News Digest

Sector News Digest: May 18, 2021

This week: a decolonization report, suspected CRA anti-Muslim bias, digital development, university donor dumpster fires, and a Digital Publishing Awards nomination!

“Restitution from the perspective of stolen wealth”

As a companion to Yellowhead Institute’s first Red Paper, Land Back, the Indigenous think tank has published Cash Back, a report about the value of Indigenous lands and how the dispossession of those lands “nearly destroyed Indigenous economic livelihoods.” In many ways, the authors write, “money has become a language of colonization itself.” The institute has also published a glossary of terms and a page of community tools.

The report consists of three parts: a history of how funds went from First Nations to the Crown, an analysis of how fiscal policy has perpetuated the theft of Indigenous resources, and a section focused on redress, compensation, and restitution. The goal is to provoke a debate about reparations. As the writers emphasize, “Cash Back is not a charity project; it is part of a decolonization process.”

Concerning tax audits of Muslim-led charities

Anver M. Emon, the director of the University of Toronto’s Institute of Islamic Studies, and Nadia Z. Hasan, chief operating officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, have released a comprehensive review, called Under Layered Suspicion, that examines how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) treats Muslim-led charities. Looking at three case studies, Emon and Hasan found potential prejudicial biases in the way CRA audits Muslim-led charities because of federal anti-terrorism and anti-radicalization policies. In the worst-case scenarios, these audits can lead to the revocation of charitable status.

Emon and Hasan identify structural problems with the CRA audits and the tendency to “other” Muslims in Canada and discriminate against non-Christian religious groups. They are calling on the federal government to suspend discriminatory policies that disproportionately hinder Muslim-led charities.

The charitable sector takes the lead

Imagine Canada has become one of the most active registered lobby groups on Parliament Hill, according to a regular evaluation by The Lobby Monitor. Imagine Canada authored 10 of the 178 lobbying reports submitted to federal decision-makers in early May, almost all of them focused on the federal budget.

While the Liberal spending plan acknowledged the role of the sector in the country’s economic recovery, there are still recommendations from Imagine Canada not included in the budget. The organization continues to advocate for reforms, such as appointing a specific public officeholder to helm the government’s interactions with the charitable sector. Bernadette Johnson, Imagine Canada’s director of advocacy and knowledge mobilization, explained to The Lobby Monitor that the federal government needs a better understanding of how the charitable sector operates as it makes policy and that having a designated person would help.

Long live live music

Since COVID-19 shut down live concerts and gigs, the music industry has taken a hit, leaving smaller, local artists largely dependent on streaming revenue. However, as Charlie Wall-Andrews, a PhD candidate at the Ted Rogers School of Management, writes in an article for First Policy Response, only “mega-acts” can make substantial amounts of money from streaming. Wall-Andrews calculates that it takes 182 streams to make a dollar on Spotify and 1,149 streams to make the same on YouTube. No easy feat.

Canadian artists have called for changes to the Copyright Act because it includes a “safe harbour” clause, which protects platforms from liability if users unknowingly upload copyrighted content. This is particularly applicable to YouTube, which 79% of Canadians use for music.

For now, the Canadian government is looking at Bill C-10. The contentious bill, which has been put on hold, proposes to make streaming services subject to the Broadcasting Act and, consequently, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The proposed requirements would help “contribute to the creation, production and promotion of Canadian content,” Wall-Andrews writes. Given the absence of live gigs for artists, she argues, now is the time for digital platforms to introduce fair payment models and Canadian-content policies.

Going beyond funding to fight anti-Asian racism

April’s federal budget allocated $11 million over two years to the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF). Some of the funding can be used to support a “national coalition” for Asian Canadians. While the money is appreciated, activists have expressed concern that grants are not enough to address anti-Asian hate in Canada, which has proliferated during the pandemic.

“It’s just as important for the government to support organizations that have a more specific mandate to address anti-Asian racism as an issue,” Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, told The Globe and Mail.

Asian Canadians are a diverse group, so Mohammed Hashim, CRRF’s executive director, plans to work with local groups to address their needs. “A Crown corporation is not going to solve racism,” he says. “It’s going to work in collaboration with community groups, who are deeply connected to the people that they serve.”

Fighting sexual harassment and barriers to justice

A Nova Scotia fundraiser is amplifying her experience of being sexually harassed by a wealthy donor. In a CBC interview last week, Liz LeClair said the legal and human rights systems, and her former employer, have not held the man that she alleges sexually harassed her accountable.

She is not the only victim. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has failed to address the sexual harassment cases of several others. Additionally, as sexual harassment does not constitute a criminal complaint, LeClair would have to launch a civil lawsuit against her former employer, not the man who harassed her. “The systems in place are essentially broken and hinder a victim’s ability to come forward and speak about abuse,” she says.

Similar cases surfaced in 2018 in Britain during exclusive fundraising events, prompting a far-ranging debate about sexual harassment in the charitable sector and efforts to document the extent of the problem.

Amnesty International Canada and systemic racism

Jayne Stoyles is no longer the executive director of Amnesty International Canada’s English branch. The details surrounding her exit are unclear, but it happened “amid allegations about a racist and toxic workplace, according to internal email exchanges and documents,” Vice World News reports.

Stoyles left in March, following what Vice called “a tense email exchange” with staff members who felt Amnesty International did not adequately acknowledge Black History Month. Staff also felt the organization was acting too slowly on addressing internal systemic racism. Vice interviewed seven current and former employees, all of whom spoke about microaggressions and a lack of support for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour) employees at the organization. In a statement to Vice, Amnesty International Canada’s board of directors said the organization is working to make improvements, such as recruiting board members committed to anti-racism.

Will the Bill and Melinda split affect Canada?

There is anxiety about how the divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates will affect the philanthropic sector. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of nearly US$50 billion, is by far the largest philanthropic entity in the world and has contributed to a plethora of Canadian projects. These include Boehringer Ingelheim’s work on COVID-19 and a $31-million grant to Grand Challenges Canada’s Point-of-Care Diagnostics (POC Dx) Initiative, as well as smaller donations, such as a $541,566 grant to the Global Canada Initiative in 2020.

While there is precedent for divorces affecting foundations, experts told the Associated Press that at the very least already committed money will likely be unaffected. What happens to future donations remains to be seen.

Toronto universities face continuing woes involving donors

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has voted to censure the University of Toronto for violating principles of academic freedom. Last year, human rights lawyer Valentina Azarova was in the process of accepting a role as director of the Faculty of Law’s International Human Rights Program when she was abruptly told that the offer had been rescinded. According to media reports and a subsequent investigation, David E. Spiro – a tax court judge whose wealthy family has made large donations to the law school – raised concerns about Azarova’s past work on Israeli occupation in Palestine, and her hiring was blocked.

Ryerson University also faced controversy this month when benefactor Suzanne Rogers posted photos of herself and her family with former US president Donald Trump. The school’s Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute quickly responded to the image, inviting Rogers into a dialogue regarding the harm Trump has caused to many members of the fashion community. Notably, the Rogers family has given more than $34 million to Ryerson since 2016 and is one of the university’s biggest donors. The fashion institute’s invitation did not go unnoticed – and was quickly replaced by a new post that said the original post “did not reflect Ryerson’s views.”

Also this week:

The Philanthropist has been nominated for a Digital Publishing Award: Fatima Syed’s article “StatsCan Releases Survey to Assess Diversity on Non-Profit Boards” was nominated in the Best Feature Article: Short category. We’re so proud of Fatima and our team!

A new e-book on the Canadian voluntary sector: The Muttart Foundation has published Intersections and Innovations: Change in Canada’s Voluntary and Nonprofit Sector, a 36-chapter resource written by 52 different academics and sector leaders. You can download the e-book for free in its entirety or by individual chapters.

Arctic Inspiration Prize 2021: Nominations are now open for this year’s competition, which provides seed funding to northern teams with innovative ideas. Supported by the Rideau Hall Foundation, the AIP is Canada’s largest annual prize, with up to $3 million awarded to the various projects. More details are available here.

Apply to be a member of the Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector (ACCS). The CRA is holding an open call for applications for the ACCS, whose mandate is “to engage in meaningful dialogue with the charitable sector, advance emerging issues related to charities, and to ensure the regulatory environment supports the important work that charities do.” The government looks to appoint seven people to serve a two-year term, beginning in September. Applications close May 21.

Learn more about charitable gifts of life insurance: The Canadian Association of Gift Planners is hosting a free webinar on June 9 following the release of their new set of user-friendly resources on making charitable donations of life insurance.  

Survey for Ontario non-profits: ONN and l’Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario have launched a new survey to collect data on the financial, operational, and human resource impacts of the pandemic on organizations; access or barriers to government measures; and rebuilding opportunities and challenges. The survey closes June 4.

Rachel Chen is an audience strategist for Indiegraf, Master of Information student at the University of Toronto, and a freelance writer. You can find Rachel on Twitter at @RachEndeavours.

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