Steelworkers’ president suggests outspoken critics of Harper government targeted by Revenue Canada
A union-backed charity that wants Canadian mining companies held accountable for overseas misdeeds is among the latest to be targeted by the Canada Revenue Agency for political activities.
The Steelworkers Humanity Fund Inc. is still awaiting a verdict from the agency, nine months after an auditor showed up at the Toronto office and hauled away several binders of sensitive material.
The fund, with about $1.3 million in annual revenues, has supported Canadian food banks and provided disaster relief abroad since its founding in 1985. But the charity’s support of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability or CNCA, to which it gave about $37,000 in 2013, appears to have piqued the agency’s interest.
“We’ve been part of this CNCA, and no doubt that’s part of the rationale” for the audit, Steelworkers president Ken Neumann said in an interview from Toronto. “It’s quite clear that it’s targeted to folks that speak up sometimes against the government’s policies.”
The Canada Revenue Agency launched a series of 60 political-activity audits in 2012, after the Harper government publicly tagged some environmental charities as radicals and money-launderers and possibly linked to terrorists. The federal budget that year earmarked $8 million for the special audits, later increased to more than $13 million through to 2017.
Audit net widens
The first wave of such audits hit environmental charities, but the net has since been widened to capture human-rights organizations, anti-poverty groups, international-aid and religious groups. Other labour-supported charities have been targeted previously, including CoDev and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Many charities undergoing political-activity audits have been outspoken against Harper government policies, and the audits have tied them in knots, draining resources. At least one group has lost its coveted charitable status, while others report self-censoring their public statements for fear of aggravating the auditors.
The Canada Revenue Agency, however, says its choice of which charities to audit is made at arm’s length from government, with no input from any cabinet minister, including Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay. The agency declined comment on the Steelworkers audit.
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