Japan earthquake - what can Canadian charities do?

March 18, 2011 | By: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Mark Blumberg
Topics: News, Canadian Charity Law, Global Giving, Ethics and Canadian Charities, Avoiding 'Charity' Scams

The massive earthquake in Japan, apparently the biggest earthquake ever recorded in Japan, and the subsequent tsunami, have caused tremendous destruction. The problems with the nuclear reactors have cause further dislocation.  The Humanitarian Coalition is fundraising for Japan - you can find out more about them at http://humanitariancoalition.ca/ They are a Coalition of Care Canada, Save the Children Canada, Oxfam Quebec and Oxfam Canada. Some Canadian charities may wish to raise funds and provide relief to those affected and here are some suggestions to keep in mind in dealing with international disasters.

On February 28, 2011 I did a webinar with the Coordinator of the Humanitarian Coalition, Nic Moyer entitled “Responding to International Disasters: Fundraising and Coordination with Nicolas Moyer”.  You can watch the 1 hour webinar at: https://ocsa.webex.com/ocsa/lsr.php?AT=pb&SP=TC&rID=3061432&act=pb&rKey=dcef805e9eec9dae

Here is a CBC news item on “Aid agencies appeal for Japan donations”

Here is a CBC piece entitled “Beware Japan aid scams, province warns” which quotes me:

Just a reminder of the CRA’s Guidance “Canadian Registered Charities Carrying out Activities Outside Canada http://www.globalphilanthropy.ca/index.php/blog/comments/cras_new_guidance_on_foreign_activities_by_canadian_charities/

Also here are some resources on responding to international disasters that I wrote:

Donating to a Canadian charity in a disaster - suggestions to ensure funds gets to the most needy

DISASTER GRANTMAKING:  A Practical Guide for Foundations and Corporations revised by COF

Here is piece from the CRA guidance on foreign activities about disasters and people wanting to set up new charities:

“Appendix A – What should an applicant intending to carry out disaster relief or other foreign activities know?
Disaster relief
Following a natural disaster such as an earthquake or flood, many organizations want to provide immediate assistance and relief to those affected. As a result, the CRA often receives applications from such organizations seeking to be registered under the Income Tax Act.

Since the situation is usually urgent, priority is typically assigned to these files. However, before they can be registered as charities, disaster relief organizations must still meet the same legal requirements as all other applicants. Applicants must therefore be able to show how they will make sure that they are carrying on their own activities as required by the Income Tax Act, and also that they will direct and control the use of their resources.

Applicants should also be aware that in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the affected area can be quite volatile and dangerous. Local authorities may limit access to an affected area to well?established, experienced, relief organizations. Rather than establishing a new charity to respond to disasters, it is almost always faster and more effective for applicants to raise funds and support existing qualified donees that have the experience, resources, and infrastructure already in place to respond to disasters.”

Do you require legal advice with respect to Canadian or Ontario non-profits or charities?


Charity Lawyer Mark Blumberg

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.

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