Paul Tuns:

A report by Campaign Life Coalition noted that the Trudeau government is ignoring the pleas of more than 12,000 Canadians demanding the government not punitively strip pro-life pregnancy centres of their charitable tax status.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland posted the government’s official response that the Trudeau government is “committed to taking action” against the pro-life groups.

The petition, launched by Campaign Life Coalition and officially filed with Parliament by several MPs in December 2021, was officially responded to by Freeland on January 31.

CLC’s petition says that if the Liberals follow through with their 2021 campaign promise to punish pro-life groups through the tax code, it could “jeopardize the charitable status of hospitals, houses of worship, schools, homeless shelters, and other charitable organizations which do not agree with the Liberal Party on this matter for reasons of conscience.” It asserts “charities and other non-profit organizations should not be discriminated against on the basis of their political views or religious values and should not be subject to a politicized ‘values test’.”

The petition also notes that the Trudeau Liberals had previously implemented a pro-abortion “values test” for employers that received the Canada Summer Jobs Program subsidy.

The petition states “All Canadians have a right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to freedom of expression without discrimination,” and therefore signatories call upon the government to “protect and preserve the application of charitable status rules on a politically and ideologically neutral basis.”

Several other petitions to the House of Commons signed by more than 3000 citizens called on MPs to do “everything in their power to prevent, block, organize against, and vote against any effort by the government to revoke the charitable status of pro-life organizations in Canada.”

In total, more than 15,000 Canadians have called upon the government to not punish pro-life charities by rescinding their charitable tax status.

These petitions have been read 40 times in the House of Commons by pro-life MPs since mid-December. 

In her response to the official tabling of the petitions, Freeland said, “all Canadians should have the information they need to freely make decisions over their own bodies,” adding “registered charities that provide reproductive health services are required to provide accurate, judgement free and evidence-based information to women with respect to their rights and options at all stages of their pregnancy.”

Freeland committed to fulfilling the Liberal campaign promise and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to her directing the Finance Minister to introduce “amendments to the Income Tax Act to ensure that organizations that provide dishonest counselling to pregnant women are ineligible for charitable registration.”

David Cooke, CLC’s campaigns manager, said in Campaign Life Coalition’s report: “The Trudeau Liberals say they want to clamp down on ‘dishonest pro-life charities.’ That sounds reasonable to most people. Who wants to allow a dishonest charity to continue? However, the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) already screens for fraud and would close down a fraudulent charity. The real issue is the Liberals’ new ‘definition’ of ‘dishonest,’ which for them essentially means an organization not promoting or endorsing abortion. The Liberals actually see all genuinely pro-life charities as dishonest.” Cooke said, “Politics needs to stay out of the charitable screening process entirely.”

Rebel News’s Sheila Gunn Reid investigated the government’s politicization of charitable status and found through an access to information request that the Trudeau government had already been working with the CRA to move on this file even before winning the election. In September, during the election campaign, the government provided a “heads up” about “compliance considerations” regarding the “anti-abortion item.”

Rebel News also reported on the government’s secretive dealings with the CRA: “By November, Finance was putting material together and seeking input from CRA — though only from people with Secret clearance: ‘Do we have the necessary tools.’ A further email hints at ‘another secret finance request’ linked to compliance and ongoing audits ‘and it’s not to be discussed beyond the 3 of us.’ The rest of the emails regarding the secret meetings are redacted.”

Gunn Reid said that the documents suggested the government was interfering with the operation of the CRA: “Who in the Liberal government is tampering with the CRA’s independence? Who is weaponizing the tax collectors to go after Justin Trudeau’s ideological enemies for the crime of wanting to help women and girls?”

Patricia Maloney, who runs the Run with Life blog, uncovered documents through a freedom of information request that the CRA informed the Trudeau government that it was not within its jurisdiction to revoke the charitable status of pro-life organizations, saying it can only apply current laws, not make new rules. “Legislative changes to the Act are the responsibility of the Department of Finance Canada,” the CRA informed the Department of Finance.

Maloney said that she is now waiting for documents from the Department of Finance that she hopes will reveal what Trudeau’s next move might be.