The Charities Directorate of CRA has a guidance entitled “Political Activities” for Canadian registered charities. CRA notes in the guidance that it”... provides information for registered charities on political activities and allowable limits under the Income Tax Act (the Act). It also provides a framework that explains how we distinguish between political and charitable activities. In addition, it seeks to clarify the extent to which charities can usefully contribute to the development of public policy under the existing law. The guidance in this policy statement is based on subsections 149.1(6.1) and 149.1(6.2) of the Act and on general principles of charity law and court decisions that define what is charitable and what is political. This information applies to all registered charities.” While CRA’s Guidance is pretty good and will probably be improved over the next few months or years - it is of little assistance to a charity if they don’t know it exists or don’t read it.
Here is a link to the guidance. http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/plcy/cps/cps-022-eng.html
Here is a copy in PDF of the CRA Policy Statement on Political Activities by Canadian Charities CPS-022 - September 2, 2003 so that you can download it easily to your computer.
Keep in mind the CRA’s note about this being a general guide:
“Under the Act, a registered charity must devote all of its resources to charitable purposes and activities. Notwithstanding this general rule the Act allows a small amount of resources to be used for political activity. This policy statement focuses on resources used for political activity and the limits imposed by the law. It also uses plain language to discuss legal concepts relating to charities. Therefore, you should use the information in this policy statement as a general guide only. In cases of appeal, a decision about an organization’s activities will ultimately depend on how a court interprets the facts of a specific situation.”
You can always contact CRA, by name or anonymously, and ask them about a particular factual situation. Their contact information is here: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/cntct/menu-eng.html
If you require legal advice with respect to charities and compliance issues you can contact us at: http://www.canadiancharitylaw.ca/index.php/pages/contact_us/
Do you require legal advice with respect to Canadian or Ontario non-profits or charities?
Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.