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July 28, 2014

Canada's Tax Office: 'Preventing' Poverty Not Charity Work

In another sign of tension between Canada's government and its nonprofit sector, the country's tax agency held up a noted aid group's application to renew its charity status because its stated mission included preventing as well as relieving poverty, according to the Canadian Press.

The Canada Revenue Agency told Oxfam Canada that "preventing poverty" is not an acceptable charitable purpose because it "could mean providing for a class of beneficiaries that are not poor." The charity dropped the word "prevent" from its application, stating instead that its goal is to "alleviate" poverty, but it has not changed any policies or programs, executive director Robert Fox said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has allocated $13-million to the tax office to scrutinize charities' political activities. Some nonprofit leaders accuse the Conservative Party administration of using audits to chill advocacy work by environmental, human-rights, and other groups that oppose its policies. Earlier this year a cabinet member singled out Oxfam Canada for criticism over its opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.