Tides Canada recognized as leader in transparency and governance

Despite ongoing attacks over foreign funding and political activity, the respected organization was one of several charities honoured by nonprofit Imagine Canada.

As the accusations continue to fly around the integrity of Canadian charities, national nonprofit Imagine Canada has named Tides Canada one of the country’s top organizations in terms of transparency, governance and good management.

Tides Canada is one of 17 renowned Canadian charities and nonprofits recognized through Imagine Canada’s new Standards Program, launched Tuesday to help build public confidence in the sector. Other groups accredited through the program include the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, the SickKids Foundation and World Vision.

"Tides Canada is proud to be a part of this impressive list of Canadian charities and non-profits that embody excellence in administration, transparency, and governance," said Tides Canada board chair Jodi White, in a release.

In addition to governance and transparency, the Standards Program aims to recognize charities’ performance in important areas such as ethical fundraising, financial accountability and volunteer engagement.

For Marcel Lauzière, president and CEO of Imagine Canada, the launch of the program comes at a criticial time for charities. Just last week, Lauzière penned an open letter to Environment Minister Peter Kent, in response to very serious and repeated allegations that charitable organizations in Canada were engaging in money laundering.

In his letter, Lauzière urged Minister Kent to retract his comments unless he had solid proof of wrongdoing, insisting that the accusations “do a grave disservice to the two million Canadians who work in the charitable and nonprofit sector, the thirteen million who volunteer their time, and to the millions of Canadians who give so generously each year to the organizations and causes in which they believe.”

Through Imagine Canada’s new program, Lauzière hopes to raise awareness about Canadian nonprofits doing exceptional work, and to provide charities with resources and opportunities to improve.

"Now, more than ever before, it is important for charities and nonprofits to keep the hard-earned confidence and trust of the public," he said in a statement.

"An organization that has been accredited through this program has demonstrated that it has put in place the policies, procedures and practices to make it a truly effective organization."

Charities facing ongoing scrutiny

Kent’s money laundering allegations are just the latest in a string of attacks against the charitable sector. Since January—as environmental groups and other stakeholders prepared for the start of regulatory hearings regarding the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline—politicians and pro-oil lobby groups have been slinging criticism at green charities over foreign funding and overly political activity.

For months, Tides Canada has been at the centre of this debate. The organization has been repeatedly named by Conservative senators in the ongoing Senate inquiry around foreign funding of charities, described as one of the “qualified bad, not to mention ugly” foundations by Senator Percy Mockler. And since the government announced $8 million in this year’s budget for the Canada Revenue Agency to investigate charities’ political activity, the organization has undergone even more intense scrutiny and multiple audits.

Even before the Senate debates kicked off earlier this year, Tides was a major target for blogger Vivian Krause, whose research into U.S. tax data revealed details about the group’s foreign funding—details that have formed the basis for many of the Tories’ arguments.

According to Krause, “Tides, and the U.S. foundations that fund it, have incredibly deep pockets.” She claims they have used these deep pockets to undermine the Canadian oil industry, and despite the group’s assurances of financial transparency, she says their funding “hasn’t exactly been out in the open”.

In April, Sun News host Ezra Levant told the Observer that Tides Canada specifically was involved in money-laundering, and said they were “renting out their charitable number to any anti-oilsands political group, and granting their donors anonymity.” 

“They believe in opaqueness, not transparency,” Levant said.

Tides Canada CEO Ross McMillan shot back at these attacks, noting that the group tracks and reports all of its political activity on tax returns.

“Just to put our oilsands and pipeline work in perspective – it accounts for three per cent of our work last year,” McMillan said in an interview last month.

“It's clear that our presence in the oilsands and pipeline issue has been grossly overstated in the media. That said, we're proudly supporting organizations with concerns about them.”

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