failure to address member concerns appropriately, declared the Mastaan Board’s election invalid.
The ruling upheld the Hassan Board as the current legitimate board but ordered a confidence vote to be held within 60 days. Depending on the outcome, this may lead to a new election in compliance with the organization’s bylaws and the Non-profit Corporations Act.
The judge emphasized the lack of winners in this dispute, pointing out the significant toll it has taken on the IAS community and the sanctity of their place of worship.
“This decision will not return the Mosque to its place within this community. It will not make the Mosque the place where people once again come together,” it said. “That can only occur if the congregants are prepared to find a way to work together and to remember why they built this sacred space in the first place.”
It declined to award costs in this case.
For more information, see Hassan v Mastaan, 2023 SKKB 223 (CanLII)