Twenty years ago, Canada Revenue Agency revoked The Fur-Bearers’ charitable status when we refused to stop criticizing the fur industry and the government’s support of it. Now a court has ruled the CRA’s policy that charities can only engage in political activities with 10% of their resources is arbitrary and in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And the excitement for what this means for Canada and the animals is growing.
In 1998, The Fur-Bearers, under the leadership of long-time directors Bunty and George Clements, was threatened along with four other organizations that our charitable status would be revoked if we continued in our political activism. While other groups backed down, we did not – and we lost our ability to issue coveted charitable tax receipts, resulting in an almost immediate 50% decline in donations.
But the recent court ruling in favour of charity Canada Without Poverty could mean that the 10% rule implemented by the CRA in 1985 could be gone, opening up the possibility that charities could engage in more political activism on behalf of their communities or missions.
In his decision, Justice Edward Morgan explored the arbitrary nature of the CRA’s rule and how it is prohibitive.
“…to ‘permit’ 10% of an organizations resources to be devoted to public policy advocacy is to prohibit 90% of that organization’s resources from being devoted to public policy advocacy,” he wrote in his decision. “…while counsel for the Attorney General contends…the measure ‘ensures that organizations with “registered charity” status can engage in some political activities’, a different reading of the identical measure is that it ensures that registered charities cannot engage in most political activities.”
Canada Revenue Agency has time to decide if they will appeal this, or if a new piece of policy will replace the 1985 10% rule. But it is entirely possible that this rule will be struck down permanently, allowing charities to partake in essential political engagement.
It is difficult to quantify how this will impact individual animals, the environment, and other issues of social significance. But we know that, despite our loss in 1998, we kept speaking for the animals with your support. We know that we’ve had major victories, saving the lives of fur-bearing animals in the wild and confinement. We know that we will always fight for the animals. And we’re excited for the prospect of what this ruling could mean for how much more we’ll be able to do.
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