Thursday, November 27, 2014

Charities And Political Activities

I am not a lawyer, but I post the following information for those who are, and for those deeply offended by the Harper government's ongoing attacks on non-profits that dare question the regime's wisdom while giving a free ride to right-wing entities whose ideology matches that of our overlords.

Here is the CRA policy statement on the difference between political purposes and charitable purposes (Reference number CPS-022):
All registered charities are required by law to have exclusively charitable purposes. As the Act does not define what is charitable, we look to the common law for both a definition of charity in its legal sense as well as the principles to guide us in applying that definition.[Footnote 2] The formal objectives or goals of a charity must be set out in its governing documents.

Under the Act and common law, an organization established for a political purpose cannot be a charity. The courts have determined political purposes to be those that seek to:

-further the interests of a particular political party; or support a political party or candidate for public office; or
-retain, oppose, or change the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country.

The main reason why the courts rule out political purposes for charities is a result of the requirement that a purpose is only charitable if it generates a public benefit. A political purpose, such as seeking a ban on deer hunting, requires a charity to enter into a debate about whether such a ban is good, rather than providing or working towards an accepted public benefit.

It also means that in order to assess the public benefit of a political purpose, a court would have to take sides in a political debate. In Canada, political issues are for Parliament to decide, and the courts are reluctant to encroach on this sovereign authority (other than when a constitutional issue arises).[Footnote 3]

It is important to remember that although the stated purposes of an organization are the obvious source of reference of whether or not an organization is constituted exclusively for charitable purposes, it is not the sole indicator. The Canada Revenue Agency also takes into account the activities that the organization is currently engaged in as a potential indicator of whether it has since adopted other purposes
To a mere layman such as I am, something smells very, very rotten in the state of Harperland.

Anyone up for taking this on?


  1. How is the Fraser Institute a "charitable organisation"?

    1. No doubt, its charity lies in the magnanimous manner in which it advises the rest of us of the error of our progressive ways, UU.

  2. The operative word is "established." You look to the purposes for which the organization is established which is not to forbid that organization from some political activity afterward. That's how the Fraser Institute gets away with it.

    The CRA is being capricious in applying a double standard - one treatment for outfits like the Fraser Institute, another for environmental advocates. That needs to be challenged in Federal Court.

    1. I hope that challenge comes, Mound, but I doubt that the targeted groups have the deep pockets needed to launch one.