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Imagine Canada

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Exemption for Charities from the Anti-Spam Regulations

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On December 4, federal Industry Minister James Moore announced that the final regulations implementing portions of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) will exempt commercial electronic communications sent by or on behalf of a registered charity where the primary purpose of the communication is to raise money for the charity. This exemption for registered charities is a significant victory and Imagine Canada has publicly acknowledged its appreciation to the Government of Canada in a statement issued today.

What this means

The CASL regulations would have seriously impeded charities’ ability to communicate with and inform potential supporters about fundraising dinners, sporting events, raffles, or other activities aimed at raising money. Adhering to these CASL requirements would have meant millions of dollars invested in developing and or upgrading IT systems, establishing new procedures to track compliance, and obtaining legal and other advice.

The Minister’s announcement means that registered charities can continue to utilize electronic communications to raise money for their cause without incurring significant new costs or risks.

Action on this file

In September, Imagine Canada was invited to participate in two roundtables on the CASL issue, one with senior Industry Canada officials and one with the Minister and Deputy Minister. Participating alongside organizations like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Bankers Association (to name just a few), we had the opportunity to make our case forcefully and directly with Minister Moore.  This was the culmination of many months of effort working with and on behalf of the sector.

When the draft regulations were published in January of this year, we worked with a broad range of regional organizations, sub-sector umbrella organizations, individual charities, and interested outside parties to assess their likely impact. We benefited greatly from their input and advice, and from their significant contributions to the 10-page brief we submitted to Industry Canada.

Imagine Canada’s brief outlined the significant impact of the proposed regulations and recommended a broad exemption for the sector.  Our brief also made a series of recommendations which, if an exemption were not forthcoming, would mitigate the impacts of the CASL regulations on organizations.  Several other sector organizations submitted helpful briefs reinforcing the position that Imagine Canada had developed with its Working Group on Anti-Spam Draft Regulations.

Throughout the spring and summer, we worked to ensure that decision-makers were aware of our concerns. We raised the CASL issue with Industry Canada officials and with the previous Minister’s policy advisors. We also raised the issue with advisors to the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister.  Imagine Canada wishes to thank the many partners who worked alongside us to present a strong case for this exemption and to ensure its consideration within government.

Public benefit nonprofits

In the case of registered charities, there were a number of compelling precedents that could be cited in support of our request for exemption including the Do Not Call list in Canada and the Australian Spam Act (on which CASL is modelled).  We were also able to point to the Commons Finance Committee’s recommendation (contained in its report on Tax Incentives for Charitable Giving) to reduce red tape and administration for registered charities.  In the case of public benefit nonprofits, we pointed to the Alberta lobbyist registration legislation which provides both a legal definition of and an exemption for public-benefit nonprofits. Despite the case made by a number of organizations, the government’s decision was made to limit this exemption to registered charities.

The final regulations are to be published on December 18. We will review them carefully to assess whether there are any outstanding issues for charities and whether there has been any effort to mitigate the impact on public benefit nonprofits.

For more information, please contact Imagine Canada’s Public Policy team

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