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Modernizing the rules for charities: If not now, then when?

Julia SanchezI am writing you from the amazingly stunning Banff, where I am attending one of the bi-annual consultations with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) hosted by the Muttart Foundation. These consultations are a rare opportunity for charities and charity lawyers to unpack issues with CRA (and Finance) representatives, and explore possible better ways forward. This time, we are focusing on direction and control. We kicked off the 4-day affair with a CCIC presentation based on the findings of a survey that we designed on direction and control, and that 32 of our members responded to. The survey results pointed to areas where there is a need for greater clarity, but they also presented strong arguments for the urgent need to rethink the whole direction and control paradigm, to make it compatible with current thinking around development best practice and equitable partnership principles.

Last week, as I was starting this consultation with CRA in Banff, we launched a new survey to the combined memberships of all the provincial and regional councils and CCIC. This survey is on political activities, and the results will inform CCIC’s submission to the current consultation “to clarify the rules for charities’ participation in political activities”, as well as the submissions of some of the provincial or regional councils and the Inter-Council Network (ICN).

Another consultation? Another survey? Another submission?

Let me share with you why I think this consultation is so important, and why you should both participate in the sector’s efforts to present a coherent and strong voice on this issue, and also consider making your own submission to the process.

The current regulatory framework for charities in Canada rests on decisions that were made on charitable purposes in the latter part of the 19th century – I know, incredible! And though the policy and legal framework have changed incrementally through time, the broadly shared sense is that a major rethink is well overdue.

As we emerge from several years of pointed tension between the CRA and many groups in the charitable sector – especially around the issue of political audits – and as we look ahead at a new era for global cooperation - where the silos of domestic and international, advocacy and implementation, and north and south are increasingly irrelevant - we need a renewed and modern regulatory framework that is supportive of charities as we strive to contribute to addressing the worlds current challenges, both from Canada and abroad.

The current CRA consultation on political activities sets the right tone, with its opening statement that reads: “Charities play a critical role in our society. They make a valuable contribution to public policy and public debate for all Canadians. To help charities continue this important work, they must be assured they are operating in a regulatory environment that respects and encourages their contribution.”

This consultation comes in light of the government’s commitment to address the issue of the rules for charities, as expressed in Minister Lebouthillier’s mandate letter. “Allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment, and modernize the rules governing the charitable and not-for-profit sectors, working with the Minister of Finance.  This will include clarifying the rules governing “political activity,” with an understanding that charities make an important contribution to public debate and public policy.  A new legislative framework to strengthen the sector will emerge from this process.”

This consultation is our first chance to let the Minister know what kinds of changes we think are needed both in the application of the current rules, and also in the existing regulatory and legal framework.

I know some are weary that the current consultation on political activities is too narrowly confined to the implementation of existing rules, and others are concerned that this might be the only consultation pertaining to the modernization of rules governing the charitable sector.

At CCIC we are committed not to let either of these be true. We will remind the Minister at every chance that, though political activities are a key part of the modernization process that is needed, there are other aspects of the current regulatory and legal framework that need to be reconsidered, and that we want to be part of a broader process to identify and discuss those changes. And we will also clearly convey that clarify existing rules will only take us so far, and that what is ultimately needed is change to current rules and regulations. Some of these will no doubt imply changes in the legal framework as well. And the Minister’s mandate already anticipates this very clearly.

Whatever emerges from this process will no doubt provide the foundations for charities’ work for the next half century or more. This is an important process, and we as international development and humanitarian assistance charities need to be a part of it. At CCIC we will be working with you to make sure our voice is heard loud and clear, so please engage and contact us to find out more about how you can be part of this once-in-a-generation effort. Because if not now, then when?

In solidarity,

Twitter: @JSanchezCCIC

Do you have any reactions to this column? I’d like to hear from you! Please send any comments to Julia Sanchez.


Visit us in our new space!

As of October 2016, CCIC’s office is now located one floor down, still at 39 McArthur Avenue in Ottawa. Our little team is growing and needed more space! The new work environment includes a board room and a small lounge, which can be used for comfortable discussions and as a waiting area for visitors. All contact information remains the same. Make sure that you drop by next time you are in the area!

Modernizing official development assistance the focus at OECD

OECDThe October Senior Level Meeting of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was a particularly important one. Just ahead of it, a group of international NGOs and national platforms, including CCIC, highlighted a range of growing concerns and demands to officials attending the event, in a joint letter on modernizing official development assistance (soon available on CCIC’s website) . The letter tackled a host of issues, including the need to have a transparent conversation around what counts as ODA and what doesn’t, to phase-out counting in-donor refugee costs as ODA, to reframe more positively how we talk about migration in the context of development, to refocus how long term investments are made in tackling peace and development, to ensure financial and development additionality through the use of private sector instruments, and for donors to abide by core principles of aid and development effectiveness. Several countries took up the points during the meeting. Decisions around the Private Sector Instruments discussion have been postponed to December, and the OECD DAC chair agreed to meet with civil society groups in early November to explore how to enhance DAC-CSO engagement.

New ODA Accountability Act Report shows drop in aid figures

In early October, the government released its 8th Official Development Assistance Accountability Act (ODAAA) Report – an obligation since the ODAAA came into law in 2008. Since 2013-14, the government has shifted away from reporting by Department, to present a more comprehensive whole of government assessment around how it is implementing its thematic priorities – highlighting concrete results, and illustrating these with case studies. In 2015-16, the report builds on previous years with a series of helpful metrics and visuals that offer an alternate narrative to just plain text. The big story this year, however, was the drop in Canadian aid that the report identifies – from $5.7 billion in 2014-15 to an estimated $5.1 billion in 2015-16 or 0.26% of Gross National Income. The International Assistance Envelope - the budgetary basis of Canadian aid that goes to poverty reduction – continues to stagnate at around $4.5 billion.

Forthcoming GPEDC High-Level Meeting in Nairobi

Forthcoming GPEDC meetingThe Second High Level Meeting (HLM2) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) will be held from November 28 to December 1, 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya. The GPEDC is a multi-stakeholder platform, bringing together government and civil society for discussions of development effectiveness. It is a key international forum where civil society has dedicated space to engage directly in development policy discussions, through the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE). CCIC is the North American regional representative on the Coordinating Committee and Global Council of CPDE, and is responsible for coordinating the participation of North American CSO representatives to the HLM2. Following a call for applications this past summer, a team of 15 representatives from American and Canadian CSOs has been selected and approved by CPDE. Team North America will be strong and diverse, with representatives from national and regional platforms; small, medium, and large NGOs; faith-based, volunteer-sending, and youth organizations; and not-for-profit policy institutes.

Government consulting charities on political activities

On September 27, Minister Lebouthillier launched a series of consultations with Canadian charities to clarify the rules for their participation in political activities. The consultations will be conducted online, open to all charities and the public, with November 25, 2016 as deadline for participation. In-person consultations with charity representatives, moderated by an independent external facilitator, are also planned for Halifax, Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. It is very important that charities have a frank and comprehensive discussion with the government on issues surrounding political activities, especially given how this has become a contentious issue for organizations across many segments of civil society. As part of this consultation, CCIC will prepare its own submission and will be directly engaging with members to ensure that it represents the concerns, expectations and recommendations of the sector.

A Canadian ombudsperson for the international extractive sector

Canadian ombudsmanDuring the week of October 31 to November 4, the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability will be publicly launching model legislation to create an independent human rights ombudsperson for the international extractive sector in Canada. During the last federal elections, a CNCA questionnaire received commitments from the Liberal party of Canada, NDP, Green and Bloc Quebecois to implement real changes with respect to corporate accountability. These commitments included the creation of an independent ombudsperson. A letter calling for the creation of an extractive sector ombudsperson and facilitated access to Canadian courts has been signed by over 50 organizations, including many CCIC members, and sent to PM Trudeau a few weeks ago. The release of a report this week documenting widespread violence around Canadian mining operations in Latin America speaks to the importance of having that type of legislation in place. More information on the distribution of the model legislation, special workshops for CCIC members on the subject, and on opportunities to add your organization’s voice to the call for action will be provided soon on CNCA website.

Engaged Americas Policy Group Meeting in Ottawa

Engaged APG meeting in OttawaThe Americas Policy Group (APG) held its bi-annual meeting on October 3 and 4, 2016 at the offices of CUPW in Ottawa, where 26 members from 23 organizations attended and enjoyed great presentations from partners in Colombia, Honduras and Mexico. In terms of highlights, participants noted that this was the first APG meeting held in three languages (English, French and Spanish), as well as participation in the Solidarity Rally for the Migrant Workers' Caravan. In addition, APG members had a first meeting with MP Karina Gould, Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of International Development and La Francophonie to discuss her trip to Guatemala and Honduras in July 2016. The APG-Mesoamerica and APG-Colombia subgroups also had their meetings. View pictures from the event here on CCIC’s Flickr.

Asia-Pacific Working Group Gives Recommendations to the Asian Development Bank

APWG give recommendationsThe Asia-Pacific Working Group (APWG) had a consultation meeting with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), as part of its Road to 2030 Consultations. The ADB is currently undertaking consultation with CSOs in different countries, and the Canadian stop was held in Ottawa on October 13, 2016, at CCIC’s offices. The recommendations submitted by APWG members will feed into ADB’s new corporate strategy to help reposition the institution in the rapidly changing global environment and the transforming development landscape of Asia and the Pacific. The strategy will outline a vision and key directions for ADB’s engagement with developing member countries and will describe how ADB aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Research Assistant Internship with the Asia-Pacific Working Group

Researcj Assistant InternshipLooking for an internship? Don’t miss this great opportunity to work as Research Assistant for the Asia-Pacific Working Group (APWG) of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation. The focus of the internship is to conduct research and analysis of Canada’s policies and programs in the Philippines, in particular the Canadian government’s financial, political and diplomatic support for the Canadian corporate sector, and for military and counter-terrorism policy and programs of the Philippine government. The intern will also analyze the impact of this Canadian support as it relates to documented cases of human rights violations in the Philippines. This is an unpaid internship for graduate students, which must lead to university credits and be part of the curriculum.To apply, please send a short letter of intent and a resume to: Isabelle Bourassa by November 30, 2016. For more  details, click here.

MEMBER PROFILE: Canadian Foodgrains Bank

Rupi Malto’ s family is part of a Foodgrains Bank-supported agriculture and livelihoods project in India. The project involves, among other things, supporting families in growing kitchen gardens to improve consumption of nutrient-rich vegetables and overall health.

This month CCIC met with Jim Cornelius, Executive Director of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and former chair of CCIC’s Board. We discussed the importance of partnerships and youth engagement, as well as current campaigns, among other things!

Most of the work that CFGB does is based on partnerships: with your members, with Canadian farmers and with local partners. Can you tell us more about why these partnerships are central to your work?

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is an association of 15 member churches or church-based agencies working together to end global hunger through the support of food assistance, nutrition, agriculture and livelihood programs. We also work to engage Canadians on global hunger issues and influence policy change. As an association, partnership is at the heart of how we work. The Foodgrains Bank was formed in 1983 as a vehicle for Canadian churches to work together in addressing global hunger. From the beginning it was important to identify and articulate the ‘value-added’ of the partnership. We regularly need to revisit and adjust the ‘value-added’ the partnership provides to ensure that it remains healthy and relevant.

      Read More


Government joins Plan International’s global campaign

Plan InternationalOn October 3 and 4 six Canadian Ministers, including Minister Bibeau, were accompanied as they performed their daily tasks by six adolescent girls, selected by Plan International Canada as youth advocates. The teenagers attended ministerial briefings, stakeholder meetings and a House of Commons Question Period, among other activities. This was part of Plan International’s global campaign #GirlsBelongHere which aims to challenge political, social and economic leaders around the world to invite girls to share their views directly with decision makers and to illustrate every girl’s right to equal opportunities.

Pacific Peoples' Partnership receives a special address from Foreign Affairs Minister

This past September, the Pacific People’s Partnership (PPP) was humbled to receive a special address from the Honourable Stepháne Dion in celebration of PPP’s annual One Wave Festival. The message was filmed by a Canadian delegation to the Pacific Islands Leadership Forum in Palau, and represented a powerful affirmation of One Wave Festival’s mandate to promote ‘one wave of people standing together to protect our rich lands and waters, showing solidarity with Pacific Islanders’. PPP applauds Canada’s participation in the Pacific Islands Leadership Forum, and subsequent sponsorship of the 2016 Pacific Islands Climate Outlook Forum. Canada’s renewed interest in the Pacific region is timely in light of the Agenda 2030’s expressed focus on Small Island Development States, and Canada’s commitment to combat the impact of climate change on those most vulnerable. However, as Minister Dion stated in his address to the Pacific Islands Leadership forum, “Canada has a lot to offer and a lot to learn. As a Pacific country, we must do more with our Pacific partners. And we will!”

Journées québécoises de la solidarité internationale – AQOCI

AQOCIEach year, the Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI) and its member organizations organize a large number of activities across Quebec for the Journées québécoises de la solidarité internationale (JQSI). This year’s edition will take place from November 3rd to November 12th and will focus on the role of the media in shaping our understanding of global issues. Activities include roundtables on the role of media in international development, photo exhibits and conferences in high schools and universities. People in the Ottawa / Outaouais area can find more information on local activities organized during the JQSI here.


New in Development Unplugged

New in Development UnpluggedSince the last publication of FLASH!, four new articles have been published, two as part of a special series with ICAD, and inspired by the Global Fund Replenishment Conference in Montreal. The first one reflects on some of the highlights of the Global Fund Replenishment Conference in Montreal, while the second one takes us to Indonesia where a small delegation of MPs enhanced their understanding of what health interventions look like in the growing middle income country. Another article was also published on the Global Goals and the costs of ending hunger (goal number 2). And finally, CCIC was happy to feature a first contribution by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), on addressing the Syrian refugees’ crisis. Blog submissions are always welcome and can be sent to Chantal Havard.

New Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

New Federal Sustainable Development StrategyThe federal government recently launched its 2016-2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. The strategy responds to public feedback and presents 13 aspirational goals that are a Canadian reflection of the environmentally-related sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also includes stronger targets and indicators than the previous strategy, new short-term milestones, and clear action plans. The 2016–2019 FSDS is the third whole-of-government strategy prepared under the Federal Sustainable Development Act. It outlines what Canada will do to promote clean growth, ensure healthy ecosystems and build safe, secure and sustainable communities over the next three years.

Charities, Sustainable Funding and Smart Growth

Charities Sustainable Funding and Smart GrowthImagine Canada just published a discussion paper which explores how Canada will face a growing, long-term, structural social deficit of up to $23 billion in 2026. The paper argues that this structural social deficit is analogous in many ways to a structural fiscal deficit and is the result of interactions between changes in the charitable and nonprofit sector (driven by demographic, cultural and social trends) and the evolution of the broader economy. The social deficit, like its economic counterpart, will require structural reforms to the way charities and nonprofits are financed and policies that promote sustainable smart growth in the economy as a whole.

New Online Knowledge Hub on the Sustainable Development Goals - IISD

New Online Knowledge HubThe International Institute for Sustainable Development recently launched a hub on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provides an unparalleled view of multilateral, national and sub-national efforts to achieve the SDGs. Focused on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and its Sustainable Development Goals, the SDG Knowledge Hub draws on IISD’s network of experts to provide real-time information on SDG implementation. The value of the hub lays in the depth of information it will contain on each SDG, as well as the breadth of knowledge across all elements of the integrated 2030 Agenda. If you want to know more about this new platform, join a webinar on November 3.

United Nations Guidelines for the use of the SDG logo and 17 icon

UN Guidelines for the use of the SDG logoThe colourful and compelling visual graphics illustrating the SDGs are at the heart of the success of communicating about the SDGs, and the icons have already been spread far and wide, helping to raise awareness and understanding of the Goals in all corners of the world. Some Guidelines have been developed for the use of the SDG logo, including the colour wheel, and 17 icons. Make them yours and use them broadly!

Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association in the workplace

Rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association in the workplace

Labour’s traditional tools for asserting rights – trade unions, strikes, collective bargaining and so on – have been significantly weakened across the globe. In this report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, examines how and why this has happened. His report focuses on the most marginalized portions of the world’s labour force, including global supply chain workers, informal workers, migrant workers, domestic workers and others. He highlights the fact that prioritizing economic and corporate interests at the expense of workers’ rights is not only a rights issue; it has the potential to undermine the viability of the world’s economic system.

The top under-reported stories - Thomson Reuters Foundation News

Top under-reported storiesIf you are passionate about global issues, finding good and timely media coverage on the Global South can be a frustrating experience, as most Canadian media –and foreign, to a lesser extent- concentrate on local and national issues. The Thomson Reuters Foundation News is offering each week a news report that presents the “top under-reported stories”. Their global editorial team of 40 journalists and 100 freelancers covers the world’s under-reported stories at the heart of aid, development, women’s rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. You can visit the website to see the diversity of topics and regions covered, and sign on to their newsletter to receive the latest news in your inbox.


How Canada can be a global leader on the Sustainable Development Goals
The Hill Times
October 5, 2016


Save the date!
Parliamentary Strategy Workshop
November 22, 2016
CCIC offices, 39 McArthur Ave, Ottawa
Organized by CCIC’s Regional Working Groups

Save the date!
CCIC’s Leaders’ Forum
May 9-10, 2017
Ottawa, ON

Save the date!
CCIC Annual Conference 2017
September 2017
Ottawa, ON


De/colonization Series: Sharing Histories, Connecting Struggles - KAIROS and SCM
Toronto, Ontario
October 19-November 23, 2016
For more information: /

CAN-MNCH 2016 Annual General Meeting
Montreal, Quebec
November 3-4, 2016

Journées québécoises de la solidarité internationale : À humanité variable – AQOCI
Across Quebec
November 3-12, 2016

One sector, many goals: Designing Agricultural Programs that work
Ottawa, Ontario
November 14, 2016

Transformation de la politique canadienne de la coopération internationale : Contribution de la réflexion universitaire - CIRDIS
Montreal, Quebec
December 8, 2016

If you have an item for Flash!, you may send it to Chantal Havard. Please note that items should be no longer than 150 words.

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