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Charitable status for pro-life organizations

20 December 2021
On December 16, 2021, the ministerial mandate letters were released. These letters outline the government’s priorities generally and what the prime minister expects each of the cabinet ministers to prioritize and accomplish in their role.
 
The prime minister has instructed the finance minister to: “Introduce amendments to the Income Tax Act to make anti-abortion organizations that provide dishonest counselling to pregnant women about their rights and options ineligible for charitable status.” (See the mandate letter to the finance minister.)
 
These instructions, which are repeated in the letters to the minister of finance and the minister of women and gender equality, echo wording from the Liberal Party’s 2021 election platform, which said a re-elected Liberal government would “No longer provide charity status to anti-abortion organizations (for example, Crisis Pregnancy Centres) that provide dishonest counseling to women about their rights and about the options available to them at all stages of the pregnancy.”
 
The EFC is very concerned that these measures are only directed at organizations with a particular view on abortion. It raises the idea that participation in the public square and a level playing field with respect to government programs could be subject to a values test.
 
This raises questions as to whether the government intends to single out organizations with particular beliefs about when life begins, subjecting them to greater scrutiny, and possibly penalizing them for these beliefs. How will the government define and identify “dishonest counseling”? If a determination of “dishonest counseling” is based solely on a particular premise of when life begins or disagreement with abortion/ending life, this would raise serious concerns about compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
 
The EFC believes all charities should carry out their activities honestly and ethically, with integrity.
 
We are concerned, however, that organizations may be singled out simply because they hold particular underlying beliefs about when life begins, contrary to Charter protections of religion, conscience, belief and expression.


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