Several members of the non-profit sector, including United Way and Imagine Canada, are calling on the federal government to take immediate steps to protect Muslim-led charities from potentially discriminatory federal audits.
More than a dozen organizations issued a statement urging Ottawa to act following the release this week of a Taxpayer Ombudsman report on the fairness of the audit process for registered charities.
In his report, François Boileau recommended better unconscious bias training for employees of the Canada Revenue Agency’s Charities Directorate.
However, Boileau said that because of barriers to access to relevant information, he could not examine the issues “in sufficient depth” to assess how the revenue agency applies its processes.
Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier asked the watchdog to conduct a systematic review of the safeguards of Muslim-led charities, particularly the selection of files for audit purposes by the Review and Analysis Division of the Revenue Agency’s Charities Directorate. Focus on concerns.
A 2021 report by the Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group said the division works with national security agencies to conduct these audits, with little accountability or independent review.
The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, which has access to sensitive and classified information, recently notified the Revenue Agency that it will conduct a review of the Review and Analysis Division.
In their statement Thursday, members of the broader nonprofit sector suggested handing the division’s time-sensitive responsibilities to another team within the government on an interim basis.
He recommended stronger monitoring and accountability measures for the division’s activities in the long term.
The statement added that the intelligence review agency must have access to “all necessary information, personnel and documents” to conduct its investigation.
In its statement, the Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council urged the federal government to suspend the Review and Analysis Division and halt the audit of all Muslim-led charities.