Revenue Agency prevents Canadian Unitarian Council from working for justice
Politically motivated audits of civil society organisations, which began under the previous government led by Stephen Harper, continue to have a negative impact on the freedom of association in Canada. The Canadian Unitarian Council, a religious charitable organisation which was a vocal opponent of some of the Harper government's policies, has been forced by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to remove references to 'justice' and 'social justice' from its mission statement. The CRA claims that the organisation cannot include such vague references in its mission statement, as these could be considered to include 'political' work. It had been expected that the new government led by Justin Trudeau would relax measures, given that Trudeau had campaigned to set charities 'free from political harassment.' Despite the liberal shift in Canadian politics, the activities of religious-affiliated civil society organisations remain restricted.
The Canadian offshoot of America’s Black Lives Matter movement has gained increasing prominence this summer. On 24th July, Abdirahman Abdi, a Somali-born immigrant, died in hospital as a result of injuries sustained during his arrest by Ottawa police the day before. More than 500 protestors rallied in the Canadian capital to protest against race-based police brutality.
Separately, Black Lives Matter Toronto held a sit-in during the city’s Pride parade on 3rd July, calling on spectators to stand against police brutality and the culture of “anti-blackness” in Canada. Pride Toronto’s executive, Matthew Chantelois, resigned later in the month after facing heavy criticism from the city police and pride supporters for his acquiescence to the protestors’ demands.
In 2015, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), in partnership with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, launched a Charter of Rights challenge of the Anti-Terrorism Act, also known as Bill C-51. This bill, which drastically extended Canadian government agencies’ surveillance powers, has faced close scrutiny in recent months as liberal politicians pledged to seek its repeal.