Ottawa Parliament Canada

$13.4M Allocated to Carry Audit of Canadian Charities Beyond 2017, Documents Show

The federal government has allocated more than $13 million for the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) investigation of charitable organizations, which is planned to extend beyond 2017, according to documents obtained by DeSmog Canada through Access to Information legislation (PDF attached below).

Previous figures announced in the 2012 Bill C-38 Omnibus budget amounted to $8 million for the monitoring and investigation of Canada’s charitable organizations over two years.

According to the internal documents, the Minister of Finance approved $13.4 million in funding to institute new reporting requirements for charities engaged in political activities or receiving funding from foreign sources. The funds will also be used to ensure charitable organizations are “operating in compliance” with new rules. The document notes these new reporting and compliance initiatives will continue through the year 2016-17 and remain “ongoing.”

Screen shot of the Canada Revenue Agency document.

Screen shot of Budget 2012 plans as outlined on the Government of Canada’s budget website.

As the CBC recently reported, the CRA is auditing seven of Canada’s most prominent environmental charities, including the David Suzuki Foundation, Tides Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, the Pembina Foundation, Environmental Defence, Equiterre and the Ecology Action Centre.

Marcel Lauzière, president of Imagine Canada, told the CBC, “We’re concerned about what appears to be an increase in audits around political activity and in particular around environmental organizations.”

He added, “There’s a big chill out there with what charities can and cannot do.”

John Bennett of the Sierra Club said the rules the CRA is looking to enforce are unclear. “We don’t know what rules we’re playing by. The problem with this is that they gave the power to CRA to walk in and shut you down. And then if you want to complain, you can go to court afterwards.”

At least one environmental group, Environmental Defence, is currently appealing an audit report submitted by the CRA concerning the activities of the organization.

Ministerial correspondence documents, also released to DeSmog Canada, show the CRA and the Prime Minister’s Office received a significant amount of complaints regarding the investigation of charities, with letters likening the initiative to a “witch hunt,” “a wild goose chase,” a “crackdown…limiting free speech,” and an effort in “silencing those who can’t speak for themselves, and polariz[ing] the potential for public debate.”

Others claimed the monitoring of environmental charities would “negatively [affect] the dialogue required to determine the viability of resource development against environmental concerns,” and “was implemented to specifically target environmental groups opposed to the Gateway Pipeline development.”

To each complaint, the ministerial correspondence coordinator notes: “There is no expectation of reply from Minister Shea.”

Carol Linnitt is a journalist, editor, illustrator and co-founder of The Narwhal. Carol has been reporting on energy and environmental…

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