Topics: News, What's New from the Charities Directorate of CRA, Canadian Charity Law, Ethics and Canadian Charities
The CRA has posted an "Advisory on partisan political activities" as a reminder to Canadian registered charities that they must avoid all partisan political activities, although they are allowed to conduct certain political activities related to their objects and within in certain resource limitations.
Here is the Advisory from the Charities Directorate of CRA:
Advisory on partisan political activities
Since we are in an election period, we remind registered charities that they are prohibited from devoting any of their resources to partisan political activities. A partisan political activity is one that involves the direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party at any time, whether during an election period or not, or a candidate for public office.
The prohibition on partisan political activity is a long-standing requirement under the Income Tax Act. Charities are responsible for their resources, and must devote these resources to exclusively charitable purposes. Since they are well placed to study, assess, and comment on government policies that relate to their charitable programs, charities can engage in a limited amount of non-partisan political activities. However, charities that devote any resources to partisan political activities may no longer be eligible for registration. A charity’s resources include funds, property, and personnel (volunteers, employees, and directors).
Partisan political activity may include, but is not limited to:
- providing financial or material contributions to a political party or candidate
- making public statements (oral or written) that endorse or denounce a candidate or political party
- criticizing or praising the performance of a candidate or political party
- organizing an all-candidates meeting or public forum in a way that could be seen to favour a political party or candidate
- inviting candidates to speak at different dates or different events in a way that favours a candidate or political party
- posting signs in support of, or opposition to, a candidate or political party
- distributing literature or voter guides that promote or oppose a candidate or political party explicitly or by implication
- explicitly connecting its views on an issue to any political party or candidate
The restrictions on partisan political activities do not prevent volunteers, employees, or directors of charities from:
- helping in a political campaign, as long as they do this in their personal capacity and do not suggest they represent a charity
- making partisan political comments in public (including on social media), as long as they make it clear they are speaking in their personal capacity and not as a representative of a charity
Charities that use the Internet or social media to post information should ensure the information does not contain partisan political statements. Also, the information should not link to statements made by a third party that support or oppose a candidate or political party.
When a charity invites comments on its website, blogs, or on social media, it should monitor them for partisan political statements and remove, edit, or moderate such statements within a reasonable time.
For more information on political activities, go to Resources for charities about political activities, including Policy Statement CPS-022, Political Activities, and Partisan political activities, or call our Client Service Section at1-800-267-2384.
Here is a link to the "Advisory on partisan political activities". If you have questions about the appropriateness of charity's involvement in political activities you can call CRA or speak to your legal counsel. Also you might find this program we are delivering in September useful: Fundamentals of Political Activities by Canadian Registered Charities.
Here are some other resources that you might find helpful:
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.