The iniquity of the inequity consists of allowing tax-exemptions for contributions offered to groups advocating abortion, while withholding those exemptions from groups opposed to abortion, but supporting life. Those in favour of Morgentaler’s abortion clinics, for example, and his legal battles, are able to extend him financial assistance with tax-exempt dollars, whereas those of us who wish to help Joe Borowski with his legal costs (his appeal against the Manitoba ruling went to the Supreme Court of Canada in October), are unable to get the same treatment.
In order to get a better understanding of the tax-exemption system, I wrote to the Income Tax, people in March of this year, and have just had their reply – and then only after three or four promptings! The explanation does not improve my understanding; it confuses me even more. Here are its pertinent elements.
I had known, of course, that contributions to a Registered Charity were entitled to a tax-exemption. What I wanted to find out was what a Registered Charity was. Here is what the letter had to say on the matter: “To qualify for registration as a charity, an organization must be constituted and operate exclusively for charitable purposes:”
One can hardly take exception to that, but I am at a loss to understand how the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC for short), for example, can qualify under this definition when REAL Women cannot; the term “exclusively, I should have thought, would have ruled out NAC.
So I had to read on in the letter: “As the term charitable is not defined in the Act, the common law meaning of that term must be applied.”
That was helpful, though it did not dispose of the “exclusivity: feature. Nonetheless, let’s proceed: “On this basis, charitable purposes have been categorized generally, as the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion, and other purposes beneficial to the community as a whole in a way which the law regards as charitable.”
Hold it a minute! Which law? How can a law which that does not define the term, “charitable” regard a purpose as “charitable?” Even so, under such a dubious categorization why does Planned Parenthood rate as a “charitable organization,” while anything to do with Campaign Life Coalition does not? Where is the equity to be found in such circumstances?
The letter plunges on: “In evaluating an application for charitable registration, or in monitoring the activities of an existing charity…departmental officials (are required) to decide whether the organization operates within the legal confines of charity as estimated at common-law and whether it satisfies the rules governing registered charities contained in the Income Tax Act.”
Have I missed something here? Or have we not, perhaps, stumbled on a straight contradiction of what went before? What are the “rules” governing charities contained within the Income Tax Act which, it has already been stated, does not define the term “charitable?” Are we being asked to distinguish between “charitable” – which is not defined in the Act – and “charities” – about which the Act lays down some “rules?” This is straight “bureau-crazy”, if even I heard it!
But the letter will not let up. It continues by indicating that: “Political activities and purposes are not, in and of themselves, viewed as charitable at common law. Accordingly, registration cannot be granted to organizations whose aim is directed towards changing or maintaining existing legislation.”
How does that particular determinant apply to Planned Parenthood, for example, which in the Globe and Mail, this March, embarked on a full-page ad campaign to solicit tax-exempt funds. At the same time, the ad encouraged readers to engage in political pressure tactics by clipping out the coupons printed with the ad and addressed to the Ministers of Justice and of National Health and Welfare, urging them towards a certain political course of action? Why should Planned Parenthood, I cannot help asking myself, be granted a tax exemption for this type of activity, while Campaign Life Coalition is denied comparable status?
Perhaps that’s how Planned Parenthood got in under the wire. If so, what are its “charitable purposes?” The dissemination of birth control information? (Some TV advertising is doing the same: do they get tax relief, too?) TO my way of thinking, the Planned Parenthood advertisement read more like a prescription for promiscuity.
Be that as it may, the letter grinds on by defining the sorts of “political activities” that are permitted under the Act. These are activities that: “…are intended to influence public opinion generally, such as advertising, mailings or rental of facilities for meetings on public policy issues. Thus, the registered charity may engage in limited lobbying activities:”
On such criteria, I still cannot see any reason for withholding organizations advocating the pro-life stand, while extending it to those favouring abortion.
The foregoing, you will notice, does not address the equally iniquitous inequities in the area of government aid to the pro-abortion people which is refused to those taking the pro-life position.
The Borowski case
As a footnote to all this, I have just learned that Joe Borowski is having to ask for funds to carry his appeal on behalf of the unborn to the Supreme Court of Canada. His organization, Alliance Against Abortion, – that AAA gives him a Triple A rating in my eyes – is asking for contributions but, of course, cannot offer receipts with a tax-exempt rating. He had to meet steep court costs in Saskatchewan, and a great deal of that burden was defrayed from his own family savings.
Supreme Court costs will probably be much higher. If Morgentaler’s court costs were met, even in part, through tax-exempt dollars, why should Borowski not benefit from the same sort of treatment? Or does equity go out the window as pro-lifers come in the front door?
In any event, even if we cannot get equity for Borowski, there is a way to help: I’d like to issue a challenge to all those who value life:
“I’ve undertaken to match dollar for dollar (up to $5,000), for individual contributions to this cause – contributions large or small. My money is up front. Are you ready to put some up too? ALLIANCE AGAINST ABORTION fund is open for deposits at the Bank of Montreal in Sidney, B.C., Account No. 7028-735 (Bank transfer No. 2700).
Is there anyone else out there prepared to issue a similar challenge in your community? My offer could net Joe Borowski $10,000; how much are you prepared to put up, on a matching basis, to help with the $100,000 he expects to have to meet?