By Tim Bloedow
The Interim

Planned Parenthood has probably had better days. Facing setbacks at the local level and even to their international operation, the national branch in Canada is also facing an attack.

Not long ago, the pro-abortion purveyor of sex education and contraceptives was seen as unassailable by many of its opponents, having become entrenched as the organization of preference by most Western governments on issues pertaining to “reproductive health” and rights. At the federal level in Canada, they are also a highly respected lobby group among Canada’s political elite.

In recent years, however, Planned Parenthood agencies have been beaten back in some local jurisdictions by groups seeking to cut their government funding and to see their controversial sex education programs augmented by, if not replaced with, abstinence curricula. Also, just last month, news reports revealed that the International Planned Parenthood Federation used $700,000 of American taxpayer dollars to fund abortions in Uganda and India, money given to it by USAID after promising that the funds would not be used to kill unborn children. The international organization is apparently being pressured to return the funds.

And now the Toronto-based organization Charity Watch wants to make Planned Parenthood of Canada (PPFC) abide by Canadian charity law if it wants to retain its charitable status. Pro-lifers have been outraged over the past couple of years as Human Life International and the former Alliance for Life Canada had their charitable status revoked for allegedly engaging in political activity.

Their cries about the overt political activity of Planned Parenthood and other “charitable” pro-abortion groups went ignored. Charity Watch president George Barkhouse, however, believes that he has compelling evidence of PPFC’s breach of charity law, which Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (formerly Revenue Canada) will have to investigate. He will be filing a complaint shortly with the Audit Division of CCRA’s charities department, demanding that they investigate the pro-abortion group’s compliance with charity law.

His interest was first piqued in PPFC about a year ago, he said, when he received information linking them with Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD), an advocacy group (and therefore not eligible for charitable status) which until this year was working out of the same address as PPFC. He is levelling three charges against the PPFC regarding apparent violations of their charitable status.

First, he says, the organization is giving money to ACPD. ACPD’s 1999 annual report indicates, as an asset, $125,167 owing from Planned Parenthood. The Interim confirmed that charities are not permitted to donate money to non-charities. A charity can “jeopardize its status” by doing so, said a Revenue Canada spokesman. PPFC will have to demonstrate that the money can be given to ACPD without being considered a donation in order to side-step this allegation.

ACPD openly acknowledges its special relationship with PPFC in its 1999 annual report. “We have a unique and special relationship with Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada, who sponsored ACPD during our planning year. PPFC has two representatives on ACPD’s Board of Directors.”

Mr. Barkhouse also alleges that groups which want a tax receipt for their donations to ACPD are funnelling the money through PPFC. He points to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in the United States, which he says has donated at least $300,000 to PPFC, earmarked for ACPD, since 1998. Planned Parenthood did not return The Interim’s call to address this allegation. ACPD’s annual report acknowledges receipt of funds from the Hewlett Foundation.

Rod Beaujot of the University of Western Ontario’s sociology department and president of the Canadian Population Society, in a 1998 memo to the “distribution list of the Population and Development Committee of the Federation of Canadian Demographers”, observed that ACPD made a “crucial decision … to continue the relationship with PPFC, with an agency agreement through which ACPD will be incorporated as an agent of PPFC. Besides the advantage of the link to PPFC, this will allow ACPD to profit from PPFC’s charitable tax status.”

Mr. Barkhouse’s third concern is that PPFC’s political activity violates its charitable status. Charities are permitted a small measure of political activity, but even within the quantitative parameters, certain criteria have to be obeyed, including the requirement that the political activism not be partisan. Yet on their website, under the category “What Can I Do?”, they encourage people to “notify your local MP to register yourself as a pro-choice Canadian. Let them know that in this election year you will be looking for someone who will ensure your right to sexual and reproductive health information and services.” With no clear explanation, they include immediately below that recommendation a list of several Liberal MPs (cabinet ministers) with contact information: the Prime Minister, former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy, Justice Minister Anne McLellan, Health Minister Allan Rock, and the minister responsible for the Canadian International Development Agency Maria Minna. MPs from other parties are not included in the list.

Charity Watch was registered in the spring of this year, but Mr. Barkhouse has been researching and investigating charities on his own time since at least 1997. The purpose of his organization, he said, is “to support the efficiency and effectiveness of the government in ensuring tax compliance by scrutinizing the operation of registered charities.” He has filed complaints with Revenue Canada against numerous groups including the environmentalist Schad Foundation and the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. Charity Watch will investitgate legitimate concerns about any charitable organization.