Readout: Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector – January 30, 2023

The Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector (ACCS) met virtually for a two-hour meeting on January 30, 2023.

Geoff Trueman, Assistant Commissioner of the Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), opened the meeting by taking a moment to acknowledge the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg People and recognized that: “colonization, assimilation, stolen land and actions taken in the past have disrupted Indigenous well-being and despite this, Indigenous communities remain committed to leading the world.”

He also introduced Co-chair, Sheherazade Hirji, Former Resident Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network, Afghanistan. Sheherazade Hirji opened the discussion by acknowledging that she is based in Toronto, land of many First Nations. She reflected on some current events in the media, and spoke about the importance of the work that the committee is doing to build and strengthen communities. She noted that “I’m often reminded of the work that needs to be done to continue to create strong healing communities and I think we have to remember that bigger picture while we get caught up in the technicalities of the work we do.” Co-chairs Bruce Macdonald and Hilary Pearson also took time to speak to the membership about the great progress they’ve seen so far and their excitement about the future.

Each working group was given the opportunity to present their progress to date, and ask for feedback or questions from the group. The working groups and discussions were as follows:

Relationship between the CRA and the charitable sector working group:

Members: Owen Charters (Lead), Martha Rans, Christian Bolduc, Geoff Trueman, Althea Arsenault, Minnie Karanja, Elisabeth Baugh

Owen Charters presented some of the tasks completed. The working group has consulted with CRA representatives to better understand the client service function and charity registration processes. They also reviewed the reference question related to the CRA’s relationship with marginal, vulnerable, or Indigenous populations, which were discussed in Report 2 and Report 3. The next steps are to discuss findings from their meeting with CRA representatives, as well as review the existing recommendations as they relate to their five priorities.

Definition of charity and charitable purpose working group:

Members: Bob Wyatt (Lead), Sheherazade Hirji, Anver Emon, Hilary Pearson, Sharmila Khare

Bob Wyatt presented his working group’s priority, which is: to determine how best to expand their understanding of what is charitable in 21st-century Canada. The group found that there are different views on whether a statutory definition of charity is desirable. At this time, they are still consulting with external stakeholders and considering their input. There may be other avenues to consider when determining an understanding of what is charitable, and those need to be explored further and discussed. The next steps for this group are to continue gathering information, hear from stakeholders and experts, and discuss options.

Transparency and data related to other qualified donees and non profit organizations working group

Members: Tanya Rumble (Lead), Jean-Marc Mangin, Bruce MacDonald, Pierre Leblanc, Kevin McCort

Tanya Rumble shared her working group’s priorities, which were: greater transparency, taxonomy and current landscape. Some of the tasks that her group completed were reviewing a list of the various data recommendations that have come recently, including the report of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector; ACCS Reports 1, 2, and 3; and, the Federal Data Working Group. The group also decided on an overarching goal: to be forward thinking and predictive, rather than solely looking backwards. As a next step, this group will review and analyze a historical summary on registrations of qualified donees, other than charities, to determine if there are any trends.

Additionally, they will review some of the following areas of focus to form a basis for recommendations:

  1. The technical meaning of “charity” and “Non-Profit Organization (NPO)”:
    The issue of widespread confusion and the lack of understanding around these two terms means large portions of the non-profit sector tend to be unseen and unknown.
  2. The taxonomy of charities and NPOs:
    Is it possible to align the work of all government departments to use consistent taxonomy for charities – a universal system of language and classification? For example, if Statistics Canada is collecting information, can they use standardized terms so that the language is consistent with the CRA’s? If taxonomy is improved around charities and NPOs, this may permit thematic data to be collected – the Government of Canada could use this data to assist in the development of public policy.

Granting guidance working group

Members: Minnie Karanja (Lead), Anver Emon, Bruce MacDonald, Jean Marc Mangin, Martha Rans

The committee struck an ad-hoc working group, led by Minnie Karanja, to prepare a written submission for the CRA’s public consultations related to the draft guidance: Registered charities making grants to non-qualified donees. The group met in December to share initial thoughts about the guidance and their approach to develop the submission for the CRA. All members of the ACCS were also invited to a presentation earlier in January on the CRA’s drafting process of the guidance, where they had an opportunity to ask questions.

At the January 30 meeting, there was a substantive discussion amongst the membership concerning their submission to the CRA. It was agreed that all members would have an opportunity to provide input and feedback prior to the document being submitted to the CRA on behalf of the ACCS.

Details of the March 30 and 31 ACCS in-person meeting were discussed and Sheherazade Hirji and Geoff Trueman closed the meeting with their final remarks.

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