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Why charities need a home in government

Why charities need a home in government

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When farmers need a policy solution to a problem they’re facing, they can approach Agriculture Canada. Artists looking for support for a new project turn their attention to Heritage Canada. Small businesses can rest assured that Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada has their back. 

But where can charities and nonprofits turn to?

Charities and nonprofits may have relationships with ministries related to their mission; for example, health charities may meet with the Health Minister to advocate for their cause. However, there is no federal department or agency that is responsible for ensuring the wellbeing of the sector or addressing issues that affect it. This is despite the fact that the sector represents more than 8% of Canada’s GDP and employs approximately 2 million people - in addition to its incredible social impact. 

The Canada Revenue Agency determines whether organizations are eligible for charitable status and whether they comply with the Income Tax Act. Nonprofits can be incorporated federally or provincially; in both cases, the government regulates organizations, but doesn’t take on a role in creating policy solutions to address issues that the sector is facing. 

This reality impacts the sector negatively in many ways. For example: 

  • The Government sometimes adopts legislation without considering the impact that it will have on charities and nonprofits. When Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation was created, its regulations restricted charities’ email-based revenue generation activities. 
  • Nonprofits may be excluded or believe that they’re excluded from Government programs that could benefit them, such as programs that encourage innovation or environmentally-friendly business practices. 
  • Sometimes there are issues in the relationship between charities and the Government - such as the fact that Government grants and contributions do not cover the full administrative costs of the programs they fund - but there is no centralized agency or department to raise these issues with, making it difficult to advocate for change. 

This is why the charitable and nonprofit sector needs a “Home” in Government - one entity responsible for ensuring the long-term health of the sector. 

Luckily, there is a lot of momentum behind this idea right now. The Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector recommended the creation of a secretariat as a “Home” in Government for the sector in its report Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector. Many charities and nonprofits, including Imagine Canada, are taking up the call to advocate on this issue.

A “Home” in Government could take many shapes, from a committee, to a designated Minister, to a secretariat within a Department. To learn more about the issue and the pros and cons of the various proposed solutions, read our policy brief on the issue of “Home” in Government!

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