The Hebrew word for charity – tzedakah – means justice. It’s a better definition than the English, because charity shouldn’t mean simply giving to the poor. It means (or should) seeking a righteous, fairer world. Justice, in other words.
In the Jewish tradition, then, charity isn’t merely something you do if you feel like it. It is, instead, an obligation owed to God. If you are to live a godly life, you have an actual ongoing responsibility to make the world a better place. This is why, I think, we consistently see so many Jews at the forefront of charitable ventures in Canada – to them, charitable work is an article of their faith.
Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper don’t think Environmental Defence, Tides Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation are trying to make the world a better, fairer place. They don’t think those charitable groups should exist, even.
Environmental Defence, Tides and the Suzuki folks are now being audited by the Canada Revenue Agency. More than a half-dozen environmental groups are being similarly audited, in fact. The Conservatives say the environmental groups are too political (which is a lie). The environmental groups say the Conservatives are using their power to silence them, or put them out of business (and that’s the truth).
Environmental Defence has been around for 30 years. Its mission is to “inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.” Sound too radical or political to you? Me neither.
A few years back, they tested various MPs bodies’ for toxins. One of the participants was Conservative cabinet minister Tony Clement – he apparently didn’t consider Environmental Defence too political back then. Thereafter, his government smartly decided to declare one of those toxins, triclosan, a threat. Again, sound like a bad political thing? Nope.
The Suzuki Foundation – with which David Suzuki himself is no longer affiliated, because he didn’t want the group to be targeted by the Harper regime, so great is their hatred for him – does stuff like “science-based research, education and policy work” about the environment. Radical? Um, no.
Environmental Defence, the Suzuki folks and others aren’t wild about the oil sands – and, last time we checked, neither is the President of the United States, who calls them “destructive.” Being unenthusiastic about the oil sands is what you’d expect an environmental group to think, no? It’s not a big deal.
Not to Flaherty and his ilk. The Finance Minister recently even insinuated that environmental groups are honest-to-goodness terrorists. “If the critics of the government are terrorist organizations and organized crime, I don’t care,” he told Postmedia, in a story that was about charities. Seriously? If I were legal counsel to an enviro group, I’d sue Flaherty’s Irish ass for linking my client to terrorism.
But that’s me. The environmental groups, you see, are too nice. They are quietly going along with the audits. They should, instead, be fighting like holy Hell. The Conservative, meanwhile, should back the Hell off – because their obsession with these environmental groups will ultimately persuade Canadians that (a) they’re scared of the environmentalists’ message and (b) they favour free speech, but only for them and their friends.
They’re charities, doing good work. If they are engaging in terrorism or money-laundering, put ‘em in jail, and throw away the key.
But if they’re not? Back off, Jimbo.
Justice demands it.