UN Committee Challenges Canada

For immediate release:

UN Committee Challenges Canada on its mistreatment of human rights charities

July 23rd 2015 – The United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) today released its much anticipated response to the formal review of Canada’s civil and political human rights record over the last 10 years. The Committee pointed to serious concerns about the effect of restrictions on political activities in Canada’s Income Tax on charities working to uphold basic human rights.

The UN Committee has identified the restrictions on charities in the Income Tax Act as a fundamental assault on the right to freedom of expression. Canada Without Poverty (CWP) is one of many charities being audited to determine if it has allocated too many of its resources to speaking out about laws and policies that need to be changed to alleviate poverty. In early July the Chairperson of CWP, Harriett McLachlan, appeared before the HRC to describe the effect of the CRA crackdown on the ability of charities to speak out about issues of public policy that affect them.

“These audits have resulted in mounting fear of losing charitable status, and therefore necessary funding sources, across the entire charitable sector. Human rights in Canada are under assault, and the UN Human Rights Committee noted that today,” remarked CWP President, Harriett MacLachlan.

According to a restrictive provision of the ITA, charities should spend no more than 10% of its resources seeking changes to laws and policies in pursuit of their charitable purposes. The effect of the implementation of this provision is the silencing of charities across the country.

The Committee expressed concern about Government suppression of “political, social and human rights advocacy.”   The Committee stressed that Canada “should take measures to ensure that the application of section 149.1 of the Income Tax Act does not result in unnecessary restrictions on the activities of non-governmental organisations defending human rights.”

CWP Executive Director, Leilani Farha “This is another clear indication that the archaic ITA needs to be reformed. The status quo on the mistreatment of charities and the violation of the right to free speech is not acceptable.”

The Human Rights Committee has identified a number of other crucial human rights concerns. It is particularly important that the Committee has identified the denial of health care to refugees and irregular migrants as a violation of the right to life and non-discrimination, especially because this issue is now before the courts.

“This should be seen as a wake-up call by governments and courts in Canada that increasingly serious violations of civil and political rights in Canada can no longer be tolerated.   We expect the Government of Canada to implement these critical recommendations and courts to ensure that the Canadian Charter is interpreted consistently with international human rights,” Ms. Farha stated.


For more information:

James Armbruster
Communication and Development Coordinator
E: james[at]cwp-csp.ca