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Imagine Canada

Strong Charities. Strong Communities.

CRTC releases anti-spam guidance for charities

Friday, July 4, 2014

As you are aware, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) came into effect on July 1, 2014. CASL imposes new requirements on “commercial electronic messages,” including a requirement that the senders of such message must have either express or implied consent from any recipients. The regulations implementing the law include an exemption for such messages sent by or on behalf of registered charities, where the primary purpose of the message is to raise funds for the organization. Imagine Canada fought hard for this exemption in order to mitigate the effects of CASL on charities.

Latest development on this file

In October, 2017, we made a submission making three recommendations to the the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology for their Review of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law. 

Previous action on this file

In 2014, CRTC issued FAQs for registered charities and a statement regarding the CRTC’s general approach to enforcement. We are pleased to report that the CRTC’s guidance is better aligned with Imagine Canada’s FAQs issued on June 5th and with Industry Canada’s policy intent to interpret the exemption broadly. We trust that the information provided by the CRTC will provide additional guidance to charities as they assess, based on their individual circumstances, the extent to which they need to use their finite resources to ensure compliance in those instances that may fall beyond the exemption granted.

When the exemption was introduced, it was clear to us from comments made by the Minister of Industry and his staff that it was meant to be interpreted broadly – not only including messages about activities that would fall under the Canada Revenue Agency definition of fundraising, but also including messages sent by, for example, arts organizations promoting their programs and offering tickets for sale.

In order to seek clarity and confirmation, we sought advice from the authors of the regulations and exemption at Industry Canada. Our Issue Alert of June 5 provided information about the exemption that had been confirmed by Industry Canada.

In our Issue Alert of June 24, we reported that the CRTC – the body responsible for enforcing CASL – had raised questions about the breadth of the exemption and the interpretation provided by Industry Canada. We sought an immediate meeting with the CRTC to obtain clear, concise, and comprehensive guidance specific to registered charities that would be consistent with Industry Canada’s intent.

On June 25 we met with CRTC officials responsible for enforcing CASL and with the Industry Canada officials responsible for drafting the law and regulations. Industry Canada made clear their intent and confirmed that the exemption was meant to be interpreted broadly.

In the days following that meeting, we worked constructively with both Industry Canada and the CRTC to further discuss the implications of the legislation and the regulations for charities. We also worked with them towards the goal of ensuring that the exemption for messages sent by or on behalf of a registered charity where the primary purpose of the message is to raise funds for the organization is interpreted and enforced as per the policy intent.

In our Issue Alert of June 30, we informed charities that the CRTC had committed to issuing guidance by July 4th and that we would update organizations as new information became available. We also invited charities with suggestions for additional FAQs for the CRTC to consider in the coming months, to share them with us at publicpolicy@imaginecanada.ca.

Next steps

We will monitor the implementation phase of the legislation and its impact on charities and will continue our constructive dialogue with Industry Canada and the CRTC, as new information or concerns come to light in the weeks and months ahead. We wish to thank all of our partner organizations for their assistance in getting the word out to charities across the country or for sharing their concerns and questions with us to better inform our efforts on this file.

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