CLF contributes to National Study of Charities in Canada

“True neutrality” is honoured by Canada’s recognition that ‘advancing religion’ is a charitable purpose. This continued recognition serves to support, not undermine, Canada’s constitutional tradition, one which “supports and encourages even-handed state support of religious and conscientious freedoms.”
— CLF Brief to the Special Senate Committee, quoting Prof. Bruce Ryder

CLF Contributes to national Study of charities in Canada

On April 1, 2019, CLF submitted its brief to the Special Senate Committee’s study of Canada’s charitable sector. The Committee undertook the study to “examine the impact of federal and provincial laws and policies governing charities, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and other similar groups; and to examine the impact of the voluntary sector in Canada.” For more on the Special Senate Committee, see here.

CLF’s Submissions

CLF’s submissions focus on the value and impact of religious charities in particular, and explain why Canadian law’s continued recognition of ‘advancing religion’ as a charitable purpose is both constitutionally sound and socially beneficial.

While the Special Senate Committee has not indicated any intention to question or revise this aspect of charity law in any way, questions about the constitutional validity of ‘advancing religion’ as a charitable head have been raised in other contexts, and in at least one other submission to the Committee. CLF therefore valued this opportunity to provide our perspective and analysis in response to concerns that have been, or may be, raised in this regard.

CLF’s submissions articulate that Canadian law recognizes “the advancement of religion” as a charitable purpose. Contrary to what some have suggested, this does not undermine any constitutional principle, including the state’s duty of religious neutrality. To the contrary, charity law’s approach to organizations which ‘advance religion’ is entirely consistent with Canada’s constitution. State neutrality does not prevent the government from creating social and legal conditions conducive to the flourishing of religious communities.

Drawing from a forthcoming article by Derek Ross and Ian Sinke, CLF’s written submissions outline the unique benefits of religious organizations, including the following:

  • Religious communities support self-definition and individual fulfillment;

  • Religious communities enrich democracy and the common good;

  • Religious communities provide enormous social and practical benefits; and

  • True neutrality does not require a public square devoid of belief

CLF’s submissions made the following recommendation to the Special Senate Committee:

The Christian Legal Fellowship fully endorses the recommendation of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities: “That the Special Senate Committee affirm Advancing Religion as a charitable purpose with significant public benefit to Canadian society.”

Read more:

Read CLF’s submission to the Special Senate Committee.