Here is some guidance from the CRA on activities which they will consider to be part of the charitable activities of a registered charity.
Here is an excerpt from CRA Guidance on Political Activities - CPS-022
“In the following hypothetical examples, the charity involved is called Healthy Retirement and was formed to promote the health of seniors in Canada. It has received a lot of media attention on its recently released, well-reasoned position on the hazards for seniors of using marked crosswalks. It concludes from its findings that a senior is four times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident with a car at a marked crosswalk than at an intersection with a stop sign or a light.
14.1 Charitable activities
The following scenarios outline allowable charitable activities.
14.1.1 Scenario 1 — Distributing the charity’s research
Healthy Retirement distributes the results of its research to the media, its members, other charities that specialize in promoting the health and welfare of seniors, the general public, and anyone interested in its findings. It also publishes its report in medical association journals and on its Web site, and highlights its release in a newsletter sent to subscribers. In these cases, all the resources devoted to the research and distribution of the findings are considered resources devoted to charitable activities because:
• the activities are connected and subordinate to the charity’s purposes;
• they do not contain a call to political action; and
• they are based on a well-reasoned position.
This is information that seniors can use to improve their safety and that decision-makers can use when deciding where and whether to use crosswalks or other traffic controls when considered in combination with other issues.
14.1.2 Scenario 2 — Distributing the research report to election candidates
Healthy Retirement decides to send its report to all candidates in a municipal election to inform them about the hazard marked crosswalks pose for seniors. This is a charitable activity because it is connected and subordinate to the charity’s purpose. In addition, no one candidate is favoured over another.
14.1.3 Scenario 3 — Publishing a research report online
A major finding of the report was that many motorists fail to respect the right-of-way at marked crosswalks. When Healthy Retirement publishes its report online, it highlights this fact and urges motorists to observe the law. This is still a charitable activity because it is encouraging people to respect the existing law on an issue that relates to its purposes.
14.1.4 Scenario 4 — Presenting the research report to a Parliamentary Committee
The research director of Healthy Retirement presents the charity’s findings to a Parliamentary Committee formed to hear representations on whether there should be stiffer penalties in the Criminal Code for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. She ends her representation with a recommendation (based on a well-reasoned position) that a driver failing to observe the pedestrian right-of-way at a marked crosswalk should be automatically subject to a charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, as a deterrent.
Even though the charity explicitly proposed a political solution to the problem, this activity is charitable because it is a communication to an elected official based on a well-reasoned position.
14.1.5 Scenario 5 — Giving an interview about the research report
Following her representation, as the research director of Healthy Retirement is leaving Parliament, she is stopped by the media and interviewed for television and radio about what she said and the report. She outlines her representation and repeats the conclusion that on the basis of the research the charity has done, the charity thinks that the number of pedestrian deaths involving seniors might be reduced if drivers that failed to recognize the right-of-way of pedestrians at marked crosswalks faced stiffer penalties. This interview is not a political activity because the research director did not arrange a media campaign to publicize the charity’s conclusion that the law should be changed; she simply explained what she said to the elected representatives.
14.1.6 Scenario 6 — Distributing the research report to all Members of Parliament
A bill is being debated in Parliament. The bill proposes a change to the Criminal Code that would allow a driver who fails to observe the pedestrian right-of-way at a marked crosswalk to be charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. Healthy Retirement gives Members of the House, for use in debate, a relevant well-reasoned position regarding how such a charge may encourage drivers to uphold the law and thereby save lives. This is a charitable activity because Healthy Retirement is informing elected representatives about its work on an issue that is connected and subordinate to the charity’s purposes and based on a well-reasoned position.
14.1.7 Scenario 7 — Participating in an international policy development working group
The research director of Healthy Retirement is asked to join a working group of the World Health Organization that is gathering together government policy makers, academics, and voluntary sector representatives from around the world to develop a charter to promote the health of senior citizens. Such an activity is connected and subordinate to the charity’s purpose. Although the director is taking part in an initiative organized by an international body, this kind of activity is considered to be like communicating with a public official because government policy-makers are also invited (whether or not they actually attend). Therefore, as long as the director’s contribution is based on a well-reasoned position, the resources of the charity devoted to developing such a charter are viewed as resources devoted to a charitable activity.
14.1.8 Scenario 8 — Joining a government advisory panel to discuss policy changes
A provincial government launches a Health Sector Initiative to look at ways of improving its service delivery to residents of the province. Healthy Retirement is asked to join an advisory panel with other health charities and public officials to discuss possible policy changes. Based on a well-reasoned position, Healthy Retirement suggests that the province should increase its number of long-term hospital care beds for the elderly. Although the charity is recommending a change in provincial health policy, the charity’s involvement in the advisory panel is a communication to a group of public officials based on a position that is well-reasoned. Therefore, the resources devoted to the activity are resources devoted to a charitable activity.”
Here is a link to CRA Guidance on Political Activities - CPS-022 http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/plcy/cps/cps-022-eng.html
As well 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.
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.