Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 18:42 EDT

CRA policy on ‘partisan’ charities stifles debate

November 19, 2012

TORONTO, Nov. 19, 2012 /CNW/ – PEN Canada today voiced concerns that
current law and policy on partisan activities by charitable
organizations muzzles political dissent and stifles public debate
within Canada. PEN was responding to a caution the Canada Revenue
Authority (CRA) recently issued to the Canadian Mennonite Publishing
Service (CMPS).

On July 23, CRA sent CMPS a letter warning that it was in danger of
having its charitable status revoked because certain articles it had
published were considered “partisan” in nature. The warning appears to
be based on subsections 149.1(6.1) and (6.2) of the Income Tax Act, which prohibit a charity from engaging in activities that include “the
direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party or
candidate for public office.”  These provisions are given a very broad
interpretation by CRA.

“Democratic governments should never get into the business of deciding
which political activities a given charity can pursue,” said Philip
Slayton, Chair of PEN Canada’s National Affairs Committee. “Obviously
unlimited political activity is not appropriate for a registered
charity with tax advantages, but the vague language of the Income Tax Act gives government officials discretionary powers that are overbroad and easily abused.

PEN Canada notes that recently CRA has warned or taken action against
charities that have questioned government policy – for example, the
David Suzuki Foundation, Physicians for Global Survival and Tides

PEN Canada calls upon the government to reconsider the issue of
so-called “partisan” activity by registered charities, and to remove
the ability of officials to threaten charities for imprecise or dubious

PEN Canada fights censorship and defends the right to freedom of


Source: PR Newswire