The Canada Revenue Agency—which appears to have become an arm of the PMO—is currently auditing several Canadian charities, looking for suspect “political activity.”
The list of targets include Amnesty International Canada, the United Church of Canada’s Kairos fund, the David Suzuki Foundation, PEN Canada (the Toronto-based freedom of speech organization), the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada Without Poverty, even Oxfam Canada.
All these groups have spoken out against the Harper government at one time or another.
(I assume the right-wing Fraser Institute, which wades frequently into politics, has been spared a visit from the agency.)
Agency officials informed Oxfam that “preventing poverty” was not an acceptable goal. Oxfam was warned: “Relieving poverty is charitable, but preventing it is not. Preventing poverty could mean providing for a class of beneficiaries that are not poor.” Oxfam Canada’s executive director Robert Fox called the exchange he had with Canada Revenue Agency officials an “absurd conversation.”
Charities shouldn’t fear Harper’s bluster. Diane Bertolin writes in Collective Publishing Company (Online Magazine for Innovative Individuals and Entrepreneurs): “Charities can dedicate 10 per cent of their total resources, including a volunteer’s time, to supporting or opposing a government policy.
It cannot, however, directly support a party or politician … the federal government, in its 2012 budget, decided to change the rules. The Feds have decided that they will be holding charities accountable to the 10 per cent rule. If a charitable organization exceeds the 10 per cent rule, then it can be sanctioned by having its tax receipting privilege suspended for one year.”
There are about 100,000 charities in Canada. In 2013, of 880 charities audited, (an additional $8 million was budgeted for it) only one lost its license to act as a charity, and it wasn’t even one of those “radical” environmental groups which the Harper government despise so much.
Was that good use of taxpayer money?
On July 25, NDP MP Paul Dewar (Official Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs) said of the Harper government: “What I see here is more of a crass ideological campaign against some of our proudest and most effective organizations.”