The Abortion Right Coalition of Canada (ARCC) is calling for the federal government revoke the charitable status of anti-abortion groups.
The ARCC found that 216 of the the estimated 282 anti-abortion groups in Canada have charitable tax status. Of those groups with charitable status, 66 are considered political or educational advocacy groups, 154 are pregnancy care centers and five are considered both an advocacy group and pregnancy care center.
“The mission and activities of anti-choice groups are inherently political and biased, which should disqualify them from charitable status,” Joyce Arthur, executive director of ARCC said in a statement. “They work to stigmatize abortion, constrain individuals’ access to it, and ultimately to recriminalize it.”
According to the Canada Revenue Agency, a charitable organization must fall under at least of four categories: the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion and certain other purposes that benefit the community in a way the courts have said is charitable (determined by the courts to be charitable at law). The federal agency also states that organizations with “political purposes” do not qualify for charitable registration.
This request to the federal government by ARCC follows comments by prime minister Justin Trudeau on anti-abortion groups in Canada.
Trudeau’s recent comments
During a town hall discussion in Hamilton, Ont., Trudeau was asked about his views on freedom of speech in Canada. A McMaster University student asked the prime minister for his thoughts on people who do not have “leftist” views, providing the example of an individual being “ridiculed” and “insulted” for being pro-life.
Trudeau responded by highlighting the Canada Summer Jobs program. In 2017, the federal government changed the rules for employers seeking finding to hiring students through the Canada Summer Jobs program. Beginning in 2018, all groups seeking funding through the program are now required to sign an attestation stating that their mandate respects human rights and Charter freedoms.
“These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” the 2018 guidelines state.
The prime minister explained at the town hall that faith-based group can apply for funds through the program but said that an organization that has the explicit purpose of “restricting women’s rights,” including the right to abortion, “is not in line with where we are as a government…where we are as a society.”
“There are organizations out there that couch themselves in freedman of speech, freedman of conscience, which of course you’re more than allowed to have whatever beliefs you like,” the prime minister said. “But when those beliefs lead to action determined to restrict a woman’s right to control her own body, that’s where I and I think we draw the line as a country.”
Following Trudeau’s comments, opposition leader Andrew Scheer accused the liberal government of “imposing” Trudeau’s view on faith.
“I believe that the federal government should respect the freedoms that Canadians enjoy to have different beliefs and that by imposing personal values of Justin Trudeau on a wide variety of groups is not an appropriate way to go,” Scheer said to reporters in Mississauga last week. “We have concerns with the way that this liberal government is treating people who hold different opinions on different issues.”
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