EDITORIAL: Cracking down on charities

Canadians are aware of the Harper government’s view of non-governmental organizations

Relieving poverty is a charitable cause, preventing it is not.

By now, Canadians are aware of the Harper government’s view of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly when their agenda conflicts with the prime minister.

Audits are one of the tools the government has used against outspoken critics who receive charitable status.

According to Canadian Press, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is conducting audits on at least 52 NGOs, including the David Suzuki Foundation and West Coast Environmental Law, to assure they comply with guidelines restricting political activity.

Oxfam Canada is now in the CRA’s crosshairs – over a mission statement. In its application for renewal of non-profit status, Oxfam Canada states its purpose is to “prevent and relieve poverty, vulnerability and suffering…”

In response, the CRA has told Oxfam that relieving poverty qualifies as charitable, preventing it does not.

The CRA’s logic is that the 50-plus-year-old charitable organization might use its clout to benefit those who are not poor.

Oxfam tends to focus on providing knowledge, skills and tools to help people help themselves. It also speaks out against political injustices that fuel poverty, using tactics such as its campaign to get Canada and other nations to take stringent action on tax evasion.

The CRA is also attempting to do this via the Offshore Tax Informant Program.

This “snitch line” has wound up more successful than anticipated, however, and critics are questioning whether the CRA, which has been severely downsized, can see the job through.

This overload can’t help when the CRA is also being tasked with keeping charitable organizations in line.

— Salmon Arm Observer


Vernon Morning Star