“National Post The Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) definition of “political activities” might sound like an obscure detail of little import. But it is, in fact, one of the main ways in which the government controls this country’s charitable organizations, by restricting them to spending no more than 10 per cent of their resources on advocating for a change in law or government policy.|
That means it is considered a political activity for an animal welfare charity to try to convince the public that stricter limits on deer hunting would be a good idea, or for a senior citizens’ charity to run a public campaign urging for crosswalks to be replaced with traffic lights at crossings near seniors’ homes.
And with millions of extra dollars budgeted for investigating political activities as a special project, the CRA has been busy over the past few years auditing dozens upon dozens of Canadian charities to enforce this restriction. These investigations have touched groups on all parts of the political spectrum, draining time, money and the courage to voice concerns about the status quo.
The issue has raised enough concern that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has even included clarifying the “political activities” definition for charities as part of his election platform — and for good reason.
In its current broad form, the CRA’s definition of political activities could potentially cover a newspaper column on the limiting nature of the CRA’s definition of political activities — though no one is totally sure.
As the executive director of a charity that happens to be both powerfully committed to free expression and in the midst of a CRA audit that has been in progress for well over a year, I have been particularly troubled by that Catch-22.
May I let the public know about how much of a chill my organization has experienced as a result of current CRA rules and policy, leaving us, for example, hesitant about loudly declaring our true concerns about the constitutionality of the government’s newly passed security bill, C-51, even though our organization’s mission is protecting Canadians’ constitutional rights?…”