Charities provide an invaluable service for Canadians by advocating for better policies to help protect our environment, ensure the health of our families, eradicate poverty, and more. Charities voice the concerns of Canadians.
But the rules around what charities can and cannot do are open to abuse due to ambiguous and arbitrary guidelines. In the past, the former federal government used this ambiguity to launch costly and harassing audits of charities whose views the government disagreed with. If the laws aren't changed, this could happen again.
Right now corporations can spend freely on lobbying, advertising and any kind of political activity. They can deduct 100 per cent of those expenses from their income. In contrast, charities that voice Canadians' concerns are severely restricted in the form and quantity of public policy work they can do. It's time to level the playing field between corporations and the charities that speak for Canadians. Other countries around the world have modernized their charitable laws to protect free speech. It's time for Canada to do the same.
We have a chance now to urge the new federal government to keep its promise of creating a new law to protect your right to be heard through the charities you support.
But the time to have your say is limited. Until December 9th, the Minister of National Revenue is asking for your feedback on the rules governing charities' abilities to speak out about social change. Send a letter today to tell the CRA you value the role charities play in securing public policies that improve the lives of all Canadians.
Subject: New law needed to protect Canadians' right to free speech through the charities they support
Canadian charities have played a critical role in the development of a better Canada; from laws addressing acid rain, to banning smoking in public spaces to those creating provincial and national parks.
I welcome the opportunity to comment on the current rules and guidelines on permissible political activity of charities and the changes that your government has promised to make to ensure the continued positive contribution of charities in shaping Canadian laws and policies.
The rules governing charities' involvement must be modernized to enhance the role of charities in public policy debate and the development of new laws and policies. Corporations can spend freely on lobbying, advertising and any kind of political activity, including what is considered by the CRA as partisan. Furthermore, they can deduct 100 per cent of those expenses from their income. In contrast, charities are severely restricted in the form and quantity of public policy work they can do. This restricts my ability as a citizen to have my voice heard on issues that I care about because I cannot hope to have the resources of a corporation. I need to be able to work with other like-minded citizens to support the work of charities on key issues I care deeply about. Other countries have modernized their charity laws to protect free speech. It is time for Canada to do the same.
I strongly encourage the federal government to develop a new legislative framework for charities that ends restrictions on the activities that they can pursue in achieving their goals. If a new law or policy is needed to achieve goals like protecting the environment, upholding human rights, fighting racism, preventing poverty or improving Canadians' health, charities should be free to tell their supporters, the media and government why that is the case. It is only fair and it is good for democracy.
Our democracy is stronger when charities voice Canadians' concerns on issues of public debate, and our charity laws should encourage this.
I am calling on you to look out for the interests of all Canadians and keep your government's promise to enable Canadian charities to do their job of making a better Canada for all of us.