CRA Policy on ‘Partisan’ Charities Stifles Debate

PEN Canada press release


CRA policy on ‘partisan’ charities stifles debate

November 19, 2012 – Toronto – PEN Canada today voiced concerns that current law and policy on partisan activities by charitable organizations muzzles political dissent and stifles public debate within Canada. PEN was responding to a caution the Canada Revenue Authority (CRA) recently issued to the Canadian Mennonite Publishing Service (CMPS).

On July 23, CRA sent CMPS a letter warning that it was in danger of having its charitable status revoked because certain articles it had published were considered “partisan” in nature. The warning appears to be based on subsections 149.1(6.1) and (6.2) of the Income Tax Act, which prohibit a charity from engaging in activities that include “the direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party or candidate for public office.”  These provisions are given a very broad interpretation by CRA.

“Democratic governments should never get into the business of deciding which political activities a given charity can pursue,” said Philip Slayton, Chair of PEN Canada’s National Affairs Committee. “Obviously unlimited political activity is not appropriate for a registered charity with tax advantages, but the vague language of the Income Tax Act gives government officials discretionary powers that are overbroad and easily abused.

PEN Canada notes that recently CRA has warned or taken action against charities that have questioned government policy – for example, the David Suzuki Foundation, Physicians for Global Survival and Tides Canada.

PEN Canada calls upon the government to reconsider the issue of so-called “partisan” activity by registered charities, and to remove the ability of officials to threaten charities for imprecise or dubious reasons.

PEN Canada fights censorship and defends the right to freedom of expression.

For further information:
Brendan de Caires: 416 703 8448 ext 21 |