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Tony Clement Wants To Monitor All Canadian Charities For Terror Activity
By Althia Raj, The Huffington Post Canada, 12 September 2016
OTTAWA — Canadian charities are sounding the alarm after Conservative party leadership candidate Tony Clement said he wants to monitor the activities of all charities to ensure that they are not contributing to radicalization or terrorism.
On Monday in Ottawa, Clement unveiled what he called his 10-point national security plan to make Canada safer.
He pledged to imprison potential terrorists for as long as they remain security risks if they can’t be monitored round the clock, and he called for a public “most wanted” list.
“This terrorist threat is growing, and those who have been radicalized or are radicalizing others need to be taken off the streets,” he said in announcing the first policy plank of his leadership campaign.
Beyond the headlines, however, the former cabinet minister in prime minister Stephen Harper’s government also promised to:
“Establish an independent government agency to oversee and monitor the activities of all charities in order to ensure they do not contribute to terrorism or radicalization and are following Canadian law.”
Those involved in charities say Clements’ words are reminiscent of the Harper government’s crackdown on groups with which it disagreed philosophically.
Clement says it is “necessary” to track all charities’ activities. “It is important to have this monitoring. It is good, best practice to demand of charities the information to assess whether they are involved in terrorism activity or supporting radicalization,” he said.
Tim McSorley, co-ordinator of Voices-Voix Coalition, a group that defends the rights of charities to advocate, called Clement’s language “concerning.”
“[It] is reminiscent of when Joe Oliver, as natural resources minister, claimed that we needed to be concerned about foreign-funded, radical environmentalist groups,” he told HuffPost.
“The result of that was a $13 million fund to investigate political activities [through] audits, primarily targeting progressive organizations, and whose most tangible result has been hundreds of thousands of dollars in charities' funds going to administrative and legal costs rather than to their important work.”
Canadian charities that transfer funds to other organizations for international projects must also ensure that those organizations’ work adheres to the same guidelines for charitable activities that they themselves must follow. He also added that charities are already required to itemize any activities that are considered to fall outside the boundaries of their charitable work.
“Tony Clement, instead of finding ways to support the good work of charities in this country, is instead creating fictional concerns that is more likely to cause people to withhold donations than do anything to protect Canadian lives.”
Jennifer Henry, the executive director of Kairos Canada, told HuffPost there are approximately 85,000 registered charities in Canada that contribute an average of 8.1 per cent of total Canadian GDP. “The sector as a whole makes Canada better and contributes to a better world,” she said. “Charities are already regulated and must not engage in illegal activity. This kind of wording and direction suggests a significant link without clear evidence.”
Many groups, such as Kairos Canada and Voices-Voix Coalition, are calling for clearer modern legislation that would allow charities to advocate and engage in policy dialogue.
“So instead of proposing new rules that are redundant with laws and regulations that already exist, we would hope that Mr. Clement would want to work with charities to modernize rules and regulations so they can better deliver programs and services that help Canadians and people abroad.”