Charity Files: Investigative Journalism In The Public Interest

by: Obert Madondo  | Aug 22, 2014

Welcome to Charity Files, a media organisation dedicated to defending and championing the Canadian and global publics’ right to understand charities and their work.

We strongly believe that Canadian and global philanthropy is enhanced through a strong, independent and accountable voluntary sector. And, especially, when the public is more aware of how charities work and use donated resources.

To that end, we publish news and original documents that encourage charities to be more accountable and transparent with received donations. We welcome leaked information from charity insiders.

Why Charity Files’ work is crucial:

A public opinion poll conducted by Edmonton-based Muttart Foundation in 2013 revealed that Canadians expect more from the more than 86,600 registered charities in Canada. The poll revealed that Canadians are deeply concerned about how charities use donations, and how they report “how donations are used, the impact of programs and charities’ fundraising costs.”

Most importantly, the poll revealed that organizations involved in international development are the least trusted charities in Canada. That’s right, organizations that receive millions of dollars from the Canadian government and individual Canadians in the name of fighting issues like hunger, HIV/AIDS and natural disasters scored only 50%, which is “significantly below the overall level of trust in charities.”

The poll also shows that trust in charity leaders has “decreased and softened.”

All this, we believe, suggests that there’s something going on, something that has caused Canadians’ trust in certain charities to nose-dive. The question is: what is it? Is it charities’ lack of financial accountability and transparency? Is it something to do with the way charities report their revenues, fundraising costs and use of received resources?

Is it possible that we somehow suspect that that some charities are not abiding by Canada’s charity laws? That they may actually be violating the Income Tax Act and compelling Canadian public policy pronouncements, such as the Aid Effectiveness Agenda.

The Income Tax Act offers no definite definition for the term “charitable”. However, Canadian courts, relying on common law, recognize four general categories of “charitable purposes”, namely: (1) the relief of poverty; (2) the advancement of religion; (3) the advancement of education; and (4) other purposes beneficial to the community as a whole (or a segment thereof) in a way that the law regards as charitable.

In the case of Vancouver Society of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women v. M.N.R. [1999] 1 S.C.R. 10, the Supreme Court of Canada clarified the requirements of charitable registration under the Income Tax Act as follows:

In conclusion, on the basis of the Canadian jurisprudence, the requirements for registration under s 248(1) come down to two:
(1) The purpose of the organization must be charitable, and must define the scope of the activities engaged in by the organization; and
(2) All of the organization’s resources must be devoted to these activities.

Whatever it is that’s making Canadians lose confidence in some charities, it’s clear that we need to talk about how charities work and use resources. In other words, we need investigative journalism in the public interest in charities.

We’re deadly serious about this!

If you have information or documents that may turn out to be the one great lead we’re waiting for, Email Us today.

We won’t publish any of your personal information without your permission. To send us information anonymously, please use our SecureDrop site.

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad