Canada Revenue Agency says 'preventing poverty' not allowed as goal for charity
OTTAWA - The Canada Revenue Agency has told a well-known charity that it can no longer try to prevent poverty around the world, it can only alleviate poverty — because preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.
The bizarre bureaucratic brawl over a mission statement is yet more evidence of deteriorating relations between the Harper government and some parts of Canada's charitable sector.
The lexical scuffle began when Oxfam Canada filed papers with Industry Canada to renew its non-profit status, as required by Oct. 17 this year under a law passed in 2011.
Ottawa-based Oxfam initially submitted wording that its purpose as a charity is "to prevent and relieve poverty, vulnerability and suffering by improving the conditions of individuals whose lives, livelihood, security or well-being are at risk."
The international development group, founded in 1963, spends about $32 million each year on humanitarian relief and aid in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, with a special emphasis on women's rights.
But the submission to Industry Canada also needed the approval of the charities directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency, and that's where the trouble began.
Agency officials informed Oxfam that "preventing poverty" was not an acceptable goal.