CCRA guidelines on advocacy too restrictive, national groups say – Comments
OTTAWA — “Canadians expect charities to speak out on issues such as the environment, poverty or health care,” Gordon Floyd of the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy said in reaction to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency’s new guidelines on advocacy. The CCP and two other national groups–Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society, and the Voluntary Sector Forum to declare their dissatisfaction the the new guidelines.
After four years of discussions between CCRA and charities groups, the new CCRA guidelines continue to limit strictly the ability of charities to advocate for policy change in Canada and in other countries, they declared.
In response to the CCRA directive, IMPACS and the CCP published Charities: Enhancing Democracy in Canada which argues that charities should not be restricted in their ability to advocate for policy change; and it recommends a minor change to the Income Tax Act to lift the restrictions.
“The CCRA guidelines continue to restrict charities to treating symptoms, not seeking solutions,” said IMPACS Executive Director Shauna Sylvester. “A charity can give food to poor people but its ability to address the need for food banks in the first place is severely restricted.
Similarly, a Canadian charity cannot lobby another country to stop torturing prisoners or destroying the habitat of endangered species without putting its charitable status at risk.”
“This situation is out of step with Canadian values,” noted CCP’s spokesperson Gordon Floyd. “Canadians expect charities to speak out on issues such as the environment, poverty or health care, and they also say that charities should be able to place ads in the media to advance their issues.”
Other countries, including England, the us, France, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands allow greater latitude for charities to advocate for policy change.
They point out that businesses in Canada are not restricted in the same way as charities. Not only are businesses free to advocate for policy change, but their expenses in doing so are tax-deductible.
“The Government of Canada recognized that advocacy is legitimate and desirable when it signed the 2001 Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector,” comments Voluntary Sector Forum member Megan Williams. “We are simply looking for the Income Tax Act to line up with the Accord and the Code of Good Practice on Policy Dialogue.”
The national groups are seeking a meeting with Revenue Minister Eleanor Caplan.
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