Government consulting on changes to tax law provision on political activities

Association

Canada's current government is taking positive steps to repeal legislation that sought to limit charities’ participation in politics. In September, Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier promised new rules that are expected to provide clear guidelines for Canadian charities to influence public policy. Critics of restrictive policies introduced by the previous Conservative government argued that “harassing” audits of civil society organisations limited the public's ability to influence policy and targeted some of the government’s key political opponents, including anti-poverty and environmental groups. In August, Canada Without Poverty - an Ottawa-based charity - launched a constitutional challenge against a provision in the Income Tax Act which limits the political activities of charities. The organisation has been under tax audit for almost five years, and was heavily penalised in 2015 when the revenue authority found that 98.5% of the group’s resources were devoted to political activity (far above the 10% maximum). As a response to the outcry over the controversial restriction, the Liberal government is establishing a new five-member panel to research the issue. The panel will gather the views of the charitable sector through online and in-person consultations before proposing new rules.

Peaceful Assembly

A diverse range of demonstrations took place in Canada over the past few months. On September 13th, the streets of downtown Toronto were blockaded as demonstrators protested against the Dakota Access pipeline. These events in Canada mirror growing protests across the border in North Dakota, USA. It was unclear whether the group obtained a permit for their protest ahead of time, as required by law, but law enforcement officials in Toronto agreed that the protest was peaceful.

Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto protested outside a local police station on September 28th to support the family of Jermaine Carby, who was shot and killed by local police during a traffic stop in 2014. The Carby family also attended the demonstration on Wednesday to serve Peel police with a $12 million civil lawsuit.

Anita Krajinc, a prominent animal rights activist in Ontario, was arrested on 5th October while protesting against the slaughter of pigs outside a pork processing plant, after a truck carrying around 300 pigs to the facility overturned. In June 2015, Krajinc was charged with mischief after giving water to pigs headed for the same slaughterhouse.

10th October marked Canada’s Indigenous Day of Action, which saw multiple groups across the nation come out to demand that the Trudeau government follow through with its commitment to protect First Nation communities.

Expression

The British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association is challenging a section of the province's Election Act which restricts 'election advertising', arguing that this provision is too broad and could limit journalists, citizens and organisations’ freedom of expression. The organisation stated that:

'The law draws no distinction between “election advertising” to promote a candidate or party, and “election advertising” that expresses personal opinions regarding issues that a candidate or party may be associated with.'

Separately, a coalition of media and free speech organisations has spoken out to oppose a court order which requires a Vice News national security reporter to release all notes and communication between himself and a suspected Islamic terrorist to the Canadian federal police. VICE News' appeal against the order is due to be heard in February 2017, and has received the backing of organisations including the CBC, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Reporters Without Borders, and the Canadian Association of Journalists. These organisations’ have expressed their concerns about protection of freedom of expression, now that a temporary ban has been placed on publishing the news material.