Political activities of Canadian charities: how much is ‘too much’?

What are the rules for registered charities who want to engage in political activities?

Why It Matters

Historically, social purpose organizations have been denied charitable status in Canada with others being audited by the Canada Revenue Agency for exceeding a limit on ‘political activities’ or public policy advocacy. That rule has changed now — allowing charities to engage in more systemic work.

Imagine a charitable organization wanted to build awareness around poverty in Canada and its impacts on marginalized communities. 

Now imagine that the same organization is trying to fight for Canadians’ human rights to housing and basic living conditions — by creating awareness amongst a public that holds the democratic power to pressure the government to make better policy choices and changes that could actually help peoples’ lives. 

Canada Without Poverty (CWP), a non-profit charitable organization, works to do exactly that: through conducting research to create further awareness, public policy development, and educational programming. 

CWP was simply doing its job in 2014, when the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) came knocking on its door –– like dozens of other charitable organizations across the country –– in the name of the Income Tax Act (ITA

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