CWP denounces Income Tax Act as violation of freedom of expression and assembly in address to the United Nations
July 6th, 2015 – Earlier today, the President of the Board of Directors of Canada Without Poverty, Harriett McLachlan, and CWP’s Legal Education and Outreach Coordinator, Michèle Biss, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) concerning the restrictions placed on charities in Canada through Canada’s Income Tax Act. CWP believes these restrictions are a violation of charities freedom of expression and assembly and have resulted in an advocacy chill across the entire charitable sector.
The central issue raised was the requirement that charities’ “political activities” must be incidental to an organization’s main activities. In other words, not more than 10% of a charities resources can be devoted to “political” activities. This is has resulted in charities constraining themselves out of fear that they may lose charitable status.
The Canadian Government has used the language of the Income Tax Act to devote significant resources to audit several charities for political activity. This chill has put a particular strain on charities that are human rights oriented and have been perceived to be expressing political views that are in opposition to the current Government.
Harriett McLachlan, President of CWP, stated, “Our Board of Directors is made up entirely of people with lived experiences of poverty. We know firsthand what it takes to make real change to relieve poverty in Canada. It is not another food bank or shelter; it is systemic change. The Income Tax Act discourages this kind of work and has pushed people in poverty further to the sidelines and in many ways is depriving them of free expression which our Charter and international law clearly protect.”
If CWP were found to be in violation of the Income Tax Act and the political activities audit, the organization would likely have to close its doors because it relies on charitable donations for its ongoing operations. Many of CWP’s donors are living in poverty and the charitable tax receipt is the only way they can afford to give to the organization which then represents their interests.
CWP’s Executive Director, Leilani Farha, is hopeful that the UN will seriously consider this issue. “The Human Rights Committee will be issuing its assessment of Canada, including recommendations on what it must to do to comply with its human rights obligations, at the end of this month. We’re hopeful that they will understand the ways in which the arcane section of the Income Tax Act is being used to silence the voices of people living in poverty in Canada, preventing them from being full participants in democracy.”
To view the complete submission click here.
For more information:James Armbruster Communication and Development Coordinator P:613-986-7761 E: james[at]cwp-csp.ca