OTTAWA (May 4, 2017) — In 2012, the federal government provided resources to the Canada Revenue Agency to review how Canadian charities were conducting political activities. These activities relate to how charitable organizations communicate about government law, policies or decisions — as opposed to partisan activities, which are not permitted.

One outcome of the 2012 initiative was that the Canada Revenue Agency initiated a series of political activity audits of charities. The David Suzuki Foundation was among those chosen for an audit, which was completed in early 2016.

In late 2016, the new federal government initiated a consultation process aimed at clarifying the rules governing political activities undertaken by charities, and appointed a five-person panel to review the consultation feedback and make recommendations to government about how to move forward. David Suzuki Foundation CEO Peter Robinson was appointed to the panel. DSF was the only organization represented on the panel that had experienced an audit, and was able to bring our experience to the process.

Today, the government released the report, which calls on the federal government to:

  • Revise the CRA’s administrative position and policy to enable charities to fully engage in public policy dialogue and development.
    Implement changes to the CRA’s administration of the Income Tax Act regarding compliance and appeals, audits and communication and collaboration to enhance clarity and consistency.
  • Amend the Income Tax Act by deleting any reference to non-partisan “political activities” to explicitly allow charities to fully engage, without limitation, in non-partisan public policy dialogue and development, provided those activities are subordinate to and further their charitable purposes.
  • Modernize the legislative framework governing the charitable sector to ensure a focus on charitable purposes rather than activities, and adopt an inclusive list of acceptable charitable purposes to reflect current social and environmental issues and approaches.

“We are pleased that the government is taking this issue seriously,” Robinson said. “The ability of Canadian charities to speak out on issues of public policy and legislation is critical to a healthy democracy. We are also honoured that the David Suzuki Foundation was involved in providing strong recommendations to government about the role of charities in conducting political activities in Canada.”

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For more information, please contact:

Brendan Glauser
David Suzuki Foundation