Federal government affirms freedom of speech for charities in Canada
October 26, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA – The Government of Canada changed course yesterday through a Ways and Means motion indicating that it will “remove the limits on political activities for charities, so that they may pursue their charitable purposes by engaging in non-partisan political activities and in the development of public policy.”
The notice was applauded by Canada Without Poverty (CWP), a non-partisan charity dedicated to the relief of poverty, which is also led by a Board of Directors with lived experience since 1971.
“This is a huge victory for the charitable sector and Canada as a whole,” said CWP’s Executive Director, Leilani Farha.
“The government has chosen to protect the free speech of Canada’s civil society by amending the Income Tax Act. We applaud the change in their approach to one that will strengthen Canadian democracy and is in line with the decision in our Charter challenge on the freedom of expression of Canadian charities.”
CWP launched a court challenge in 2016, seeking a declaration that provisions of the Income Tax Act which restrict political activities are a violation of the right to freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. CWP was one of many organizations audited by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) under the previous government and the CRA had announced its intention to revoke CWP’s charitable status, finding that it had communicated publicly with its constituencies in order to recommend changes to laws, programs, and policies, such as an anti-poverty strategy, living wage, or action to combat discrimination against people who are homeless.
In July, the Ontario Superior Court ruled in favour of the challenge by CWP. In his decision, Justice Morgan outlined the critical importance of freedom of expression for people living in poverty and the necessity of their contributions and public participation for the relief of poverty. The government announced an appeal of this judgment in August.
“From the beginning, our case has been about changes to laws, policies, and programs to relieve poverty and bringing the voices of people with a lived experience of poverty to the policy table,” said Ms. Farha.
“For almost seven years, we’ve been under threat because we’ve engaged poor people in public policy dialogue. With this shift, this government is acknowledging what CWP has been saying all along: public dialogue is necessary to end poverty and governments and civil society must be able to work together for everyone in Canada.”
About Canada Without Poverty
Canada Without Poverty (CWP) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, and charitable organization dedicated to ending poverty in Canada. The organization was created in 1971 as an outcome of the Poor People’s Conference, a national gathering of low-income individuals, under the name National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO). For nearly 50 years, CWP has been championing the rights of individuals experiencing poverty and marginalization through research, awareness-building campaigns, public policy development, and educational programming. See more at: www.cwp-csp.ca.
For more information or interview requests, please contact:
Canada Without Poverty
Phone: 613-293-2446 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org