“Primary Purpose of Raising Funds” under CASL – What does it mean?

June 2014 | Susan M. Manwaring, Natasha Smith

Since the CASL Regulations were released in December 2013, there has been considerable debate and uncertainty as to the precise scope of the exemption from the consent and content requirements under CASL for electronic messages sent by or on behalf of a registered charity that have a primary purpose of raising funds for the charity.

On June 5, 2014, Industry Canada was reported as having provided its interpretation of CASL’s fundraising exemption.  Specifically, Industry Canada reportedly clarified that the phrase “primary purpose of raising funds” would apply to a number of activities engaged in by charities that extended beyond the Canada Revenue Agency’s definition of “fundraising”.  Over two weeks later, however, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) – the government agency responsible for the enforcement of CASL – has advised that there are inconsistencies in Industry Canada’s reported interpretation of the exemption and that of the CRTC. However, the CRTC has provided little detail as to the specifics of the inconsistencies.

Differing interpretations as a result of fairly vague language is just one of the frustrating complications inherent to CASL – a piece of legislation which was drafted by Industry Canada, but is to be enforced by the CRTC.  Likely as a result of the relatively ambiguous application of CASL to registered charities, the CRTC has confirmed it will be releasing a FAQ document pertaining to registered charities in the coming weeks.  While any guidance will be welcomed in the industry, the release of such a document after CASL’s in force date is decidedly unhelpful.

We will continue to keep you apprised of any new guidance with respect to CASL, but caution organizations that only interpretations released by CRTC should be replied upon as definitive in terms of how CASL will be enforced.  If you have any doubt, please contact us and we will advise you accordingly.

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