Tag Archives: charity

Charity, is thy name propaganda?

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The abbreviated phrase, “pot-kettle-black”, suddenly comes to mind upon learning that a charity with affiliations to high-profile Conservatives is sending mixed messages to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) about its political proclivities.

In an intrepid piece of reporting this week, Globe and Mail reporter Bill Curry revealed that, “A review of Tribute to Liberty’s official filings with the CRA reveals a clear intention to engage in political activity. When asked if it planned to engage in political activities, it answered ‘Yes’ in its 2009 application for charitable status. It said this would involve contacting MPs and senators to gain their support for (a project to build an edifice commemorating so-called victims of communism).”

Meanwhile, Curry notes that “in the five years that followed, the charity answered ‘No’ each time it was asked by the CRA in annual reporting forms whether it conducted political activity.”

Why does any of this matter? If the report holds true, the misdemeanor has to do with forked tongues and the preservation of said organs in the halls of federal influence.

We shan’t forget that since 2012, Canadian charities – especially those that are decidedly cool to Tory social policies – have come under increasing scrutiny by the tax man for their various propensities to agitate for political change in this country.

As Curry points out, “the 2012 Conservative budget set aside $8-million for CRA audits to determine whether (charities) are following rules regarding political activity. The CRA has not published a list of the 60 charities it has identified for auditing. However, some of the groups that said they were audited were critical of government policy. The CRA has rejected suggestions the selection was politically motivated.”

Still, Tribute to Liberty reportedly maintains fairly compelling ties to certain high-ranking Tories. Not only that, the organization’s website boasts fulsome quotes from national leaders of every ideological stripe.

Here’s NDP honcho, Thomas Mulcair on the subject of freedom: “Dear Friends: I am pleased to extend support to Tribute to Liberty as you realize your vision for a permanent memorial in Ottawa recognizing the victims of communism. This monument will recognize those who were silenced by tyranny and pay tribute to the incredible strength and determination of those who fought for change.”

Here’s Justin Trudeau: “We, as Canadians, must never forget the pain and suffering entire generations endured under Communist rule, and it is important that we remember the lives of its untold victims.”

Here’s Elizabeth May of the Green Party: “We can be proud, as Canadians, that we opposed totalitarian communism and have provided a land of refuge for so many of those who fled its terrors.”

And, of course, here’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “Canada has long been a beacon of hope and freedom for those escaping tyranny and oppression.”

All of which raises the question: How is any of this not political?

In fact, this may be the only instance in recent history when all political parties in this country have agreed, and all various polemics have aligned as the universe intends.

In its own defence, Tribute to Liberty claims that it has deliberately avoided archly political activities since 2009. But when the raison d’etre of an entire organization is nothing but political, how many hairs must be split before the emperor wears no wig?

In fact, I’m all for Tribute to Liberty’s mission. Memorializing those who suffered under the yoke authoritarianism is a decidedly virtuous, Canadian thing to do.

But, should we not, then, raise the injunction against vocal agitation on all politically minded charities?

If only for democracy’s sake.

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Slapping away the open hand

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Politicians, of course. Lawyers, naturally. Journalists, obviously. But charity workers? They are supposed to be the good guys in a society overpopulated with assorted villains and charlatans. Why, then, have we suddenly lost faith in the open-handed among us?

A new survey commissioned by the Muttart Foundation finds that the trust Canadians invest in various sorts of charities is sliding, though it points out that “results of the 2013 survey indicate that Canadians’ opinions and attitudes about charities are both stable and positive.”

It’s just that “compared to previous surveys, the trust in certain types of charities – including environmental organizations, churches and other places of worship and international charities – has declined.”

What’s more, the organization observes, “there have also been negative changes in the extent to which Canadians believe charities are adequately explaining how they use donations, or whether charities only ask for money when they really need it.”

It’s worth noting that Muttart is, itself, a charitable group. It describes its operating philosophy, thusly: “The Foundation considers a robust charitable sector as central to a strong, healthy society. Through their work charities build community and address key social issues and concerns. The Foundation’s philanthropy focuses on. . .strengthening the charitable sector; early childhood education and care; (and) management development and leadership.”

What, one wonders, would Canadians make of its use of precious resources to fund a survey that falls somewhere on the periphery of its charitable mandate? Or, is this, in effect, a “sector strengthening” exercise?

At any rate, the data seems clear: People in this country want their money to go to hospitals, kids and disease prevention. They are less fond of funding arts organizations, international development and religious groups.

Meanwhile, according to the survey, “the percentage of Canadians who believe that charities are generally honest about how they use donations is still high at 70 per cent, but has decreased from the 84 per cent who felt that way in 2000. Similarly, only about one-third of Canadians (34 per cent) believe charities only ask for money when they really need it, compared to 47 per cent of Canadians who felt that way in 2000.”

Perhaps the most illuminating findings concern attitudes, not about institutions or general principles of giving but about the individuals who pull the purse strings.

“Trust in charity leaders has decreased and softened,” the poll reports. “Only 17 per cent of Canadians trust charity leaders a lot, a decrease of 10 percentage points since the 2000 study. In total, 71 per cent of Canadians say they have some or a lot of trust in charity leaders, compared to 77 per cent in 2000 and 80 per cent in 2004.”

On the other hand, Muttart reports, “trust in all kinds of leaders, other than doctors and nurses, has decreased over the span of 13 years, and notably since the last survey was conducted in 2008. These decreases are particularly noticeable for religious leaders (down 14 percentage points to 63 per cent), lawyers (down 10 percentage points to 62 per cent), federal politicians (down eight percentage points to 33 per cent) and provincial politicians (down nine percentage points to 36 per cent).”

In fact, this probably explains the woeful trend in the piety sector. It’s not that we mistrust charity workers, per se. It’s that we mistrust just about everybody for myriad reasons, of which the most persuasive is that everybody lies. Or, so we believe.

That may not be especially revelatory, or historically novel, but the near barrage of news, opinion, fluff and nonsense emanating from switched-on, round-the-clock media renders everybody’s prevarications – consequential or otherwise, real or imagined – up close and personal.

And, so, ours has become a society of trained cynics, observing the “outsiders” in our midst with a jaundiced eye, presuming their guilt until they prove their innocence.

At least, that’s what the polls seem to indicate, including the ones that rank professions by “most loved” and “most hated”.

Most loved? Firefighter, of course.

Most hated? Need you ask?

Pollster, naturally.

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