Charity Action Team hits charity status of Canadian hunting groups

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2004:

OTTAWA–“The Charity Action Team is
calling for immediate action from the Canada
Revenue Agency to investigate sport hunting and
fishing clubs and potentially revoke their
status,” CAT cofounders Nancy Zylstra, Anita
Krajnc, and Marisa Herrera jointly declared on
March 1, 2004.
“Numerous clubs and federations devoted to
hunting, fishing, and trapping have been awarded
the benefits of charitable status, yet their
activities stretch the bounds of what most
Canadians can be reasonably expected to consider
charitable,” charged CAT in an investigative
report entitled Conservation or Contradiction:
Should Hunting and Fishing Clubs Have Charity
Status?
“We question the validity of these
organizations as ‘charities’ in a number of
areas,” CAT continued, looking in depth at the
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the
British Columbia Wildlife Federation, the
Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, the Canadian
Wildlife Federation, and Ducks Unlimited Canada.
Also identified were the Alberta Fish and
Game Association, Manitoba Wildlife Federation,
New Brunswick Wildlife Federation, Newfoundland
and Labrador Wildlife Federation, Nova Scotia
Wildlife Federation, Ontario Wildlife
Foundation, and the Prince Edward Island
Wildlife Federation.

“When soliciting donations,” CAT
elaborated, “some hunting and fishing
conservation organizations downplay hunting,
even to the point of misleading the public,
perhaps because they are fully aware that killing
animals for sport is not popular with the
majority of Canadians. In their literature,
these groups insert words which can reasonably be
expected to confuse the misinformed, i.e.
‘conservation,’ ‘management,’ ‘heritage,’ ‘wise
use,’ ‘outdoor,’ ‘enhancement,’ etc.
“Some hunting and fishing groups will use
the words ‘conservation’ and ‘wildlife
management’ interchangeably with ‘hunting,’
depending on the audience. When terms such as
‘wildlife management’ are used to imply hunting,”
CAT asserted, “it is not always apparent to the
uninformed public.
“Most of the organizations we reviewed
filed their returns using the category code: ’54
– Protection of Animals.’ Perhaps, given our
research, the category would be more accurately
reflected as ‘Protection of the Hunting of
Animals.’ These organizations’ conservation
efforts focus on ensuring that there is game for
them to hunt and fish. Manipulating wildlife
populations to meet this goal is not only
acceptable but applauded by these groups. The
modern environmentalist’s vision of conservation
is quite different and includes a naturally
balancing ecosystem, not a stocked and
manipulated environment solely for the enjoyment
of sport hunters.”
CAT argued that the pro-hunting charities
it investigated not only mislead the public but
also fail to fulfill the govermentally required
duties of charities. “The charities that we cite
in this report often claim education as one of
their charitable activities,” CAT observed,
objecting that their “educational materials” are
“biased in favor of promoting hunting and
fishing,” and that the courses some of them
teach are oriented toward getting more Canadians
to hunt, trap, and fish.
“The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
guidebook, Registering a Charity for Income Tax
Purposes (T4063), states that an organization
will not qualify,” CAT noted, if the
organization focuses upon “Persuading the public
to adopt a particular view,” or “Bring-ing about
or opposing change in the law.”
Pointed out CAT, “Some of these
charities are very politically active. The
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
recently sued the Ontario government over the
cancellation of the spring bear hunt,” and also
provided an “example of partisan politics” in
hosting a “Conservative Candidate Forum” at its
2002 annual general meeting.
The CAT claims were documented with 136 footnotes.
CAT released Conservation or
Contradiction to news media ten months after
submitting it to the Canada Revenue Agency.
“There is little evidence the agency has taken action,” said Zylstra.
The CAT position was immediately
denounced by former British Columbia prime
minister Bill Bennett, who still serves in the
B.C. legislature, but was praised by the
ProNature Network, of Boulter, Ontario, whose
web site added criticism of the pro-hunting
positions of the World Wildlife Fund.
“We actively oppose hunting for sport and
all hunting in our parks and so-called
‘protected’ spaces,” the ProNature Network web
site elaborated. “The ProNature Network began in
1996 in response to the Ontario Lands for
Life/Living Legacy initiative and as a result of
unpleasant encounters with hunters. Through a
long and painful education, we discovered our
naivete regarding the state of wildlife in
Ontario. We were not aware of the death grip that
the hunting industry has on government and
wildlife ‘management.’ For example, less than
3.5% of Ontarions hunt. According to a poll
conducted by the hunting industry itself, 8% of
Ontarions want an outright ban on hunting in
Ontario. Even so, our legislature recently
enshrined the ‘right to hunt.'”
Conservation or Contradiction is in
effect a counterattack against more than a decade
of efforts by pro-hunting and trapping
organizations to impeach the nonprofit status of
animal and habitat advocacy groups.
In December 2001 the CBC public affairs
program Disclosure revealed that “Charity Watch,
the organization responsible for a rash of
complaints that has left environmental and animal
rights charities reeling, is the work of a
single Toronto agitator funded by the gun lobby,”
summarized Mitch Potter of the Toronto Star.
Said the Disclosure report, “George
Barkhouse, the president of Charity Watch,
could be considered political himselfÅ Barkhouse
was also the president of two online hunting
groups: Hunt Action Canada and Hunt Action
United States. He resigned from the positions
shortly before we interviewed him.”
Disclosure reported that the Canada
Customs and Revenue Agency routinely targeted
charities that Barkhouse denounced for audits,
including the Schad Foundation, which helped to
halt spring bear hunting in Ontario and British
Columbia; the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation;
the Federation of Ontario naturalists, the World
Society for the Protection of Animals, the
Toronto Wildlife Centre, Ecotrust Canada, and
the David Suzuki Foundation.
The National Post reported in November
1999 that the audit of the Schad Foundation
followed “a call by the Canadian Outdoor Heritage
Alliance, a non-profit group for hunters,
anglers, and trappers.”
COHA, an umbrella for other pro-hunting
organizations, was formed earlier in 1999 by Jim
Lawrence. Lawrence was a pro-hunting columnist
for the Sherbrooke Record, of Sherbrooke,
Quebec, during the same years (1978-1986) that
ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton handled the
western half of the environmental beat for the
Record, Whether Lawrence worked in coordination
with Barkhouse is unknown.
Barkhouse, meanwhile, had earlier
history of note. Enzo DiMatteo of Now magazine
in April 1997 exposed his record of activism
against anti-racism and pro-social justice
groups. In at least one instance, DiMatteo
reported, Barkhouse tried to steer members of an
organization called Anti-Racist Action “toward
right-wing think tanks like the Mackenzie
Institute.”
Toronto Globe and Mail columnist John
Barber reported in February 1995 that, “If a
reporter phones Toronto Humane Society spokesman
Jack Slibar to ask what’s happening, the prime
information they receive is a fax entitled
‘Mackenzie Intelligence Advisory: The Animal
Rights Movement in Canada.’ Mr. Slibar is a
research fellow of the Mackenzie Institute.”
Slibar became the most visible influence
at the Toronto Humane Society in 1991, after the
Fur Institute of Canada and the Fur Trade
Association of Canada used the threat of seeking
revocation of charitable status and the Toronto
pound contract to force the society to rescind
bylaws that barred from membership anyone working
in the fur, animal research, meat, pet, and
animal entertainment industries, along with
people who recreationally hunt, trap, or fish,
and their spouses.
In 1992 Slibar persuaded the Toronto city
council to cease trying to enact a ban on leghold
trapping within city limits.
The Slibar administration ended in 2002,
but the Toronto Humane Society has yet to return
to the activist profile it had before 1991, when
it employed a virtual Who’s Who of the Canadian
animal rights movement.
The Toronto Humane Society take-over by
the Slibar faction may have become the blueprint
for further hits by hunters and trappers against
pro-animal charities.
Later in the 1990s Revenue Canada, as
the Canada Revenue Agency was then called, took
away the charitable status of the Animal Defence
League of Canada, the Fur-Bearers Protection
Association, and Friends of Clayoquot Sound,
all for allegedly spending too much money on
“political” activity.
“Revenue Canada’s threat of canceling any
group’s charitable status if they criticize the
fur industry has effectively silenced all of the
big groups in eastern Canada. They are now
afraid to speak out,” Fur-Bearers cofounder
George Clements charged in an April 2003 letter
to ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Fur-Bearers had been nonprofit since 1952. After
it could no longer issue receipts for tax-exempt
donations, Clements told Colin Perkel of
Canadian Press, “We lost a lot of members. We
lost thousands and thousands of dollars because
we lost our charitable status.”

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