(March 22, 2021) On March 17, 2021, The Charity Report covered a critique of the Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector’s (ACCS) first report by charity lawyer Mark Blumberg.
The committee highlighted three areas of priority: abolishing the requirement for the direction and control when a charity provides resources for a non-qualified donee, that appeals to decisions made by the Charities Directorate be able to proceed to the Tax Court of Canada for a new hearing, and that there be a ‘home’ for the sector within government.
“If, after spending millions of dollars, this is what the committee came up with,” Blumberg said in a blog post “my suggestion would be that the committee should be shut down and the funds that would have been spent on this committee should rather be used for capacity building activities in the charity sector. Alternatively, the composition and priorities of this committee requires a significant change.’
A partner at the law firm Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto, Mark Blumberg works almost exclusively advising non-profits and registered charities.
On March 18, sector co-chair Hilary Pearson responded to a series of questions posed by The Charity Report on her behalf and on behalf of co-chair Bruce MacDonald with the following statement:
“As you know Bruce and I serve as two volunteer co-chairs of an Advisory Committee which reports to the Minister of Revenue and which is also co-chaired by a senior official of the CRA. The advice and recommendations in this and subsequent reports which the 14 volunteer sector members of the ACCS are working on now are framed as advice to the Minister. The Canada Revenue Agency has posted many details publicly including the mandate of the Committee, summaries of all of our meetings to date and the Report itself, which includes a rationale for each of the recommendations that the Committee was ready to make at this stage. Other Reports will deal with a number of issues which the Committee’s working groups are consulting on now.
“The ACCS will continue to speak with people across the sector as we frame further recommendations.”
You can find the information referred to by Pearson by visiting the Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector.
The questions posed to the co-chairs by The Charity Report included:
- In terms of direction and control, the argument currently being used is that loosening restrictions enables foundations to give to Black, Indigenous and other groups who are not charities. While this is true, the effort to ease up regulation on direction and control has been going on for a long time.
- What would you say to people who think wealthy foundations are using the needs of racialized minorities as a ‘cover’ to loosen up regulation to suit their own purposes, especially since recent research shows foundations have not made a priority of the needs of racialized minorities? Why should those communities believe foundations care about them now?
- Could you talk a bit about why people working in the charity sector shouldn’t see this as a path to less regulation for people who have the most wealth, and who will use it to benefit their own interests, as opposed to the interests of the neediest of Canadians?
2. With everything going on this year, how did being able to “appeal decisions made by the Charities Directorate to the Tax Court of Canada for a new hearing” make the top three priorities? Why was that seen as so important?
3. A piece of the report that has created a bit of a stir is the introduction to additional comments which begins with “in all other aspects of Canadian life, the law is fully tested, discussed, debated and ultimately evolved to reflect the needs of society, but not as it relates to charities.” Why does the committee believe, after all that we’ve witnessed this year, that the law reflects the needs of society?
4. The issue of diminishing trust has been a huge one for charities this year. The public’s trust in charities is diminishing as is the trust of people who work inside charities and are reporting toxic and unsafe work environments, especially if they are racialized or female. The report the committee published seems incongruous with the concerns that have been expressed by many in the sector in the past 12 months. Tell me why you think people working in charity, and the people charities serve, should trust that the ACCS is conducting its work on their behalf instead of on behalf of wealthy and influential donors?
These questions remained unanswered.