CRA is seeking public comments on their charitable guidelines for animal welfare groups

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CRA is seeking public comments on their charitable guidelines for animal welfare groups

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The Canada Revenue Agency (the agency that oversees charitable registration in Canada) is seeking public comments on their new guidelines for groups involved in animal welfare work.

http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/plcy/cnslttns/pwcr-eng.html

I may not have written about this before on this blog, but I have on my own personal blog (and here), and it seems to me that the CRA regulations for what work is considered “charitable” is designed to protect the status quo and restrict work that might actually create social change.

If you are an animal advocate, you will likely be troubled by a great deal of this document. Here are a couple of passages that struck me:

2. Under common law, an activity or purpose is only charitable when it provides a benefit to humans. For some purposes and activities, including those relieving the suffering of animals, the courts have decided that the benefit is the promotion of the moral or ethical development of the community. As far back as the 19th century, the courts have stated that promoting the welfare of animals “has for its object, not merely the protection of the animals themselves, but the advancement of morals and education among [people].”

You may not realize this, but our charity laws date back to the 1800s. And the way precedence is determined, changes in social norms are not taken into account.

22. To be registered as a charity, an applicant must also show that it operates for thepublic benefit. Showing that it operates for the public benefit is especially important for an applicant whose purposes fall under the fourth head of charity. 

23. Promoting the welfare of animals is only charitable when it results in a benefit to humans. Purposes that benefit animals, but not humans, are not charitable.

Here’s the bit that really got me:

28. Some activities may promote the welfare of animals but also cause, or have the potential to cause, harm to humans. The harm could take many forms, including physical or economic harm, or direct or indirect harm.

29. Any benefit or potential benefit to the welfare of animals must be balanced against any harm or potential harm to humans when deciding whether an organization or activity that promotes the welfare of animals is charitable. The public benefit resulting from promoting the welfare of animals must clearly outweigh any harm or potential harm to humans.

Any activity which may indirectly cause “economic harm” to humans is by definition not charitable. This would likely include efforts to end any activities which are legal but harm animals, such as hunting, trapping, animal testing, factory farming, and so on. Pretty much anything that any animal rights activist would want to work towards.

How then is it possible for a Canadian charity to advocate for veganism – a real solution that has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of animal suffering? Canada’s charity laws effectively prohibit this sort of work.

Basically, it seems that in order to work on fundamental change to the way animals are perceived and treated (meaning: working at the root of the problem) organizations cannot be registered charities. And, if an organization is already a charity, their hands are basically tied.

There are a lot more troubling passages in this document, mostly troubling because of how they highlight the position of animals in our society. For example, “the courts have recognized that promoting agriculture, including livestock breeding, is charitable.” So it is charitable to support the system that creates suffering for animals while it is not charitable to work to end a system which exploits animals and causes them to suffer.

Should animal charities in Canada give up their charitable registration to do real and meaningful work to end animal suffering? Are they playing the government’s game of supporting animal agriculture and the status quo by buying in to the charitable system? What do you think?

Please take a minute to send your comments to Canada Revenue. Public opinion does matter.


7 Comments

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February 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

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Becci

February 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Holy crap, this is really disappointing. Will definitely write.

yannis

February 7, 2011 at 5:15 am

1800…….were in 2011 now ..things got to change .its very sick.

AL

February 11, 2011 at 9:56 am

This is clearly designed to get rid of anyone who wants to help animals. It seems ok for churches, governments, and corporations to steer for whatever social change they want but obviously anyone who tries to do anything worthwhile in life that does not promote the interests of corps are to be stopped. This is CONTROL in the worst form. I can see right through it.

IslaKay

February 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm

The laws seem very segregating to me. How can you separate the well-being of humans from animals and the environment. We are one ecosystem.

These laws seem to have been created for human supremacy, much like laws of past racial supremacy.

A great example of why carefully sidestepping ‘the law’ can be effective .

Janice Gillett

March 1, 2011 at 9:41 pm

This is right off of the Humane Society of Canada’s website “Donations to HSI Canada are not tax-deductible.
Non-profit organizations in Canada which lobby to change government
policy are generally denied charitable status.”

Note Fur bearers had there status threatened and chose to have it revoked so they could continue fighting for change. Loosing 50% of there donation base doing so..

If population is supporting the cause and it is based on our progress threw education how can the government penalize a charity for that?? I mean i understand they need to set law so we don’t have a bunch of lunatics supporting some hate crime or prejudice charity but progress evokes change so i am confused how as a charity we cannot lobby for change in a democratic society??

I just can’t get my head around this .. Legal use of animals is all about Industry ( politics??) and yet the people are not allowed to challenge our own laws ??? Gads if one has never voted before start now ..we are in serious trouble here

GK

March 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Canada isnt really all that democratic. Its official motto is: peace, order and good government.

Might as well be the motto of a dictatorship it sounds so phoney and uninspiring.
And for hundreds of years the de facto government in Canada was the Hudson’s Bay Company-I think the legacy of that continues today.

People need to get angry at their government and be more community centered–and I dont think Canada has a legacy for that. It isnt polite to criticize the government the way people in the UK, US, or other commonwealth countries do. The fact that we havent upgraded our animal treatment laws since the 1880s is proof of that apathy or lack of organization.Its shocking-but maybe that is because Canada doesnt engage in much self-analysis or self-criticism. It is ok to criticize the US but Heaven help you if you criticize Canada, the “land of peace.”

The anti-seal hunt activities were mainly led by people outside the country and I dont remember any Canadian celebrities standing up to challenge the government from inside the country like happened in the Uk with the fox hunt.

This problem also transcends animal rights issues. Canada pushed genetically engineered crops on its citizens without a vote.

And our internet costs are ridiculous-the government doesnt care-they will do anything to support business over the common good.
Politicians are corrupt everywhere but whenever I hear our politicians speak I cringe because they have a way of sounding even more idiotic than some extreme right-wing US congressman.
Lucky for them they can vote their own pay raise.

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