The CGSN Society drafted this statement to maintain transparency regarding the timeline, decisions, and process that went into incorporating the Chilliwack Gender Support Network Society. If you continue to have questions, please email the board at directors@gendersupportnetwork.com

The Chilliwack Gender Support Network Society was officially incorporated as a non-profit society under the BC Societies Act on October 20th, 2022. The board of directors comprises Jess Padgett as President, Gus McDowell as Vice President, Teri Westerby as Secretary, and the following Directors at Large: Charles Amirault, Mary Morris, and Mallory Tomlinson. Their role is to maintain the vision and direction of the CGSN Society. James Clare is the Executive Director, who is a liaison between the Board and the Peer Facilitators (“Members”).

The mission of the CGSN Society is to support and empower transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) people in Chilliwack. It was derived from the mission of the Chilliwack Gender Support Network Committee: “To empower transgender and gender diverse children, youth, adults and their families to live life fully surrounded by the support of those who have come before them, lifted by timely and adequate resources when needed, strengthened through education, and protected fully by law. We strive for equity, removing as many barriers as possible to assist trans people to reach their goals and live a happy and healthy life.” 

The CGSN Society developed from the work of the Gender Support Network, which began in April 2017. A local doctor, along with the Divisions of Family Practice, began operating the Gender Care Clinic, providing transgender people with affirming medical care. 

The Gender Care Committee was formed from a needs assessment completed in February 2018, along with grants from Transcare BC. Both reflected that the transgender support groups be at least 50% peer-operated. This means that at least half of the Gender Support Groups must have a self-identifying transgender peer facilitator.

Between April and July of 2018, 8 TDG people and parents of TDG people (“peers”) from Chilliwack were trained to facilitate support groups. 


The GSN’s first group, open to all genders, and all ages, started in August 2018. They were facilitated every two weeks. Quickly, the group structure was altered to reflect the needs of the diverse populations – for separate groups for younger trans folks. Another local doctor established a youth group that operated out of the Chilliwack Youth Health Center. The first trans youth alliance group began in March 2019. 

The TGD support groups started seeing more than 10 people attending each week. 

In August 2019, the Gender Support Network Committee held the very first Chilliwack Pride event. This highlighted the need for a Pride Society, which was formed in November of 2019, including several members of the GSN. The CPS’ primary goal is to promote affirming organizations in Chilliwack, such as the Gender Support Network, as well as several other organizations that do community work.

In 2019 and 2020, the diversity of TGD people was not reflected in the GSN support groups. Diverse TGD individuals are often left out of support groups due to looking at the TGD community as a monolith.  To research the potential issues, in June 2020, a Masters’ student at Adler University conducted a needs assessment among the TGD population of Chilliwack to uncover how to serve them best, considering the past two years of support groups and the best way to move forward. What was uncovered was that more groups were needed to reflect the diverse identities and needs of TGD individuals – specifically focusing on assigned female at birth, assigned male at birth, family of TGD individuals, age-specific groups (example youth, and seniors), and offering online programming for accessibility. 

The GSN Committee agreed to implement these changes. Unfortunately, this was right when COVID-19 entered the world, and the GSN went on full and total lockdown for the pandemic. This is when the GSN made considerable shifts in operations to maintain support for TGD individuals. The GSN began to facilitate online groups through COVID lockdowns. The unfortunate part is that COVID lasted way longer than anyone thought. 

In July 2022, the Chilliwack Gender Support Network Committee hired James Clare to fill the administration duties to help organize, plan, schedule and grow the Gender Support Network.  

On August 19th, James sent out the Agenda for the September 1st meeting, including the first question regarding the incorporation.

Image of the email highlighting the first request for board formation.


In attendance at the September 1st meeting were James, Jackie, (Gus), Charles, Marla, Jessica, and M. The idea of a board was well met, and James continued the process of asking Members if they were interested in joining the CSGN Society, if they agreed to the formation of a non-profit society and if they wanted to be on the board.

The consultation parameters were that board members be TGD identifying, caregivers of TGD persons or care providers trained to care for TGD people, living or working in Chilliwack, and regularly attending meetings. 

The majority of active Members (Teri, Gus, Charles, Jess, Mallory, Mary, M) answered yes to the formation of a society and yes to being a director. Those who responded yes to the formation and no to being a director were Dr. L and Marla; only one person said no to the formation and no to being a director. James worked on establishing the by-laws, constitution, and our three pillars, with the first draft circulating in September.

On October 5th, the board documents were circulated and entered into a meeting to have one last round for approval. This meeting was attended by James, Charles, Jackie, Mallory, Jessica, Mary, Teri, Marla, and Christina. 

Image of the email highlighting the second request for constitution and bylaw approval.

On November 3rd, all members were invited to a meeting to finalize the CGSN Society by-laws and constitution. It was attended by Jackie, Mary, Gus, M, Constance, Tara, and Birdie. The vote for approval was also put to email, and Jess, Teri, Mallory, and Charles. A majority vote approved them. 

Image of the email highlighting the final approval for the board, constitution, and bylaws.

The board of directors, constitution, and by-laws of the CGSN Society were established transparently and with the approval of the majority of the Members and was tracked. The BC Societies Act states that a Board of Directors must consist of a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 11 directors. There is no requirement for voting for any director until there are over 11 qualified and interested Members requesting a board position or according to the constitution and bylaws established by the Membership. Additionally, voting occurs when the board of directors establishes their roles. This was done at the first board meeting on November 1st, 2022. Jess was voted unanimously as president, Gus was voted unanimously as vice president, and Teri was voted unanimously as secretary. 

The CGSN Society would like to continue working with all interested and involved members of the GSN and TDG community, fostering positive relationships. Peer facilitators, Members, and participants are expected to conduct themselves professionally and trust that the Board’s decisions are made in the best interests of both participants and Society as an organization. The CGSN Society will continue striving to maintain positive discussions and ensure everyone feels heard and included. 

It is a testament to the strength of everyone’s passion for this work that many are inquiring about the latest updates to the CGSN Society. We are united in how much we all care about it. Understandably, some Peer Facilitators who have not been regularly present at meetings for the conversations that preceded this change feel that it was made suddenly. This has led to the circulation of several pieces of misinformation that directly state or insinuate that the organization was established incorrectly or without proper consultation. The CGSN Society takes proper minutes and has circulated them accordingly. The CGSN Society has outlined the above to ensure that any and all of these myths are dispelled, and all questions have been answered.

The CGSN Society trusts that this letter addresses any concerns regarding the timeline, decisions, and process that went into incorporating the Chilliwack Gender Support Network Society and its endeavors. If you continue to have questions, please email the board directly at directors@gendersupportnetwork.com

The directors of the CGSN Society value the time, effort, energy, and expertise contributed to the GSN. We hope to continue to provide value to our community through the CGSN programs and resources and to act with the flexibility needed to adapt to changing needs and changing times. We are always open to ideas and discussions that will help us to serve our community. 

Sincerely,

The Chilliwack Gender Support Network Society Board of Directors:
Jess Padgett, Gus McDowell, Teri Westerby, Charles Amirault, Mary Morris, Mallory Tomlinson