From the Canadian Broadcasting Company:
Revenue Canada targets birdwatchers for political activity
A small group of nature lovers in southern Ontario enjoy spending weekends watching birds and other wildlife, but lately they're the ones under watch — by the Canada Revenue Agency.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, a registered charity, is apparently at risk of breaking tax agency rules that limit so-called political or partisan activities.
Earlier this year, tax auditors sent a letter to the 300-member group, warning about political material on the group's website.
The stern missive says the group must take appropriate action as necessary "including refraining from undertaking any partisan activities," with the ominous warning that "this letter does not preclude any future audits."
But longtime member Roger Suffling is speaking up, saying the issue is about democratic freedom and not about arcane tax rules.
"Effectively, they've put a gag on us," he said in an interview, noting that the letter arrived just after the club had written directly to two federal cabinet ministers to complain about government-approved chemicals that damage bee colonies.
"You can piece together the timing," said Suffling, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo. "The two things are very concurrent."
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq responded to the group's complaint in a March 14 letter — or just days after the Canada Revenue Agency letter arrived — and Suffling is convinced the two events are linked. Aglukkaq's office denies there's any link, saying the agency operates independently.
Suffling said that if government is using the tax agency as a "pit bull to stifle dissent, then there's something very wrong."
The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists website is here. It's not just the USA doing this.
Roger Suffling has written an article at the Waterloo Region Record - here is an excerpt:
So I remembered the neonics (neonicotinoids) letter. Last winter, the directors of our naturalists' club — the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists — voiced concern to then federal Agriculture Minister, Gerry Ritz, about the impact of these new insecticides, whose use the European Union has suspended. We added footnotes and references: We wanted our little club to be taken seriously. And we were.
Federal Minister for the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, replied on March 14. We had our response, and we weren't happy with it, but that is how democracy works, right
Wrong. On almost the same day, we received a March 11 audit from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Thus I take no comfort in the late finance minister Jim Flaherty's statement that "we don't choose who is audited by the CRA. That's up to the CRA"
Though the detailed, five-page letter determined that our club was in compliance, the auditor concluded ominously: "We trust that (the club) will take appropriate action ... including refraining from undertaking any partisan activities. This letter does not preclude any future audits." (My emphasis).
Now why would Canada Revenue concern itself with a nature club?
Ostensibly, it's because charities like ours can spend no more than 10 per cent of their revenue on partisan political activity (10 per cent, not ANY!), and that is defined exceedingly broadly: "encouraging the public to contact an elected representative … communicat(ing) … to the public … organiz(ing) … to retain, oppose or change … law, policy, or decision of government … any government, at any level, in Canada, or abroad."
Big oil, through their lobby group, Ethical Oil, has used the Canada Revenue rules to challenge the activities of large environmental charities like Sierra Club Canada: But a local naturalist club? That seemed like overkill. This Canada Revenue net is wide, with a small mesh. It can snare big fish, and tiny ones.
I hope this blows up in their faces. We need more traction in the media for scandals like this - after all, our own IRS scandal is now at Day 526 and not a peep from the media.