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Trudeau government stalls on promised new rules for charitable organizations

One more stalled or broken promise.

The Council of Canadians stands in solidarity with charities across the country that are working to defend the environment, human rights and the public good.

In May 2015, Maude Barlow wrote in Broken Covenant: How Stephen Harper set out to silence dissent and curtail democratic participation in Canada that, “[The Harper government has] earmarked $13.4 million so the Canada Revenue Agency can audit civil society opponents that have charitable status. Sixty organizations in Canada have been targeted. They include progressive think tanks such as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a host of environmental organizations such as the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence, anti-poverty groups such as Make Poverty History, and international aid and development agencies such as Oxfam.”

In early-October 2015, when the Liberal Party of Canada released its campaign platform, it promised, “We will allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment, and will modernize the rules governing the charitable and not-for-profit sectors. This will include clarifying the rules governing ‘political activity’, with an understanding that charities make an important contribution to public debate and public policy. A new legislative framework to strengthen the sector will emerge from this process.”

On October 20, 2015, the day after the federal election, Barlow wrote in an open letter, “Together, we were successful in putting forward issues dear to our hearts [including] condemning the assault on civil society and charities.”

That was our hope.

But now CBC reports, “Some Canadian charities are feeling a new degree of chill, as a Liberal government election promise to ease restrictions on their political activities appears to be on ice more than two years later. … [Environmental Defence executive director Tim] Gray [says he and representatives of 13 other environmental charities met with Finance Minister Bill Morneau but came out of that] with no commitments or timeline for changes, and a sense that the issue is not a priority for Morneau.”

That article adds, “A Liberal-appointed panel issued a report a year ago calling for changes to the Income Tax Act to delete any reference to the political activities of charities. …National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier [suggested] at the time the government’s response to the report could be expected by summer 2017, but there’s been a year of silence since. …Meanwhile, federal lawyers defended the status quo in a recent submission to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, prior to an April 23 hearing on a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge [launched by Canada Without Poverty arguing the 10 per cent advocacy rule for charities violates the charter’s freedom-of-expression guarantee].”

The Council of Canadians is a registered non-profit organization.

Further reading
Harper attacks charitable public interest organizations (February 7, 2014)