Janice Abbott, the CEO of British Columbia housing operator Atira Women’s Resource Society, is stepping down.
Monday’s announcement of Abbott’s resignation comes after an audit released last week that found that Shayne Ramsay – Abbott’s husband and the former CEO of BC Housing – had breached conflict of interest rules when it came to Atira.
A statement from the board of Atira said Abbott’s resignation is effective immediately and thanked her for her 31 years of leadership.
“The focus for the board now is working collaboratively with the B.C. government and BC Housing, and restoring the public’s confidence in Atira’s integrity, vision, mission, purpose and values,” the statement from board chair Elva Kim said.
“The board and staff at Atira are deeply committed to serving and protecting women and children and providing much-needed housing. We are confident that this path forward will allow us to focus on the essential work with fewer distractions,” it continued.
Abbott has not spoken publicly since the report was released. She has not issued any statements or responded to requests for an interview.
At an unrelated news conference, Premier David Eby responded to the resignation. He pointed out BC housing asked for several things, like a financial audit, operational review and new leadership.
“We have to ensure that the public has confidence about where every dollar went, that the buildings are running as effectively as possible and that we’re moving in a good direction before we can talk about any expansion of programs or Atira be eligible to bid on new contracts available through BC Housing,” added Eby.
The premier said KPMG would conduct the financial audit, and the inspections of Atira buildings had begun, though Eby didn’t have an update on any findings.
Atira’s board is cooperating with the province, a different tone than last week when they stood by the CEO and refused to fire her, despite pressure from the province and BC Housing.
The forensic review of BC Housing found that Ramsay had breached conflict of interest rules two dozen times, deleted text messages, and that meeting minutes had been altered after the fact to omit opposition.
Ramsay stepped down as CEO last year.
In 2016, Atira received $17 million from the province. In 2022, it received $74 million – $35 million more than the second-most funded provider, the review said, adding that it had identified serious concerns about the “rigour” and “diligence” exercised at BC Housing.
Funding to Atira has been frozen in the wake of the damning report and the province has said it will review the non-profit’s books and inspect its buildings. The organization has also returned nearly $2 million in surplus funds to the province.