Advocacy and Public Policy
We are often contacted by charities seeking to insulate themselves from potential legal action by disgruntled former members of their organization. This typically results from situations where the individual has been kicked out of the organization for specific misconduct. Although, for the most part, these disputes result in acrimonious name calling from time to time, these matters are litigated. A recent decision of the Alberta Court of Appeal is one circumstance where an irate former member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses took the matter to Court.
When the Liberals came into power last year, the new Minister of National Revenue announced that she was putting a halt to the “political activities” audit of charities that the previous administration had been conducting for the past few years. In practice, this meant that the charities in line to be audited under the program were given a reprieve, but those that were already in the course of being audited were not. One of the latter charities, Canada Without Poverty, is now bringing a constitutional challenge against the political activities law.
An interesting interview with Eugene Soltes, the Jakurski Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, appeared in the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge publication. According to the school, “his research focuses on how individuals and organizations confront and overcome challenging situations”. “Why White-Collar Criminals Commit Their Crimes” is an ‘author interview’, Soltes having written Why they do it: Inside the mind of the white-collar criminal. I have not read the book, but suggest that those with continuing responsibility for detecting and/or investigating fraud might want to do so.
For most Canadians and Canadian Charities the Anti-Terrorism rules are a red herring to be reviewed only in the rarest of situations, if at all. However, recent events in Israel provide some motivation for Canadian Charities doing work abroad to take a closer look at these rules. According to international news reports the Israeli authorities have arrested the Gazan head of an international Christian charity on the allegation that he was funneling international aid donations to Hamas.
Non-profit organizations may not consider it priority number one, but reviewing your legal compliance will protect your organization’s finances, your reputation, your directors and donors—even your organization—from shifting legal sands.
The holidays are upon us and it is time to take a well deserved break. We are signing off for 2014 with a list of the top 10 most read posts published in 2014. Although Canada’s anti-spam legislation dominated the list, accessibility, internal controls and charities were also very topical.
Earlier this month, the Federal Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether the Minister of National Revenue had erred in confirming the decision of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to deny the Humanics Institute’s application for charitable status. CRA denied the application on the basis that: 1) The Humanics Institute’s purposes were too broad; 2) the activities stated in support of its purposes were not charitable; and 3) it did not demonstrate that it would have direction and control over certain of its resources, as its proposed funding of a foreign scholarship could not be considered to be the organization’s “own activities” or the funding of a qualified donee.
Volunteers and unpaid interns are not covered by the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and therefore are not subject to minimum wage and other requirements of the legislation. However, on September 30, 2014, the Ministry of Labour released the results of its recent blitz where it was determined that a number of unpaid interns in various sectors of the economy were actually employees covered by the ESA, and accordingly, entitled to minimum wages, vacation pay and other protections afforded to employees under the ESA. While the Ministry of Labour did not specifically target charities and non-profits in this blitz, there are many lessons to be learned due to the large number of volunteers and unpaid interns working in these sectors.