Flaherty cites terrorism when asked why CRA is auditing environmental charities

Photo of Jim Flaherty via Wikimedia Commons

A flicker of hesitation crossed Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's face as he paused to formulate a response to a question that many have been asking since last year: why is the federal government focusing its financial audits on charities that oppose oil pipeline projects?  

When he responded to the Vancouver Observer, he almost appeared to lump environmental advocacy groups in the same category as charities funded by terrorism. 

“We don’t choose who is audited by the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). That’s up to the CRA," Flaherty said. “We do give policy direction; and one of the policy directions is that charities are not to be permitted to accept money from terrorist organizations, in Canada”. 

Flaherty then began explaining that the CRA is cracking down on terrorist financing through charities, and on groups accepting money from countries listed as a supporter of terrorism, such as Iran and Syria.

He did not mention that of the 1 per cent of charities that the CRA audits to verify if they spend over a tenth of its budget on 'political activities', seven major environmental organizations such as the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence have been targeted for auditing. If the CRA rules that these charities have surpassed the 10 per cent limit, they could have their charitable status revoked and be shut down.  

Despite being asked about the CRA's audits of environmental charities, Flaherty skirted the topic and continued speaking about charities that accept money from illicit sources.

“Charities are not to be permitted to accept money from sources that are illegal. We also have FINTRAC, which reports to parliament through me and it tracks transactions from around the world...I think if Canadians give money to charity they expect it to be for charitable uses and not other uses”.

The federal NDP slammed the Conservatives, accusing them of using the CRA audits to intimidate environmental charities.

"These environmental groups have gone through super audits – not the usual routine CRA audits, the most rigorous auditing by the CRA. This is the 'A team' that comes into town from Ottawa, sent to rattle the cages," NDP MP Murray Rankin said.

"They (the CRA) haven’t found anything yet, but they have cost these groups an incredible amount of money in audit fees -- which takes the spending away from what the groups are supposed to do, which is environmental education and advocacy".

"This a serious allegation - to use the state tax system to against government opponents" said Rankin. "But the dots are starting to connect, especially combined with the BC Civil Liberties Associations allegations against CSIS and the RCMP."

The CRA audits just one per cent of all charities in Canada per year, or roughly 700-800 charities, to investigate if they are spending more than 10 per cent of their budget on 'political activities'. 

“I don’t audit – the CRA audits. And there is a rule that the CRA follows about the percentage that is permitted to be used for work that is not directly charitable” said Flaherty.

According to the CBC, at least one group -- Environmental Defence -- has received its report back from the CRA and they are appealing it. Sources said that the CRA report threatened to revoke their charitable status.

Although a number of spokespeople for environmental charities have denounced the audits for trying to "silence the opposition", Environmental Defence spokesperson said there was little in in today's budget to cause concern.

“There was nothing specific in today’s budget," Environmental Defence spokesperson Tim Gray said, "but we remain on high alert for the wording of the budget bill to be tabled around February 28.” 

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Comments

CRA

Hi Matt,


Thanks for covering this story.  You state: "The CRA audits just one per cent of all charities in Canada per year, or roughly 700-800 charities, to investigate if they are spending more than 10 per cent of their budget on 'political activities'."

You make it sound like these 1% of audits are specifically for this purpose.  Is that the case?  Or do they audit 1% in total and that's one of the things they check for.  A link to stats - if available - would be helpful.

Also I think Canadians - left, right, up, down - are interested in Mike Chong's critically important 2013 Reform Act.  I would like to see continuing coverage of this issue from VO.

Thanks

Psychopathic Minister in Office

At what point can we declare him unfit and too mentally unstable to hold office?

Will the CRA also be auditing

Will the CRA also be auditing the Fraser Institute and the pro-pipeline charities? Just asking.....

Accusations of this sort are

Accusations of this sort are hardly new - back in the 60s when my late grandfather was a federal Conservative candidate when the Liberals were in power he was stone cold convinced that his audit was directly linked to his candidacy based on some of the questions he was being asked by the auditors.

After six months of daily fielding questions from an auditor (for whom he had had to provide a fully furnished desk in his office) he was told he qualified for a small refund!

That doesn't excuse the present situation by any means but Flaherty should know better than to say these things and to let CRA get on with the job.

No question the Feds are trying to remove charitable status wherever possible (I'm on the national board of one that lost charitable status within the last 5 years) but this should be a matter for CRA not the politicians.

 

CRA

David McNeil wrote:

Hi Matt,


Thanks for covering this story.  You state: "The CRA audits just one per cent of all charities in Canada per year, or roughly 700-800 charities, to investigate if they are spending more than 10 per cent of their budget on 'political activities'."

You make it sound like these 1% of audits are specifically for this purpose.  Is that the case?  Or do they audit 1% in total and that's one of the things they check for.  A link to stats - if available - would be helpful.

Also I think Canadians - left, right, up, down - are interested in Mike Chong's critically important 2013 Reform Act.  I would like to see continuing coverage of this issue from VO.

Thanks

Hi David, This information came from the CRA representatives in yesterday's budget lockup, who weren't the best informed on their own programs, and certainly didn't have the stats. I wish I had firmer numbers to work with and will be following up with them for more information. To clarify based on their information provided - The federal government gave the CRA a budget to audit charities, and Min. Flaherty was very clear on the record the targeting of environmental charities, to look at their political activities. As more movement happens in the Tory backbenches regarding Chong's bill - I will have more to report on! Thanks for reading. Contact me anytime.

In Canada, section 83.01 of the Criminal Code[1] defines terrorism as an act committed "in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause" with the intention of intimidating the public "…with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act." Activities recognized as criminal within this context include death and bodily harm with the use of violence; endangering a person’s life; risks posed to the health and safety of the public; significant property damage; and interference or disruption of essential services, facilities or systems.  It is useful to briefly contrast this definition with those adopted by other nations operating under law systems similar to that of Canada.  According to the British Terrorism Act (2006), terrorism refers to the use and threat of action "designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public" and "made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause."  Similar to the legal definition of terrorism in Canada, violence against people; damage to property; endangerment of life; and risks to the health or safety of the public are the key actions addressed within the Act. In the United States, terrorism is defined as consisting of activities that "involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State….intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; influence the policy of a government by intimidation; or…affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping."  Finally, the legal definition of terrorism in the European Union can be found in the EU Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism (2002) which identifies terrorism as activities with the aim of "seriously intimidating a population, or; unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act, or; seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation." Activities that may be deemed terrorist under this framework include attacks on people resulting in death, kidnapping or hostage taking and extensive destruction to a government or public facility.  Although it is widely acknowledged that attempts to establish a definition of terrorism that transcends various national borders have been largely unsuccessful (Staiger et al. 2008), the definitions presented clearly show that some consistency can be found in the various definitions employed by the governments of many Western democracies. Given these similarities, the approaches adopted by these governments toward the issue of victims of terrorism may provide some key insights on the various ways other governments can address the multiple issues that affect victims of terrorism. 

Terrorism

A terrorist is a scientific minded person who disagrees with Steven Harper or any of his muppets that are bought and paid for by international corporations.  We need to stand up for Canada and preserve our resources for future generations instead of selling under world prices.  Our government should be run by the people and not by lobbyists.

The Federal Government is

The Federal Government is accusing donors to environmental legal agencies of being involved with terrorist groups. Meanwhile, we have the Charbonneau Inquiry revealing links of TORY sponsors to the MOB. 

Pot calling the kettle black. 

Well let's face it, this

Well let's face it, this government has one objective and that is appease the oil kings, and they don't care what they have to do to get to that point. They will not stop at anything to achieve this, even if they are breaking laws.

Awful

This move is disgusting. The Harper Team, and other enviro-slammers, are real slime balls. Their record of hatred of science and nature speaks for itself - i.e. the "book burning" of aquatic science and the whole DFO defunding, and muzzling of government scientists.

I just read several of Vivian Krause's articles on her "Fair Questions" blog and it is as bad as can be. She has a thing for supporting Farmed Salmon, and so she slams David Suzuki and Alexandra Morton... but she does it with misleading ideas such as citing "how great the 2010 Fraser River Salmon run was" - as evidence that Sea Lice are not real.... crazy stuff, but ignoring the record breaking low numbers of Salmon in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 is plain irresponsible.

  She doesn't seem to care that wild salmon are teetering on the brink of survival. Disgusting.

   We are at war against an evil cabal of journalists who have no creds left and don't care if they do, and political people working for corporations.

   "WE", as in, I am IN, fighting for nature.

 

 

 

 

Add to that...

cherylb wrote:

Will the CRA also be auditing the Fraser Institute and the pro-pipeline charities? Just asking.....

... the Manning Centre and "Ethical Oil"?

charities audits

"In Canada, section 83.01 of the Criminal Code[1] defines terrorism as an act committed "in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause" with the intention of intimidating the public "…

 

Sounds like the modus operandi of the Conservative party, actually, as relates to their treatment of people and groups interested in the health of the environment.

More criminal Con shenanigans.

Our illegitimate illegal government in on election fraud doesn't stop the campaign of terror for a moment.

Conflict of interest, abuse of office, abuse of power, subversion of due process, and outright crimes are the order of the day for the Crime Minister and his flunkies.

Illegal spying?  Harper ordered yet more?


Jail, repeal, severe audit, with mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed while In Office, or for those complicit therein, with harsh financial penalties for monies lost, stolen, or misappropriated, and assets and profits clawed back.


End the corruption in Canadian politics.

 

Let's call a spade a spade

These charities are being assassinated. Big oil has made complaints about them, and the Harper government has chosen once again to bow to the wishes of it's corporate masters.   Government for the people by the people please, not this sham democracy.

I know it hurts to lose, but suck it up.

drakkos137 wrote:

Our illegitimate illegal government in on election fraud doesn't stop the campaign of terror for a moment.

Conflict of interest, abuse of office, abuse of power, subversion of due process, and outright crimes are the order of the day for the Crime Minister and his flunkies.

Illegal spying?  Harper ordered yet more?


Jail, repeal, severe audit, with mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed while In Office, or for those complicit therein, with harsh financial penalties for monies lost, stolen, or misappropriated, and assets and profits clawed back.


End the corruption in Canadian politics

 

 

Still fighting the last election.  It's over with, get over it and wait for the next one.  

 

I kn

 

I know it hurts to lose, but suck it up.

It's interesting...

...that nobody's telling us what the CRA's beef is with Environmental Defence. Is something being hidden from us?