Charities under fire in Canada: @PENCanada, @OxfamCanada are tip of the iceberg #cra #canpoli

Recent media reports say that prominent organizations PEN Canada and Oxfam Canada are under fire from the charities directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

There was already a large number of organizations under review, and the number of those willing to speak out is growing fast.

Since at least 2010, the federal government has used an unprecedented range of restrictive measures to restrict the legal, financial and political space available to non-profits and human rights defenders.

Documenting the trend

Voices-VoixCIVICUS and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) are among those that have noted these trends with growing concern. As well, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported on the declining space in Canada for advocacy and dissent for non-profits and charities.

In 2013, Mr. Maina Kiai, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, made public remarks about the apparent trends of restricting dissent and advocacy in Canada.

International development and women’s equality organizations appear to be prominently in the government’s sights, as are communities seeking to exercise a right to dissent and to protect and promote human rights. The increasingly restrictive interpretation of charities and tax law by federal revenue authorities is placing onerous regulatory burdens on non-profits and threatening to strip their charitable status, thus limiting their effective operation and capacity to raise funds.

A partial hit list

According to CBC News, 52 political-activity audits are currently underway. Many targeted groups say they are fearful of the impact on their survival if they speak out.

But they are not the only ones. Others have been targeted because their charitable purposes are under enhanced scrutiny.

In addition to PEN Canada and Oxfam Canada, other organizations have lost their charitable status or been subject to a charitable audit or review with respect to alleged political activities or objectives or charitable purposes that are alleged to fall outside the newly-restricted concept of charitable purposes. These include Canadian Mennonite, Forest Ethics, Physicians for Global Survival, Sierra Club Canada Foundation and Tides Canada. As well, Amnesty International, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada Without Poverty, the Ecology Action Centre, Environmental Defence, International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (Canada); Equiterre,  Tides Canada Initiatives Society, Manitoba women’s group United Nations Platform for Action Committee; and the United Church of Canada (which includes Kairos) are among those that have found themselves under fire.

Categories: Democracy & Dissent

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