A NEW DAY FOR CHARITIES IN CANADA?
The ability of Canadian charities to participate in shaping public policy is vital for a healthy democracy. Charities voice the concerns of millions of Canadians and provide subject matter expertise, which results in better, more effective policies and laws on issues that matter to Canadians.
Charities make an important contribution to society and they must be provided with the space to do so effectively. That’s why 17 organizations came together last fall to ask all Canadian federal political parties to “make a commitment to preserving and enhancing this role by strongly supporting a new legal and policy direction that enhances and protects the ability of registered charities to participate in public policy debates.” You can read the parties’ responses here.
Since then, the newly elected government has made some positive commitments in this regard. Now more specific action is needed to protect and enhance charities’ ability to engage in public policy and voice the concerns of Canadians. Charities audited under the previous government for political activities continue to be audited. And the process for a new legislative framework to protect the ability of registered charities to participate in public policy debates has yet to be launched.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently instructed the Minister of National Revenue to “Allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment, and modernize the rules governing the charitable and not-for-profit sectors, working with the Minister of Finance. 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.”
This is a positive development. Now it’s time to see those words turn into action.
In January, Minister of National Revenue, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, announced the winding down of the political activities audit program initiated by the previous government. Minister Lebouthillier said, “Our government recognizes the critical role charities play in our society and their valuable contribution to public policy and public debate on behalf of all Canadians. To help them continue this important work, charities must be assured they are operating in a regulatory environment that respects and encourages this contribution.”
This is a positive development and holds promise that Canadians will be able to engage in important debates about social justice, liberty, poverty and the environment – debates that depend on charities providing an avenue for Canadians’ ideas and magnifying their voices.
But charities under audit for political activities from the previous government are still under audit. Some of these audits have gone on for years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, money that could have been spent strengthening the work of the charity, such as voicing Canadians’ concerns about key issues. And the audits have had a widespread chilling effect on charities across Canada, inhibiting their invaluable work in the name of the public good. These audits need to end immediately. Reform of the rules that allowed these audits must begin.
The ability of Canadians to engage in important debates about social justice, liberty, poverty
and the environment depends on charities providing an avenue for their ideas and magnifying their voice.
Sign our petition congratulating the federal government for ending the program of political activities audits. Ask the federal government to end audits started under the previous government and to support legislation that will enable charities to continue their important work on public policy issues.Sign our petition
Included in the full report you’ll find more information on: