Position on federal proposal preventing charitable status to certain anti-abortion organizations
In the months leading up to the 2021 federal election, the Liberal Party of Canada committed in their platform to preventing “charity status to anti-abortion organizations (for example, Crisis Pregnancy Centres) that provide dishonest counseling to women about their rights and about the options available to them at all stages of the pregnancy.” The Deputy Prime Minister has recently specified that the government plans to introduce amendments to the Income Tax Act in order to realize this commitment.
Imagine Canada is opposed to this manner of proposed legislative change, on the basis that it is both unnecessary and misguided. Honest conduct by charities is critical to maintaining Canadians’ trust in and support for the charitable sector, and federal regulation is already able to require a registered charity to be honest in how it provides services to the public. For example, Charities Directorate provides guidance on the promotion of health and charitable registration, stating that when charities provide health information, the content must be “reasonably unbiased, factual and sufficiently detailed.” Similarly, the guidance on public policy development and dialogue activities requires that information shared with the public on policy matters “must be truthful, accurate, and not misleading”. We support the use of existing measures to intervene in cases where charities are suspected of dishonest conduct; additional legislative measures are not required to intervene in cases of dishonesty related to pregnancy and abortion specifically.
Should an amendment to the ITA be sought that sets a standard for truth-telling by charities, we are concerned our sector may become vulnerable to interventions driven by the political whims of future governments. The often aspirational, ethical and moral nature of charity work has led to substantial progress in our society (for example: same-sex marriage, climate change, anti-tobacco regulation and road safety), and the proposed change could become a precedent that is used by other governments against organizations advancing new or different ideas. This could pose a significant problem for future public benefit advancements.