A welcome end to charity audits: Editorial (May, 2017)
The Toronto Star editorial board welcomes an end to the “the attack dogs at the Canada Revenue Agency whose politically mandated audits were preventing Canada’s charities from doing advocacy work”.
The government has suspended political activity audits of charities (May, 2017)
Environmental Defence’s Executive Director, Tim Gray, talks to Power & Politics about why charities need the ability to get involved in the political arena.
Political activity audits of charities suspended by Liberals (May, 2017)
A CBC news article on the independent panel report which said charities should be free to engage in politics, and National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier suspending the infamous audit program.
Liberals should put an end to Harper’s charity chill: Editorial (December, 2016)
The Toronto Star editorial board argues that “a rule that bans charities from promoting social justice or working to prevent poverty is absurd on the face of it. Every time the government enforces it our democracy is weakened”.
Protect free speech: Canadians and charities seek changes to federal charity law (December, 2016)
This joint press release from Environmental Defence, Imagine Canada, and the Ontario Nonprofit Network summarizes the clear consensus in the charity and nonprofit sector that a legislative amendment is needed to fix federal charity law and protect free speech.
Environmental group still being investigated by Revenue Canada (December, 2016)
A CBC news article that details how Environmental Defence has been under audit by the CRA for five years, even after the current federal government pledged to, “allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment”.
This is your chance to bring fairness to the rules on charitable status (November 2016)
In this opinion piece in the National Observer, physician Warren Bell offers answers to the three public consultation questions. Dr. Bell argues there is currently too much leeway in the definition of what is “political” and in the ability of government and bureaucracy to change the definition. He refers to the case of Physicians for Global Survival, which lost its Canadian charitable status in 2012 even after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 (as the Canadian affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War). “I hope the government will create a new, fairer, more equitable set of rules, in which “political” criteria are replaced by evidence-informed rules,” concludes Dr. Bell.
BRASS TAX, BRASS KNUCKLES: CRA and the Political Activity of Canadian Charities (November 2016)
Written with a focus on international development, this blog by the McLeod Group explains “Advocacy that is related to a charity’s approved charitable purpose should not just be permitted, it should be welcomed.” The blog states it is time “to end the confusion that has led to CRA’s ‘political audits’ of Canadian charities. These are costly and disruptive, and are more suited to banana republics than a democracy.”
Freeing Charities: Legislative Reform is the Only Path Forward (October 2016)
A blog by Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, on the critical public policy role of charities in voicing Canadians’ concerns and the urgent need for a new law to protect Canadians’ free speech.
Like Unions and Political Parties, Charities Deserve Freedom of Speech (September 2016)
This Globe and Mail editorial notes that the modern day definition of charity might be “whatever the Canada Revenue Agency and its political masters say it is.” Of audits of charities launched by the previous federal government, the editorial says, “Ottawa should drop the audits and modernize its outdated laws. Free speech should apply to all.”
Submissions from Charities to the Government Consultations
Canadian charities are telling the government their views on how charity law should change. Here is a sample of submissions from some of Canada’s leading charities.
The Canadian Income Tax Act and the Concepts of Charitable Purposes and Activities (2016)
This paper by Carl Juneau of the Pemsel Case Foundation describes the Income Tax Act provisions on charities’ political activity as “at best meaningless and at worst, contradictory and confusing.”
A New Day for Charities in Canada? (March 2016)
A report on why we need charities, why the playing field should be level for citizens and corporations, and how the current federal government must keep its promise to introduce a new law to strengthen the charitable sector.
Mandate Letter to the Minister of National Revenue (November 2015)
The full text of the mandate letter from Canada’s Prime Minister to the Minister of National Revenue in which the Prime Minister directs the Minister that one of the top priorities must be to “allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment” and develop “a new legislative framework to strengthen the sector.”
A Comparison of Federal Parties’ Positions on Charitable Rules in Canada (September 2015)
This report provides a summary of commitments on charity law reform made by major Canadian political parties in 2015. Here is the related press release.
Charities have made Canada cleaner, healthier and safer but their ability to voice Canadians’ concerns needs to be protected (September 2015)
This blog provides a short list of policy changes that Canadian charities contributed to that shaped our country for the better, making it safer, cleaner and healthier for Canadians. It is a snapshot of the kind of work that is at risk due to broken charity rules.
Is the federal government silencing charities? Or is Canadian charitable law just outdated? (March 2015)
This blog by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) National Executive Director Éric Hébert-Daly highlights the challenges of Canada ’s outdated charity laws. The law needs to be modernized from a 19th century perspective on charities to a 21st century model that encourages expertise, public participation and law-making to work together in the public interest.
Audits of Environmental Groups: The Pressing Need for Law Reform (2015)
This report by the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre reviews Canada’s charity laws, the laws in comparable jurisdictions, and delivers five recommendations on how to reform Canada’s broken charity laws.
Talking about Charities (2013)
This report by the Muttart Foundation provides a survey of the Canadian charity sector. The report found that 94 per cent of Canadians agree that charities should speak out on issues of public concern, like the environment, poverty, or health care.
So, How Did We Get Here Anyway? A Short History of Charity Law (2009)
This feature report on charity law from Law Now notes that “any description of current Canadian charity law must include the words complicated, confusing, unclear and contradictory.”
The Law of Advocacy by Charitable Organizations: The Case for Change (2000)
This report by the Institute for Media, Policy, and Civil Society provides an in-depth analysis of the issue of charities and public policy work. The report clearly illustrates that Canada is behind other countries in modernizing its laws. “The problem is that the law governing advocacy by charities is unclear and confusing.”