New CRA Guidance on Upholding Human Rights and Charitable Registration

July 1, 2010 | Kate Lazier

The Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) recently finalized its proposed guidance on the protection of human rights and charitable registration.  We discussed the proposed guidance in detail in the Miller Thomson LLP Charity and Not-For-Profit May 2009 newsletter.  In the Guidance the CRA officially recognizes upholding human rights can be a charitable purpose in and of itself in Canada.  Therefore, CRA will register as charities organizations that seek to encourage, support, and defend human rights to the extent that these rights have been secured by domestic or international law.

While the final Guidance on Human Rights and Charitable Registration does not de-emphasize the focus on existing legal regimes, it does recognize certain charitable activities that do not require an existing local legal regime.  CRA recognizes relieving suffering of victims and providing education on human rights as charitable activities.  Similarly, CRA acknowledges that increasing public awareness of human rights issues is a charitable purpose.  Such charitable activities include:

  • Facilitating debate and discussion through workshops and presentations on human rights;
  • Distributing material that increases the public’s knowledge about human rights issues and abuses; and
  • Creating awareness campaigns for both individuals and organizations in the private sector, encouraging the former to respect each other’s human rights, the latter to implement ethical codes of conduct.

The Guidance on Human Rights and Charitable Registration is an improvement from the proposed version.  The Guidance on Human Rights now appreciates that a charity that has the advancement of religion as its purpose does not have to add an explicit human rights object in order to protect human rights.  The Guidance clarifies that it is sufficient that a religious charity make evident in its application for registered status the connection between the religious doctrines that support human rights and the purposes of the organization.

The Guidance also features the addition of an appendix of generic questions and answers, and identifies what charities need to be aware of with respect to Canada’s anti-terrorism measures.

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