By Laura Steiner
A judge has officially dissolved the Board of Directors at the Muslim Association of Milton (M.A.M.). The decision issued December 1, 2015 was made public December 15, 2015.
The plaintiffs contend in an affidavit given by Asad Ali Syed that Shoukat Choudry stacked the corporation’s membership with his family/ friends in a 2011 election. Choudry, a taxi-driver founded the organization in 2007 on a purported $30 thousand donation. From 2005-2012 he served on the board of directors and controlled the group of finances. He resumed his duties in 2014.
The judgement centres on events beginning in November, 2014. In his affidavit Syed also claims two other elected board members, and some of the plaintiffs planned to force the resignation of the board of directors. This was because some members wanted to stay neutral in the Liberal Party of Canada’s (L.P.C.)’s nomination race between two Pakistanis. They followed through on their plan at a special board meeting December 7, 2014.
An interim board to oversee daily activities was chosen by the corporation’s Lawyer Junaid Kayani to serve until an election scheduled for February 22, 2015. The interim board held a meeting January 18, 2015 at which Syed alleges they announced they would stay on indefinitely in order implement proposed changes. Members present demanded an election as agreed upon, and Kayani agreed. A list of 197 members of the organization was also provided at this meeting.
On January 18, 2015 the interim board members delivered a notice of the election to be held February 22. They issued a call for nominations January 30, setting the deadline for finalizing the membership list as Sunday February 15, 2015. Kayani provided the list on February 19, 2015. It increased from 197 to 281, and there has been little explanation as to why or how. Choudry states in his affidavit the additional members had had their membership improperly revoked.
Court submissions contend the elections held February 22, 2015 were flawed. Applicants’ lawyer Shahzad Siddiqui contends the interim board was inappropriately chosen by way of a show of hands, and that there were non-members present. Siddiqui argued the election should’ve been held with the membership as of December 7, 2014 (197 members). The respondents were unable to produce a list of board members when asked to by Siddiqui. “We acted in good faith to carry out what we thought were our duties as directors,” Shoukat Choudry said in an email.
The respondents’ lawyer Ravinder Sawhney argued for dismissal saying the courts should defer to the corporation because there are no grounds to interfere. He argued the courts should consider whether the elections were fairly run. If they were, the courts should decline to involve themselves.
Justice Gray decided in the applicants’ favour. In his judgement he argued the board chosen December 7, 2014 was wrongly chosen. Gray says that it was up to the respondents to prove the membership list of 197 was inaccurate as of the meeting December 7.
Gray has ordered a new election to be held on January 26, 2016. It will be overseen by a court-appointed solicitor Robert Martin. “For the first time in the history of this organization there will be free, and fair elections conducted by the third party,” Syed Asad commented in an email.
“This was a decision of the by-laws of the association and Justice Gray only decided that he agreed with the interpretation of the by-laws put forward by the parties that brought the application.” Choudry commented on the decision in an email. He said the respondents will not appeal.
This court case has divided M.A.M and angered many congregants. The mosque has been closed for activities. It is conducting 3/5 prayer services at the Milton Sports Centre. Friday prayers are being held at rental facilities. For more information visit the website: www.savemam.com