GUEST COLUMN: Bill creates ‘level playing field’ for charities
Bill C-19 helps address ‘imbalanced power dynamics’, says United Way Simcoe Muskoka official
The following editorial was written by Brian Shelley, Executive Director and Head of Philanthropy at United Way Simcoe Muskoka.
The federal government recently passed legislation that will have a positive impact on the entire nonprofit sector. Specifically, the changes outlined in Bill C-19 will change the way charities, like United Way Simcoe Muskoka, work with and fund local organizations.
Disclaimer: This should not be considered legal advice; rather, it is our interpretation of the policy change and why we believe it is consistent with our own commitment to strengthening communities.
Previously, under Canada’s Income Tax Act, there were requirements that made it administratively difficult and costly for registered charities to work with groups without qualified donee status. The rules also prevented charities from providing funds to non-charities to carry out a partnership initiative unless they enter into an agreement under which the charity exercises “the direction and control about their partner’s activities.
Guidelines on the implementation of this legislation are yet to come. However, what we understand is that with these recent changes, charities can more easily provide funding to organizations that are not registered charities.
Unbalanced power dynamics
There are many groups and organizations without official charitable status that do meaningful and important work in our community, tackling various causes. Proponents of this recent policy change, including the United Way, felt the previous rules created barriers for local charities and nonprofits to work together. For local organizations led by and serving Indigenous communities and deserving of equity, this has further perpetuated lopsided power dynamics and long-term systemic barriers to change.
Consider the following:
Organization A is an established registered charity with a long institutional history of service to Canada and Canadians. Organization B is an emerging, grassroots nonprofit that has expertise or community connections that organization A lacks. In this example, organization B serves a racialized community.
Under the old Charities Act, organization A could only fund organization B within the parameters of the following conditions: organization B was “hired” by organization A to do work at name of organization A and serving the mission and vision of organization A.
Critics of the previous legislation felt that this arrangement:
- Gives organization A power over organization B
- Suggests that organization A knows best how to serve the population Organization B is deeply connected to
- Promotes long-term systemic imbalance between the racialized community served by Organization B and the institutions that serve them
Now imagine if organization B serves a specific racialized community and organization A has a history of systemic racism and/or marginalization of the population served by organization B. In this scenario, even if the funds do manage to racialized community, it does a disservice to our efforts to move forward as a society that values diversity and strives for equality.
Institutions, including “helping people” charities, need to change the way we work with marginalized communities and other organizations led by those with lived experience.
This legislative change introduced by the federal government creates a more level playing field where local organizations can take the lead on the issues they know best, and for charities, like the United Way, to listen, track and provide support. financial.
As an organization that champions social inclusion, United Way across Canada commends the federal government for adopting this legislative change as an example of policy that strengthens communities and reduces barriers to working with various organizations, including those led by and serving Indigenous and racialized peoples.
Your United Way looks forward to learning more about how these changes will take effect and we are committed to working with our partners in a collaborative manner in the spirit of this legislative change.