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July 23, 2014

Canada Auditing Literary Charity That Criticized Government

A small Canadian literary charity is being audited by the country's tax agency as part of the national government's stepped-up oversight of nonprofits' political activities, the Canadian Press reports.

PEN Canada, an association of writers that defends freedom of expression, is "fully cooperating" with the Canada Revenue Agency investigation, the charity's president said. The organization has accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative administration of muzzling government scientists and cooperating with U.S. security agencies to spy on Canadians.

The Harper government launched a push in 2012 to scrutinize charities' political work. Canadian nonprofits are allowed to spend up to 10 percent of their resources on political activity but cannot endorse any candidate or party. PEN Canada has had one or two full-time employees in recent years and listed $237,000 in spending in 2011-12 tax filings, none of it for political work.

Critics of the crackdown say the audits targeting environmental, human rights, and other issue-oriented groups have created an "advocacy chill" among organizations that have opposed government policies.

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected from an earlier version that misattributed the source article.