Charity law blocks progress on issues facing Canadians

By Garfield Mahood and Brian Iler, the Toronto Star, 14 Feb 2015

Canadian charities are under attack. Environmental, human rights and international development charities, organizations struggling to address poverty and women’s issues are examples of non-governmental organizations that have lost their ability to issue charitable tax credits under the Income Tax Act. Either that or they face the threat of a loss as a result of ongoing Canada Revenue Agency audits.

These groups have one thing in common. They turned a spotlight onto Harper government policies or advocated for public policy change that might alleviate society’s gravest ills.

There is strong suggestive evidence that more than 50 audited charities have been targeted in order to silence criticism and to create a chill among others that might speak out. (...)

[It] should be understood that the solutions to many of society’s problems do not need more research and the criticism-free public education that the CRA permits. They cry out for advocacy and changed law. Unfortunately, the CRA only allows NGOs to spend 10 per cent of their income on policy advocacy and law reform. Thus a charity has to be substantial in order to be large enough to fund meaningful advocacy.

In contrast, while the Harper government blocks charities from using tax credits to influence public opinion, it allows corporations to write off as a business expense 100 per cent of the money they spend to derail or support legislation that affects their interests. (...)

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Photo: Andrew Vaughn, The Canadian Press

 

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