Posted on April 10, 2012 by Patrick Johnston
When a law firm advises its clients to be ‘very careful’ about something, the wise client will pay close attention. So it was for Canadian foundations and charities following introduction of the federal government’s recent budget. In a post-budget analysis, a prominent Canadian law firm concluded by saying: ‘given the political climate and these new rules, foreign charities funding advocacy in Canada and Canadian charities funding or doing advocacy (particularly environmental advocacy) should be very careful.’
The measure that prompted this warning was tucked away in a short section of the budget entitled Enhancing Transparency and Accountability for Charities tabled in Parliament on 29 March. In it, the government announced its intention to restrict the political activities of charities. In particular, it telegraphed its opposition to such activities being ‘funded by foreign sources’. In a budget devoted primarily to spending restraint, it was noteworthy that the government committed $8 million to the task of ‘enhancing its education and compliance activities with respect to political activities by charities’.
The budget provision caught many people off guard, but it wasn’t a complete surprise. For the previous two months, the federal government had been raising the bogeyman of ‘foreign funding and influence’ of the ‘political’ activities of ‘radical’ Canadian charities.
The ‘radical’ charities being targeted are Canadian environmental organizations. And the nefarious sources of ‘foreign’ funding in question? They are US foundations including the Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Tides Foundation and other environmental funders.
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