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.”

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
We’ve got big plans for 2024
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

Operation spotted turtle: how Ontario biologists fight wildlife traffickers

“Someone is coming up behind you,” species-at-risk biologist Scott Gillingwater says. We lower our voices and change the subject. The two of us look conspicuous;...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

The Narwhal’s reporters uncover energy stories that send shockwaves throughout Canada. But they can’t do it alone — we need to add 300 new members this month to meet our budget. Will you support crucial climate reporting that makes an impact?
Relentless.
Independent.
Fearless.
Relentless.
Independent.
Fearless.
The Narwhal’s reporters uncover energy stories that send shockwaves throughout Canada. But they can’t do it alone — we need to add 300 new members this month to meet our budget. Will you support crucial climate reporting that makes an impact?