Canada Without Poverty in court on Monday to challenge government restrictions on charities’ freedom of expression
April 20, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO – A challenge by a national anti-poverty organization to restrictions of freedom of expression in the Income Tax Act will be heard at the Ontario Superior Court, Osgoode Hall, Toronto, Courtroom 6 at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, April 23.
Canada Without Poverty (CWP) is taking the federal government to court to challenge provisions in the Income Tax Act (ITA) that restrict charities’ freedom to make public recommendations for changes to laws and policies in pursuit of their charitable goal. Under the ITA, this is considered ‘political activity’ and is restricted to 10% of a charities time or resources.
“CWP has been granted charitable status to alleviate poverty but we are prevented from doing it effectively. We are permitted to make recommendations to change laws and policies in pursuit of our charitable goal but only to government officials. If we email our networks to communicate these recommendations, speak about them in public or use social media, they’re defined as restricted ‘political activity’, and we risk losing our charitable status”, commented Leilani Farha,CWP’s Executive Director.
Because CWP makes its recommendations public in its projects, CRA has announced its intention to revoke CWP’s charitable status. CRA has agreed not to do so, until the courts decide on the constitutionality of these restrictions.
CWP and many other charities were audited for political activities under the previous government. Upon election, Prime Minister Trudeau issued a mandate letter directing Ministers of Finance and National Revenue “to allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment… This will include clarifying rules governing “political activity” with an understanding that charities make an important contribution to public debate and public policy.”
In 2016 a consultation panel was appointed by the Minister of National Revenue to make recommendations regarding the participation of charities in political activities. The panel recommended that the restrictions in the ITA be removed “to explicitly allow charities to fully engage without limitation in non-partisan public policy dialogue”.
CWP is asking the court to find that the restrictions on charities violate the right to freedom of expression under section 2(b) of the Charter and to provide the government with 12 months to amend the ITA in keeping with the panel’s recommendations.
For further information or interview requests, contact Laura Neidhart at 613-293-2446. Ms. Farha will be attending the hearing on Monday and will be available for media requests.