Harper’s Big Chill

Harper’s Big ChillToronto – July 16, 2014 – Stephen Harper continues to act like a schoolyard bully, silencing anyone who dares to get in the way of his dismantling of Canada.

In 2012, as environmental groups campaigned against Harper’s pipeline plans, the government gave eight million dollars to the Canadian Revenue Agency to conduct audits on a number of environmental charities such as Tides Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation, which had been critical of the Harper government's lack of action on climate change. The government lashed out at these charities labelling them radicals and money launderers. Convinced that these charities were spending more than the 10% of their resources allowed on political activities, a special team of auditors was created to scrutinize the public awareness campaigns of charities.

Seeing how well the plan worked in silencing some of these environmental groups, Harper decided to expand the effort and go after charities that advocated against other parts of his ultra-Conservative agenda.  The net was widened as the CRA’s budget was increased, so now churches, human rights organizations, animal welfare groups and anti-poverty coalitions are also in Harper's audit crosshairs. Groups such as Amnesty International, and the United Church of Canada’s Kairos charity; organizations that promote human rights are now being audited.

Legal bills for charities under audit are rising rapidly, in some cases adding over $100,000 to already tight budgets. Some groups have had their charitable status revoked.

Harper’s bullying tactics are working. A chill has descended over charitable groups even those not currently under audit. Fear has spread, groups are shying away from public policy advocacy; scared of Harper labelling them the ’enemy’ and being audited.

Harper’s attack on non-profits is unprecedented and is clearly designed to muffle or silence charities and not-for-profits which contribute to public debate, by distracting them with CRA audits. It is an agenda to narrow or extinguish important public policy conversations, by labelling civil society organizations whose contribution to public policy debates differ from Harper’s priorities as so-called enemies. Harper has in fact created an “uncharitable chill” in Canada by bullying those who dare oppose them.