In May 2016 we found out that Cathy Hawara, the Director General of the Charities Directorate, had received a promotion and become the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch of the CRA. Cathy had been Director General of the Charities Directorate for approximately six years.
Cathy was an exceptional Director General. I first met Cathy when she had only on the job for a few days. While she did not have a background in charities, she was a quick study and very interested in listening and learning. Cathy has been very approachable and open to various suggestions for improvements to the work of the Charities Directorate.
Cathy understood that the regulation of charities in Canada is a very important task. In addition to the almost $250 billion spent by charities in Canada every year, the sector plays a vital role in our society. The sector is diverse with over 86,000 charities, many of which are completely volunteer run.
Cathy has done an excellent job of moving the Charities Directorate forward in terms of transparency and compliance. She has worked on the implementation of the ineligible individual rules and continued the crackdown on a small number of people who are abusing registered charities. During her tenure, the problem of abusive charity gifting tax schemes has been reduced substantially.
A major modernization program was launched by Cathy a few years ago to move the Charities Directorate to electronic systems, including for filing of charity applications and the T3010 Registered Charity Information Return. The Charities Directorate has worked hard on publishing guidance to charities as to how CRA views certain issues. The Charities Directorate has consistently worked to improve their website by updating old content, making guidance more accessible and providing regular updates on its work. During her tenure. thousands of Federal charities changed their objects and moved to the new Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA).
She had to deal with and make the best of the questionable Harper government focus on charities conducting political activities. Based on everything we saw, she acted in a highly professional and fair manner which mitigated the potential risk to the charity sector.
Cathy was a steady leader in a time where other charity regulatory bodies such as the Charity Commission of England and Wales and the Tax Exempt Division of the IRS were largely in disarray. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission until recently was under threat of being shut down completely. The threat of terrorism has always been present but under Cathy’s leadership the Charities Directorate has always maintained a balanced approach to dealing with the scourge while not undermining legitimate charitable operations in Canada and abroad. We have also not seen in Canada the precipitous decline in public confidence in the charitable sector that we have seen in countries such as England. This can in part be attributable to the effective regulation of charities in Canada and Cathy’s leadership.
Although I was worried when I heard the news that Cathy was being promoted, we are fortunate that although Cathy is no longer the DG, she has been promoted to a senior position that ironically the new Director General will report to! I think it is safe to say that Cathy will continue being involved with the regulation of registered charities in Canada and that will be good for the sector and its important work.
The Charities Directorate has recently announced a new Director General to fill the vacancy created by Cathy’s promotion. His name is Tony Manconi. He became DG as of July 25, 2016. CRA has advised that “Mr. Tony Manconi will be joining the Charities Directorate. He has been in the public service since 1988, having worked at Secretary of State Canada, Human Resources Development Canada and, since 2005, the Canada Revenue Agency. He is currently serving as Director General of the Collections Directorate.” Mr. Manconi is going to have some very big shoes to fill and we wish him well.
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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.