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2018 Federal Budget: An important advancement for restoring charities’ freedom of expression in Canada

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Toronto, Ont – Civil society organizations working in a variety of sectors, such as health, the environment, anti-poverty and international development, are encouraged following the Government of Canada’s budget commitment to address their commitment to protect Canadian charities from political harassment, reform the Income Tax Act and respond to an Expert Panel’s recommendations over the next few months. These measures, if enacted, will allow charities to carry out their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment and will modernize the rules governing the charity and non-profit sectors.

This is a promise that was made in the Mandate Letters to the Ministers of Finance, Justice and National Revenue and further re-iterated in a government appointed Expert Panel.

The Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities (2017), established by the Minister of National Revenue in September 2016, affirmed the necessity of modernizing the legislative framework that governs the 86,000 organizations in the Canadian charitable sector. The report recommended that, as part of the 2018 Budget, the government amend the Income Tax Act to promote the participation of these organizations in public policy debates. (The report’s authors also recommended that the government make changes to the appeal process for Canada Revenue Agency decisions in order to update the federal laws governing charities.) Finally, the report requested that the government establish a process to modernize the sector’s entire legislative framework.

“This is an important step towards closing a dark chapter in Canadian democracy. However, we will have to wait and see exactly what changes will be made to the Income Tax Act and the overall modernization process for the entire legislative framework,” said Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “The measures announced yesterday will ensure transparency and better accountability on the part of the federal government regarding the rules governing the charitable sector in Canada.”

Remember that the previous federal government had initiated a series of audits targeting the legitimate public policy work of environmental, human rights and international aid organizations. The measures announced yesterday should have the goal of ending, once and for all, any threat of such audits reoccurring.

Canadian charities play an essential role. Canadians turn to them to express and defend their opinions on issues they are concerned about—such as the environment, health, international development and social justice—all with a view to building a better world.

That’s why the signatory organizations are celebrating the important steps forward announced yesterday.

SIGNATORY ORGANIZATIONS: Amnesty international Canada, Amnesty international Québec, Association pour la santé publique du Québec (ASPQ), Broadbent Institute, Canada Without Poverty, Centre Québécois du droit de l’environnement – CQDE, Conseil canadien pour la coopération internationale – CCCI, David Suzuki foundation, Ecojustice, EcologyAction, Équiterre, Environmental Defence, Greenpeace Canada, Sierra Club Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, WWF Canada.

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For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Stephanie Kohls | Environmental Defence
skohls@environmentaldefence.ca, 416-323-9521 ext 232

Alexis Stoymenoff | West Coast Environmental Law
astoymenoff@wcel.org, 604-684-7378 ext 228