Government releases draft bill to lift restrictions on charities

The BC Humanist Association is welcoming proposed legislation to repeal restrictions on the political activities of charities in Canada but we are disappointed that the proposals don't go farther.

Under existing rules, Canadian charities must not spend more than 10% of its resources on "political activities." This includes activities intended to influence legislation or government policy. Charities are forbidden from partisan activities, which includes endorsing or opposing specific candidates or parties.

The federal government quietly released proposed changes to these rules on Friday evening. The proposals would remove references to political activities from the Income Tax Act. This follows recommendations from the Report of the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities released earlier this year and the Canada Without Poverty v AG ruling. That ruling found the current restrictions to be unconstitutional; however, the government is appealing.

In the consultation report, the panel made four recommendations to the government. The first two refer to internal CRA rules and policies internal and the fourth calls for the government to "modernize the legislative framework governing the charitable sector." These new proposals only deal with the third recommendation.

Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association

Freeing charities to speak on policy is an important step but this is really the least the government can do.

Charities in Canada rely on law written when the Queen of England was Elizabeth I. In the 400 years since then, the role of charities in society has changed dramatically, yet our laws have not.

The easiest step for the government would be to at least include a list modern charitable purposes.

The Department of Finance is accepting comments on the proposals until October 13, 2018. The BC Humanist Association will publish its comments as soon as they're ready but in the meantime we encourage supporters to make their own submissions.

Our response will:

  1. Support the decision to repeal restrictions on political activities
  2. Urge the government to adopt the fourth recommendation of the panel's report
  3. Recommend the government, at a minimum, include a modern list of charitable purposes in the Income Tax Act
  4. Recommend such a list either omit the "advancement of religion" or expand it to include non-theistic worldviews

See our recent comments to the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector for more information.

Feel free to use any of our comments in your own submission.

Email [email protected] to support a modernized charities framework.

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