Musings —09.25.2011 12:20 AM—
The way in which the federal government deals with charities, that is.
And if you believe in the work that charities do — or if you even cling to the notion that freedom of speech should be applicable to non-governmental organizations, too — then you should be concerned about what is quietly going on behind bureaucratic curtains up in Ottawa these days.
Federal bean-counters define a charity as a corporation or a trust that carries on, what else, “charitable purposes” — meaning, an enterprise set up “for the benefit of the public,” or a “sufficient segment” of the public.
The leading case on charities goes back to the 19th century. There, no less than the House of Lords ruled a legitimate charity could be involved in the relief of poverty, or advancement of education or religion, or “other purposes beneficial to the community in a way the law regards as charitable.”
If that all sounds to you that a faceless bureaucrat (or a vengeful politician) can bend the word “charity” to fit whatever subjective criteria they’d like, you’d be right. The rules governing charities in Canada have always been pretty loosey-goosey.
And therein lies the problem.