The Charity Commission of England and Wales just released a report entitled Campaigning and political issues arising in the run-up to the 2015 General Election. When they put it out they probably did not think that it is such a special report. It explained that in the 2015 UK election there were complaints about UK charities, the Charity Commission investigated and what the result was. Nothing that exciting, except in Canada if the CRA was to prepare a similar report and provide it to either MPs or the public then people at CRA would go to jail.
You see in Canada every registered charity is entitled to privacy, except for limited disclosures that CRA can make, and this allows a small number of "charities" to get away with abusing the system and CRA not being able to say anything about it until after the charity has been revoked (which can in some cases take unfortunately 10-15 years). It also allows people to claim that CRA is unfairly targeting certain charities - and the public is not allowed access to the important information that the charities and CRA have and for the public to make up its own mind as to whether the allegations are true or not.
Of the 5 charities that CRA has proposed revoking for inappropriate political activities not one has released the correspondence between CRA and the charity. Ironically, it is only the charity that is allowed to make public the correspondence and the CRA allegations.
So I encourage Canadians to read the Charity Commission report Campaigning and political issues arising in the run-up to the 2015 General Election and ask the following questions:
1) Are Canadian adults mature enough to handle such information? (Probably best not to ask that question if you are attending a Star Wars premiere!)
2) Would democracy be improved if important information (like audits relating to political activities or concerns about massive fraud) was provided to the public?
I have proposed on a number of occasions that we need changes to the transparency regime in Canada. Here is an example of a submission to the Finance Committee.
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.