Canadian Government Charity Court Appeal Questioned
20 August 2018 at 4:52 pm
The Canadian government is appealing a court ruling that scraps the limit on the political activities of a charity, despite pledging to abolish limitations on charities’ non-partisan political advocacy.
This announcement comes after the Ontario Superior Court in July ruled in favour of charity group, Canada Without Poverty (CWP), to strike down legislation preventing charities from spending more than 10 per cent of its resources on political activities.
The Canadian government had promised to remove this 10 per cent limit on political activities, while continuing to bar partisan advocacy.
But Canada’s Revenue Minister, Diane Lebouthillier, said last week the government would be appealing the court decision because of “significant errors of law”.
Lebouthillier said: “We will be appealing the decision to address the uncertainty created by it, and to seek clarification on important issues of constitutional and charity law.
“Our government is committed to clarifying the rules that govern the participation of charities in political activities and we are taking the necessary steps to move forward on that commitment.”
CWP Executive Director, Leilani Farha, said the announcement was “troubling” and “wrong headed” of the government.
Farha said while they were happy to see the “long overdue” changes to restrictions on the political activities of charities, the move to first appeal the ruling would set a dangerous precedent for future governments.
“Ultimately, their position is that what happened to CWP under the previous government does not violate the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms],” Farha said.
Govt is saying quite clearly – we may change the legislation as a matter of policy but certainly not as a matter of constitutionally protected rights. And let’s see if they think they are bound by the #Charter at all in governing the behavior of #charities. https://t.co/wZtCSwsh0x
— Leilani Farha (@leilanifarha) August 17, 2018
“Appealing the CWP case while agreeing to amend the legislation simply as a matter of ‘good public policy’, allows for future governments to easily reverse the decision and continue to harass charitable organisations who try to hold them accountable.”
The Ontario case was filed by CWP after they were told in 2016 they could lose their charitable status because of a failure to comply with the 10 per cent limit on political activity.
The organisation said the provisions violated “the right to freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.
The Liberal government campaigned to ease the restrictions in the last federal election and maintained that although this legal appeal was necessary, it would “not change the policy direction” on removing limits on political activities for charities.
“Our government intends to present this legislation in the fall,” Lebouthillier said.