Ottawa tells Oxfam to stop trying to prevent poverty


mentalfloss
#1
Ottawa tells Oxfam to stop trying to prevent poverty

OTTAWA — The Canada Revenue Agency has told a charity that it can no longer try to prevent poverty around the world, it can only alleviate poverty — because preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.

The bizarre bureaucratic brawl over a mission statement is yet more evidence of deteriorating relations between the Harper government and some parts of Canada’s charitable sector.

The scuffle began when Oxfam Canada filed papers with Industry Canada to renew its non-profit status, as required by Oct. 17 this year under a law passed in 2011.

Ottawa-based Oxfam initially submitted wording that its purpose as a charity is “to prevent and relieve poverty, vulnerability and suffering by improving the conditions of individuals whose lives, livelihood, security or well-being are at risk.”

The international development group, founded in 1963, spends about $32 million each year on humanitarian relief and aid in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, with a special emphasis on women’s rights.

But the submission to Industry Canada also needed the approval of the charities directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency.

Agency officials informed Oxfam that “preventing poverty” was not an acceptable goal.

“Relieving poverty is charitable, but preventing it is not,” the group was warned. “Preventing poverty could mean providing for a class of beneficiaries that are not poor.”

Oxfam Canada’s executive director called the exchange an “absurd conversation.”

“Their interpretation was that preventing poverty may or may not involve poor people,” Robert Fox said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“A group of millionaires could get together to prevent their poverty, and that would not be deemed a charitable purpose.”

The agency prevailed, and the official declaration to Industry Canada about the purposes of the non-profit dropped any reference to preventing poverty.

“Our mission statement still indicates we’re committed to ending poverty, but our charitable (purposes) do not use the word ‘end’ or ’prevent’ — they use the word ‘alleviate.“’

Philippe Brideau, spokesman for the Canada Revenue Agency, declined to provide information on the disagreement, saying “we do not comment on specific cases.”

Oxfam Canada was singled out for criticism earlier this year by Employment Minister Jason Kenney over the group’s opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

And in July last year, Oxfam Canada signed a joint letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, taking issue with reports that government officials had been asked to compile “friend and enemy stakeholder” lists to brief new ministers after the summer cabinet shuffle.

Fox said that despite the new “purpose” statement, the group’s programs and activities have not changed.

The contretemps is yet more evidence of frosty relations between the Harper government and some charities, several dozen of which have been targeted since 2012 for audits of their “political activities.”

The Canada Revenue Agency, armed with $13 million in special funding, is currently auditing some 52 groups, many of whom have criticized the Harper government’s programs and policies, especially on the environment.

The list includes Amnesty International Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, Canada Without Poverty, and the United Church of Canada’s Kairos charity.

Pen Canada, a Toronto charity that advocates for freedom of speech, joined the ranks of the audited just this week. The group has raised alarms about the government’s muzzling of scientists on the public payroll.

Charities have said the CRA campaign is draining them of cash and resources, creating a so-called “advocacy chill” as they self-censor to avoid aggravating auditors or attracting fresh audits. Auditors have the power to strip a charity of its registration, and therefore its ability to issue income-tax receipts, potentially drying up donations.

Oxfam Canada is not undergoing a political-activities audit, said Fox.

Chantal Havard, spokeswoman for the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, a coalition of international-aid charities that includes Oxfam, said she was not aware of any other members in mission-statement disputes with the CRA.

Ottawa tells Oxfam to stop trying to prevent poverty | The Chronicle Herald (external - login to view)
 
captain morgan
Bloc Québécois
+3
#2  Top Rated Post
That is absolutely ridiculous, the CRA telling Oxfam that they are prohibited from 'preventing poverty'.

I vote that we get rid of the CRA immediately
 
SLM
No Party Affiliation
+2
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

That is absolutely ridiculous, the CRA telling Oxfam that they are prohibited from 'preventing poverty'.

I vote that we get rid of the CRA immediately

Ha! I'll sign that petition....it would make my life ever so much easier.

As ridiculous as the focus on the wording may well be, and far be it from me to defend the CRA, there is a lot of charitable fraud that goes on. Five billion just from this one alone, for example.

Trinity Global loses appeal to keep charitable status | CTV London News (external - login to view)

A legitimate chartiable endeavour I do have sympathy for and unfortunately the reporting requirements are going to continue to get more onerous for them. Sadly that's what happens when those who seek to take advantage do take advantage.

This will be the next one and honestly I'm surprised it's taken this long to even bring it up.

Charities may be asked for donor lists under minister's CRA proposal | CTV News (external - login to view)
 
captain morgan
Bloc Québécois
+1
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by SLMView Post

Ha! I'll sign that petition....it would make my life ever so much easier.

Don't sign using your real name, just in case the CRA is not disbanded.

I recommend that you use Flossy's name instead, that's what I'm going to do

(haha, just teasing MF)

Quote: Originally Posted by SLMView Post

As ridiculous as the focus on the wording may well be, and far be it from me to defend the CRA, there is a lot of charitable fraud that goes on. Five billion just from this one alone, for example.

Technically speaking, preventing poverty insinuates that their financial aid may be directed at those that might be at risk rather than in poverty.

Regardless, it is a silly argument by the CRA, but depending on how the rules are set up, I could see how that statement might be a problem

Quote: Originally Posted by SLMView Post

A legitimate chartiable endeavour I do have sympathy for and unfortunately the reporting requirements are going to continue to get more onerous for them. Sadly that's what happens when those who seek to take advantage do take advantage.

This will be the next one and honestly I'm surprised it's taken this long to even bring it up.

I suspect that you have Greenpeace, Tides and Suzuki to thank for this. All of these groups have been engaged in walking in the grey areas within the rules to the point where it's gotten the attention of the gvt and CRA.

My disagreement with their positions on select issues aside; da rulz is da rulz
 
Zipperfish
No Party Affiliation
+1
#5
This will come back and bite the Conservatives. Like Moore's comment about it not being his job to feed hungry kids. That and using the machinery of government to go after your perceived enemies. Bad cricket.
 
Retired_Can_Soldier
#6
You know this would have a tad more credibility if there were links, some quotes. Work on that and maybe once I've read it I'll comment. Or maybe not.
 
lone wolf
Free Thinker
#7
...for when Google is just too much work
 
Locutus
+1
#8
oxfam:

The last time we examined Oxfam International was in 2009. In our latest open-ended review of charities (external - login to view), we determined that it was unlikely to meet our criteria (external - login to view) based on our past examination of it, so we did not revisit it.

Details of our evaluations

Oxfam is a large charity focused on a diverse set of activities related to international aid and development.1 (external - login to view)
We have considered Oxfam at two times: Oxfam applied for a grant in late-2009, and we reviewed their website in mid-2009. Details on each follow below.
2009 grant application

Oxfam America applied for funding through our grant application process for organizations working on economic empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Oxfam America did not advance past our Round 1 screen because it did not meet any of the criteria below. For more information about this grant, see our overview page for this grant (external - login to view).
Our criteria

We looked for the following in conducting our Round 1 screen and considered further any organization that met at least one of the criteria below:
  1. The charity primarily transfers cash (external - login to view) directly to poor individuals
  2. The charity provided a rigorous impact study (external - login to view) demonstrating program effect
  3. The charity is using donations to create profitable programs
  4. The charity primarily runs microfinance (external - login to view) programs and can answer our questions for microfinance charities (external - login to view)
For more information about why we chose these, see our reasoning behind these criteria (external - login to view).
Sources

Oxfam asked that we keep all submitted documents confidential.
  • Oxfam International. What we do. What we do | Oxfam International (external - login to view) (accessed May 5, 2010). Archive by WebCite® at Error (external - login to view).
2009 website review

In mid-2009, we reviewed the Oxfam America's website as part of a process to identify top international aid organizations. (How did we identify charities for review? (external - login to view)) We reviewed Oxfam America's website to determine whether it met either of the following two criteria, which we believe indicate whether a charity is likely to eventually be able to meet our full criteria (external - login to view) for a recommendation: (Why do we rely on information found on a charity's website? (external - login to view))
  • Does the charity publish high-quality monitoring and evaluation reports on its website? A charity meets this criterion if it freely publishes - on its website - substantial evidence regarding impact that (a) discusses how the impacts of projects or programs were evaluated, including what information was collected and how it was collected; (b) discusses the actual impact of the evaluated projects. (Why is monitoring and evaluation so important? (external - login to view)) We seek enough evidence to be confident that a charity changed lives for the better - not simply that it carried out its activities as intended. Different programs aim for different sorts of life change, and must be assessed on different terms. We do not hold to a single universal rule for determining what "impact" we're looking for; rather, what we look for varies by program type. (For more, see, What constitutes impact? (external - login to view))
  • Does the charity stand out for program selection? A charity meets this criterion if it focuses primarily on (or publishes enough financial information to make it clear that 75% of its recent funding is devoted to) what we consider "priority programs." These programs have particularly strong evidence bases, enough to lower the burden of proof on a charity running them. (Why do we look for charities implementing proven programs? (external - login to view)) Such programs include administering vaccinations, distributing insecticide-treated nets, and treating tuberculosis, among many others. (For more, see our full list of priority programs (external - login to view).)
Oxfam America did not meet either of these criteria.


Oxfam | GiveWell (external - login to view)





find oxfam NOT listed here:

The 2013 Charity 100 Grades - MoneySense (external - login to view)
 
mentalfloss
#9
Oxfam are generally pretty good.
 
captain morgan
Bloc Québécois
+1
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

Oxfam are generally pretty good.

I sure would agree with you on this.

The only concern I have with different charities relates to the cost of admin, management, etc. To my knowledge, a very high % of the donations provided go directly towards the people they are trying to help.
 
Zipperfish
No Party Affiliation
#11
It's in a more papers this morning. Wonder if it will have legs. Hope so.
 
Locutus
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

Oxfam are generally pretty good.

I guess they're not eh, generally.
 
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