Selective Scrutiny of Charities in Canada Poses a Threat to Free Speech, Democracy

New case study adds to growing concerns over “disturbing pattern” of CRA audits

Montreal, Dec. 11, 2014 – A new report is warning that the Conservative government's ongoing selective scrutiny of charities poses a threat to free speech, democracy and government transparency in Canada.

"Canadian Charities and the Canada Revenue Agency" is the latest case study from Voices-Voix, a non-partisan, national coalition that documents cases of attacks on democracy, dissent and civil liberties in Canada. The report provides a fresh perspective on the damage that the federal government's investigation of charities is causing to the sector.

"It's clear that, over the past two-and-a-half years, a major impact of the government's investigation of charities is to divert resources away from their important work, and to put a growing 'chill' on what charities do and say," says Margrit Eichler, Professor Emerita of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto and member of the Voices-Voix Editorial Board.

The study examines the impact of the Conservative government’s decision to provide the CRA with more than $13 million to audit the political and charitable activities of charities in Canada. Of particular concern is the strong and growing evidence that the new infusion of resources targets charities which do not align with the ideology of the current government. Many of Canada's progressive charities have found themselves under audit or enhanced scrutiny, while conservative-leaning charities have either stated they are not being targeted or have remained mum.

While environmental charities appeared to be the first ones in the CRA's sights, the scope of organizations being targeted has widened to include progressive public policy think tanks, women's organizations, immigrant settlement groups, human rights and international development charities.

"This case study adds to a growing body of research and media reports that point to a systematic and deliberate attempt to weaken the progressive charitable sector in Canada and to silence those who are critical of the government right now," said Pearl Eliadis, a Montreal-based human rights lawyer and co-managing editor of the Voices-Voix documentation project. "These measures foster a hostile and disenabling environment for the charitable sector. Non-profits are key players in society, including as major employers in this country, and yet they are being mired with red tape and threatened with losing their charitable status or being forced to change their charitable objects.''

This is the 100th case study published by Voices-Voix (www.voices-voix.ca) since it was founded in 2010. The documentation project also reports on defunding the voluntary sector, shutting down research and science, cutting services to immigrants and people seeking Canada's protection, and the surveillance of Indigenous activists. "The stifling of the work of progressive charities in Canada is one more act among many that points to a disturbing pattern of eliminating the tools and resources for organizations that do not follow in the ideological footsteps of the current government," said Eichler. "As we point out in the study, these actions only serve to weaken democracy in Canada."

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Contacts:

English:
Margrit Eichler: 416-658-3363, margrit.eichler@utoronto.ca

English & French:
Pearl Eliadis: 514-771 9462, eliadis@rights-law.net