Information wars: Unfounded allegations of anti-Muslim bias
Another salvo in the information wars. Today, The Philanthropist published an opinion article by Abdul Nakua, an executive of the Muslim Association of Canada, sharing his reflections on the CRA audits symbolic of systematic targeting of Islamic charities. I support the courage of The Philanthropist to publish this article. It is a hard read. It raises troubling questions, and it rehashes serious allegations of anti-Muslim witch hunts at the CRA Charities Directorate. If enough people raise these questions, surely they must be true. And that is how misinformation and conspiracy theories spawn.
These allegations are unfounded. The article writes that “systemic racism within the CRA has now been well documented.” It hasn’t. There have been allegations, but allegations are not facts. These allegations have been investigated thoroughly. These investigations have found zero evidence that the CRA Charities Directorate systematically targets Muslim charities.
The Muslim Association of Canada took its allegations to court. Justice Koehnen denied its appeal. The court ruled that the CRA Charities Directorate’s audits of charities, Muslim charities included, should continue. One primary reason Muslim Association of Canada’s case failed was because of insufficient evidence.
Muslim charities, like Jewish charities, Christian charities, charities of all faiths and non-faiths, fall under the regulatory oversight of the CRA Charities Directorate. All charities are equal under the law.
I do not feel this regulatory oversight overreaches or is an abuse of power. I believe charity compliance in Canada needs to be more stricter, not more lax. I believe Canada’s current charity regulations extend far too many rights to charities at the expense of defending the individual rights of Canadian donors.
Privilege v. rights
As I see it, it is a privilege to operate a charity - a privilege, not a right. To run a charity, with all the generous tax benefits in the name of public benefit, directors sign up to comply with the rules of charity regulation. It is the responsibility of the charity to comply with the rules. If one doesn’t like the charity rules and oversight, any organization can voluntarily withdraw from being a registered charity and instead be a non-profit organization. A registered charity has higher standards and higher expectations to meet, as they should.
Nakua’s opinion calls for a modernization of Canada’s charity regulation with a separate charity oversight. This is how the UK and Australia modified charity regulation. In those countries, oversight and audit is far more stringent, as are their requirements for transparency and accountability. Sadly, Canada’s recent attempt to modernize with the Transparency and Accountability Act is a step backwards.
Is Islamophobia baked into Canada’s charity regulations? I see no evidence of this. Where is the proof of these serious allegations of anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism and other systemic racisms? There have been in-depth examinations. Nothing has been found
Do Muslim charities face unjust oversight? Nakua’s article highlights the tremendous growth of Muslim-led charities in Canada. In 2018 there were an estimated 359. Charity Intelligence’s analysis on just a few large Muslim-led charities shows a thriving sector:
Muslim Association of Canada grew from $33 million in revenues in 2019 to $37.8 million in 2021. It should be financially transparent and post its audited financial statements to improve its 3-star rating.
Human Concern International’s revenues grew from $6.9 million in 2019 to $10.8 million in 2020. Its CRA filing for 2022 shows continued growth to $11.9 million despite receiving a 1-year penalty for tax-receipting offenses in 2011 and 2013.
Penny Appeal has shot up from $1.5 million in revenues in 2019 to $15.2 million in 2021.
International Development and Relief Foundation has grown from $11.2 million to $16.9 million in 2022. IDRF is a Top 100 5-star rated charity by Charity Intelligence with full marks for financial transparency, solid accountability, and good demonstrated impact.
Nakua has the personal right to his opinion. The Philanthropist does a service to publish his opinion. We have a responsibility to be informed and reflect on the facts. As I read the facts, the CRA Charities Directorate is falsely accused. It is due an apology.
Judge Koehnen’s decision Ontario Superior Court of Justice Muslim Association of Canada v Attorney General of Canada September 9, 2023 File number CV-22-00679625-0000 2023 ONSC5171 (CanLII)
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