CRA Should Check Justice Center For Constitutional Freedoms After Judges Controversy: Manitoba Prof
A University of Manitoba professor who studies the nonprofit sector said the Canada Revenue Agency should investigate the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms, after it was revealed that the president and founder of the center had hired a private investigator to follow the Chief Justice of Manitoba.
Karine Levasseur says she even writes a letter to the CRA requesting an audit of the organization – which is a registered charity with the agency – wondering if charitable donations should be used for this type of activity.
“Is this something that charities should get involved in? I would tend to think it wasn’t,” Levasseur said.
The Calgary-based Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms is representing a group of Manitoba churches and individuals in a legal challenge to Manitoba’s pandemic regulations.
On Monday, John Carpay, the head of the organization, admitted in court that he had hired someone to follow Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal, who is presiding over the case and says he expects to make his decision in a few weeks. .
In a hearing Monday, Joyal said he believed he was followed in an attempt to catch him violating the province’s COVID-19 regulations, which Carpay later admitted to be the case.
Levasseur says she wonders if hiring a private investigator to follow a judge is a legitimate charitable expense.
The Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms reported more than $ 2.6 million in revenue in 2020, almost all of which came from donations and gifts from other registered charities, according to the CRA website.
There are various benefits to being a registered charity, such as not paying income tax, so they must be held to a high standard, said Levasseur, professor of political studies at the U of M. who specializes in public administration.
“My biggest concern is that charities need to maintain the trust of Canadians, and it is these types of actions that leave me concerned that this could lead to an erosion of trust,” she said.
“I also express my concerns that this will turn into a possible invasion of the privacy of Judge Glenn Joyal but also of his family.”
Christopher Doody, spokesperson for the Canada Revenue Agency, said he could not comment on this specific issue due to privacy laws.
However, he said, to maintain their charitable status, charities must provide a public benefit and their activities must align with their stated purpose.
A registered charity that undertakes non-charitable activities may be subject to compliance measures, he said.
At present, the charitable status of the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms has not been revoked, canceled, suspended or penalized by the CRA, he said.
Carpay took responsibility for the decision to hire a private investigator and has since taken indefinite leave.
But a Toronto lawyer whose work focuses on charities and the nonprofit sector says the incident raises serious questions about the governance and oversight of the Justice Center.
“It’s a pretty incredible situation. I’ve never seen another charity that has done this sort of thing, at least I can think of it right now,” said Mark Blumberg.
“I think the organization is definitely going to have to think about whether it should be a charity, first of all, [and] second, whether they have sufficient control over their operations. ”
Like Levasseur, Blumberg said he was also concerned that the incident would affect people’s trust in charities.
“One of the most important things the charitable sector has is public trust. And if the charitable sector loses public trust, it’s not just that the money won’t come from fundraising.” , did he declare.
“That means people won’t listen to charities when they give good advice on … things like ‘not drinking and driving’ and all kinds of other issues that charities are involved in.”
Even if the CRA chooses to audit the Justice Center, it could take a long time for the public to know, if they ever find out.
This is because Revenue Canada is prohibited from confirming or denying whether a registered charity is currently being audited, has been selected for audit, or has already been audited. It only makes this information public if the charity’s registration has been revoked, canceled or suspended, or when a charity is penalized.
The Winnipeg Police Department has confirmed it is investigating the incident, although no charges have yet been laid.