Canada Revenue Agency moves to muzzle animal charities

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2011:

OTTAWA–The Canada Revenue Agency on February 5, 2011
published new regulations governing animal charities which would
revoke the nonprofit status of any who oppose vivisection, hunting,
trapping, the fur trade, seal-clubbing, animal agriculture, and
any other legal use of animals.
“Under common law, an activity or purpose is only charitable
when it provides a benefit to humans,” the Canada Revenue Agency
regulations assert. “As far back as the 19th century, the courts
have stated that promoting the welfare of animals ‘has for its
object, not merely the protection of the animals themselves, but the
advancement of morals and education among [people].’ To be
charitable, the benefit to humans must always take precedence over
any benefit to animals. If a purpose or activity that promotes the
welfare of animals harms humans, or has a real potential to cause
significant harm to humans, it is likely not charitable.”

The Canada Revenue Agency interpretation of common law
governing charities parallels the interpretation that the United
Kingdom has applied since the 19th century to constrain the
opposition of major animal charities to vivisection and fox hunting,
in particular. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the Indian
Revenue Agency, however, have taken a broader view of the same
common law precedents, and have not imposed a test of whether
activities benefiting animals benefit humans more.
The Canada Revenue Agency draft regulations recognize that
“Purposes that promote the welfare of animals may fall under the
advancement of education,” or qualify for nonprofit status by
“promoting the moral or ethical development of the community,
upholding the administration and enforcement of the law, protecting
the environment, [and/or] promoting agriculture,” but assert that
“Any benefit or potential benefit to the welfare of animals must be
balanced against any harm or potential harm to humans.”
“For example,” the Canada Revenue Agency draft regulations
state, “the courts have decided,” in the 1947 case National
Anti-Vivisection Society v. Inland Revenue Commissioners, “that
seeking to abolish vivisection is not charitable. This is in part
because, as the courts have put it, despite the suffering inflicted
on animals, the ‘immense and incalculable benefits which have
resulted from vivisection,’ and the ‘positive and calamitous
detriment of appalling magnitude’ that would result from its
abolition, outweigh any possible promotion of the moral and ethical
development of the community.'”
The Canada Revenue Agency draft regulations do not directly
mention trapping and sealing, but include an example making clear
that Canadian animal charities may not openly oppose them: “A
charity might offer courses in how to minimize harm to local wildlife
and ecosystems that tend to result from human activity. However, if
the charity were to try to convince people that certain legal hunting
practices were morally wrong and should be abolished, it would not
be advancing education in the charitable sense.”

Slaughter allowed

The Canada Revenue Agency draft regulations will prevent
Canadian charities from opposing animal slaughter and consumption,
but note that in a 1946 case, “The courts have recognized promoting
‘the humane slaughtering of animals’ for food as charitable. Such
purposes would not try to prevent the animals from being processed
for food, as permitted by animal welfare law, but would seek to
minimize any pain or suffering felt by the animals.”
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service allows charities to engage
in political activity to a limited extent, usually interpreted as
spending less than 5% of their cumulative program budget to influence
legislation over a three-year interval. This allows charities to
either lobby for legislation or exercise political influence in
election years, but limits their ability to do both without
incorporating a separate not-tax-exempt subsidiary.
In Canada, “Applicants will be denied registration if their
purposes are to oppose or change or retain a law or policy of a
government, or if their activities reveal that there is an unstated
political purpose,” a phrase which could apply to almost any subject
of advocacy. Continue the Canada Revenue Agency draft regulations,
“Examples of political, and therefore unacceptable, purposes for
charities or applicants promoting the welfare of animals include: to
pressure the federal, provincial, or territorial governments to ban
or restrict a particular hunting practice or consumer product; to
promote legislation to abolish the use of animals for scientific
research or to ban euthanasia of animals,” and “to strengthen the
laws protecting wildlife.”

Already muted

At the March 2011 ANIMAL PEOPLE edition deadline appartently
no major Canadian animal charity had posted or published any
criticism or statement of opposition to the new Canada Revenue Agency
draft regulations, perhaps because of the chilling effect of past
rulings depriving animal charities of tax exempt status.
Neither had any international animal charity with a Canadian
office spoken out against the new Canada Revenue Agency draft
regulations in any evident way, including the World Society for the
Protection of Animals, whose current board vice president, Dominic
Bellemare of Montreal, has three times run unsuccessfully for
Parliament as a candidate of the governing Conservative Party of
Bellemare in 2008-2010 was WSPA board president. Articles
published in the June and July/August 2008 editions of ANIMAL PEOPLE
pointed out that Bellemare–a 19-year WSPA board member–has rarely
if ever taken public positions on animal issues, has never
individually and explicitly denounced the seal hunt and wearing fur,
and was elected to the WSPA board after working for the Canadian
Ministry for External Affairs, which then and now led Canadian
governmental efforts to prevent the European Union from banning
imports of seal pelts and trapped fur.
The Ministry for External Affairs while Bellemare worked
there was headed by former Canadian prime minister Joe Clark, a
strong defender of sealing, trapping, and hunting. Bellemare
campaigned in 1983 for Clark, against Brian Mulroney. Elected
prime minister, Mulroney suspended the seal hunt in 1984. The hunt
resumed in 1995, a year after Mulroney left office.
Bellemare and Clark both told ANIMAL PEOPLE that Bellemare
did not work on animal issues while working for the Ministry of
External Affairs, but neither would say what Bellemare did work on.


The Canada Revenue Agency began actively revoking tax-exempt
status of animal and environmental charities in the early 1990s. In
1992 the agency, then called Revenue Canada, revoked the charitable
status of the Animal Defence League of Canada, and in 1999 it
revoked the nonprofit status of the Fur-Bearers Protection
Association, both 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.
In December 2001 the CBC public affairs program Disclosure
reported that the Canada Revenue Agency routinely targeted charities
for audits after they were denounced by Charity Watch, whose
president, George Barkhouse, also headed online entities called
Hunt Action Canada and Hunt Action U.S. Among the charities audited
were the Schad Foundation, which helped to halt spring bear hunting
in Ontario and British Columbia; the Sierra Club of Canada; the
Federation of Ontario Naturalists; WSPA; the Toronto Wildlife
Centre; Ecotrust Canada; and the David Suzuki Foundation.
–Merritt Clifton

\ The Canada Revenue Agency will accept comment on the new
draft regulations for animal charities until March 31, 2010, c/o
<>; fax 613-948-1320; or
Charities Directorate, Canada Revenue Agency, Ottawa, Ontario K1A
0L5, Canada.

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