RESOURCES

Here you’ll find more information on why we need charities, and why we need to level the playing field between citizens and corporations.

NEWS ARTICLES

CRA loses court challenge to its political-activity audits of charities (July, 2018)

This CBC article outlines how an anti-poverty charity won a landmark court challenge against the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regarding political-activity audits.

The unmuzzling of Canadian charities (July, 2018)

This in-depth Narwhal article explains how an Ontario court ruling re: the Income Tax Act could mean the unmuzzling of Canadian charities

Charities ‘worried’ after meeting with Morneau on ‘political activity’ law (April, 2018)

This CBC article outlines how environmental charities are pressing Morneau to implement promised changes to the law restricting political activities.

It’s past time to improve our charity laws (April, 2018)

An opinion piece in the Toronto Star highlights how the current regulations are threatening to stifle Canada’s charitable sector and cripple our ability to make progress together.

Ottawa should finish the job on advocacy work by charities: Editorial (January 2018)

This article was written by the Toronto Star’s editorial board and explains why the “Trudeau government should move ahead on sensible reforms that would encourage registered charities to widen their contribution to public debates.”

Charities get antsy as Liberal government remains silent on reform plans (January 2018)

This CBC article outlines how the “Threat of CRA revocation remains 2 years after Liberals promised tax reform to end ‘political harassment’.”

Could modernizing charity legislation by Trudeau’s greatest stand for Canadian democracy? (November 2017)

This Hill Times op-ed written by Roger Gibbins explains that “revamping the rules that currently limit charitable advocacy is one of the most important ways this government can secure our free and open democracy.”

A welcome end to charity audits: Editorial (May 2017)

The Toronto Star editorial board welcomes an end to “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.”

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.”

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 brief 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.

PRESS RELEASES

2018 Federal Budget: An Important Advancement for Restoring Charities’ Freedom of Expression in Canada (February, 2018)

This press release commends the important steps forward announced in the 2018 Federal budget re: the government’s commitment to protect Canadian charities from political harassment, reform the Income Tax Act and respond to an Expert Panel’s recommendations over the next few months.

Protecting charities’ freedom of expression: Sector asks the Finance Minister of Canada to respect his promises in the new budget (February, 2018)

This press release from 17 organizations asks Finance Minister Bill Morneau to make promised changes to the laws that govern charities as part of the federal government budget that will be tabled on February 27, 2018.

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 non-profit sector that a legislative amendment is needed to fix federal charity law and protect free speech.

Leading Canadian organizations release new summary of federal party positions on protecting Canadian charities (September 2015)

This joint press release from Environmental Defence and Équiterre summarizes the federal party positions on protecting Canadian charities.

REPORTS

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.

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.

Audits of Environmental Groups: The Pressing Need for Law Reform (March 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 (March/April 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 (September 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.”

DOCUMENTS

Charities and Public Policy: Answers to your Frequently Asked Questions (July 2018)

There is limited awareness about how our charity law works and why it needs to change. That’s why we have put together some answers to some common questions on this issue. We hope they are helpful.

It’s time to bring Canada’s charity legislation into the 21st century (January 2018)

This briefing document – created for MPs – clearly outlines the value of charities and why we need to modernize Canada’s charity legislation.

Report of the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities (March 2017)

This Report was prepared by the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities, appointed by the Minister of National Revenue in September 2016. The Report presents the Panel’s recommendations, which are designed to clarify and broaden the ability of registered charities to engage in political activities in support of their charitable purposes, while maintaining an absolute prohibition on partisan political activities.

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.”

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.”

CASE STUDY

Canada Without Poverty: A Violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

In September 2016, the Canadian charity Canada Without Poverty (CWP) filed an application with Ontario Superior Court seeking a declaration that provisions in the Income Tax Act which restrict charities’ political activity violate the group’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

SUBMISSIONS

Canadian charities are telling the government their views on how charity law should change. Below is a sample of submissions from some of Canada’s leading charities.

Environmental Defence (November 2016)

Environmental Defence challenges and inspires change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and more prosperous life for all.

Équiterre (November 2016)

Based in Montreal and with offices in Quebec City and Ottawa, Équiterre helps build a social movement by encouraging individuals, organizations and governments to make ecological and equitable choices, in a spirit of solidarity.

KAIROS (November 2016)

KAIROS is an ecumenical movement for ecological justice and human rights. A charitable joint venture administered by the United Church of Canada, it was formed in 2001 by bringing together over 10 previous inter-church coalitions.

West Coast Environmental Law (November 2016)

West Coast Environmental Law works with communities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and all levels of governments, including First Nations governments, to develop proactive legal solutions to protect and sustain the environment.

Centre for Free Expression (March 2015)

The Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University is a hub for public education, research and advocacy on free expression and the public’s right to know. The centre’s work is undertaken in collaboration with academic and community-based organizations across Canada and internationally.