2 min

Queer-Ed groups overlooked

Charitable purpose definition expanded to include anti-racism

Canada Customs And Revenue Agency (CCRA) is expanding its guidelines for what counts as charitable purpose – and that adds up to tax savings for some.

And while groups engaged in anti-racism will now be able to issue tax receipts for donations, queer education and anti-homophobia organizations are left out in the cold.

John Fisher, director of advocacy for Egale Canada says the decision to allow anti-racism groups to apply for charitable status is “a welcome evolution.

“There have been many worthwhile organizations that have been denied charitable status [because of their anti-racism focus]. At the same time there are other equality seeking groups that are being disallowed. There is still room for further expansion.”

The government has provided a discussion paper and is inviting feedback until Mon, Mar 31.

Trish Gorie, CCRA’s manager of Policy And Communications Division for the Charities Directorate, says that previously “there was no enunciated policy but we had historically not accepted any groups [with an anti-racism mandate]. Really though, this is a broadening from what we had before.”

But when asked if anti-homophobia policies would be next Gorie says, “I wouldn’t want to commit to that.”

Nick Mulé, spokesperson for the Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario (CLGRO), says the government has missed an opportunity by excluding queers from the policy.

“This speaks to a hierarchy of human rights. Some forms of oppression get the attention of government and others don’t,” he says. “It is quite valid and wonderful that they are [adding anti-racism]. Racism is still a serious issue in this country. But from a broader human rights perspective it still excludes a variety of groups. It is a selective approach to looking at human rights issues.”

Mulé will be one of the panelists at an upcoming forum organized by CLGRO on the ways the government limits queer and political organizations.

“The federal government fails to recognize queer communities as a distinct cultural group – we just don’t fall into that category in their minds. Policy makers don’t see us that way… we are off the radar when they are developing policies.”

The government is also reviewing its definitions of what constitutes political activity, which has traditionally disqualified groups for charitable status. Certified charities are limited in the types of advocacy and lobbying they can engage in without threatening their status. So groups such as CLGRO and Egale aren’t eligible to be registered as charities because of the nature of their work. This prevents them from being able to provide tax receipts to donors and limits the grants they can apply for.

At the same time, religious groups like Focus On The Family are recognized as charitable organizations and able to offer tax benefits to donors, for example, while carrying out anti-same-sex marriage lobbying campaigns.

In an interview with Xtra last February, Fisher, then Egale’s executive director, said, “We would not want to obtain charitable status if it meant that we would not be able to properly represent our community.”

* To review and comment on the addition of anti-racism to CCRA’s definitions of charitable purpose check out

* CLGRO’s forum, Restricting Queer Voices: Keeping The Queer Movement On A Leash Tue, Apr 1 in the auditorium of the 519 Community Centre (519 Church St).