The Impact of Bill C-51 on Charities and Not for Profits

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Purporting to provide Canadian law enforcement and national security agencies with additional tools and flexibility to keep pace with evolving threats and better protect Canadians here at home, the federal government unveiled its wide-sweeping new anti-terrorism legislation on January 30, 2015, to much debate. In addition to introducing two new pieces of legislation, Bill C-51, short-titled the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 (the “Bill” or “AT Act 2015”)1 , enhances the powers given to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (“CSIS”) “to address threats to the security of Canada,” provides law enforcement agencies with enhanced ability to disrupt terrorism offences and terrorist activity, makes it easier for law enforcement agencies to detain suspected terrorists “before they can harm Canadians,” creates new terrorism-related offences, and expands the sharing of information between government institutions. A complete analysis of the Bill is beyond the scope of this Anti-Terrorism and Charity Law Bulletin (“Bulletin”), so the following commentary is restricted to concerns related to the Bill’s impact on charities and not for profits and the individuals who are on their boards of directors, officers, or serve as employees or volunteers of such organizations.

A casual review of the AT Act 2015 suggests that little will change from the perspective of charities and notfor-profits and their respective boards of directors. As we have frequently commented2 in the past, the interplay between Canada’s existing anti-terrorism laws and the broad audit and sanction capabilities of Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) have posed significant concerns for charities carrying out activities in conflict zones and their ability to demonstrate effective control over charitable assets and programs in order to avoid placing the organizations, their directors, officers, employees, and volunteers at risk. In that regard, the sector has seen instances of a mere suspicion of ties to terrorist organizations or activities escalating beyond allegations to proven fact, without the ability for organizations to properly defend against the allegations. Such claims have serious consequences not only for the organization, but also for its board of directors, officers, employees, volunteers, as well as even their members and families, both in terms of maintaining a capacity to carry out charitable activities and maintaining personal security. However, the new AT Act 2015, if it remains in its current form, will raise additional concerns for charities and not for profits and their ability to operate free of concerns of unfounded claims of ties to terrorism. The following is a brief review of some of those concerns.

This content has been updated on 29 October 2015 at 14 h 38 min.