On Monday July 16, an Ontario Supreme Court judge ruled that the specific limits on the non-partisan political activities of charities outlined in the Income Tax Act and applied by the Canada Revenue Agency infringe on the constitutional right to free expression.
Tides Canada celebrates the ruling as a step towards ending the chill in the charity sector stemming from the $13.4-million political activities audit program launched by the previous federal government in 2012.
We believe that all voices should be heard in important public policy issues that affect Canadians. And we believe that charities have a right to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from threat or political interference.
Charities are called on to promote or advocate for their mission as a part of their day to day operations. When needed, Tides Canada and our grantees work to inform public policy to further our missions.
In 2015, the Minister of National Revenue was given a mandate letter that instructed her to ensure that charities in Canada are “free from political harassment” and clarify “the rules governing ‘political activity,’ with an understanding that charities make an important contribution to public debate and public policy.” An expert panel was appointed to examine political activities by charities. The panel made a series of recommendations in early 2017. In this year’s budget, the government committed to respond to the panel’s recommendations in the coming months.
We hope that the Ontario Supreme Court ruling sets the stage for the government to fulfill its commitments to allow charities to engage unfettered in public policy debate.