Government Responds to Recommendations of Senate Report on Charities & NFP Sector

  • May 03, 2021
  • Terrance S. Carter and Esther S.J. Oh

A. introduction

The federal government published a detailed response letter on March 30, 2021 to the Senate’s special report on the charitable and non-profit sector.[1] In this regard, as discussed in Charity & NFP Law Bulletin No. 451, the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector (“Committee”) had earlier released its final report, Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector (“Report”), on June 20, 2019.[2] The Report was the result of a year-long study and included 42 recommendations to the Government of Canada (“Government”), officially adopted by the Senate of Canada on November 30, 2020, (“Recommendations”), with a focus on key themes to strengthen the charitable and non-profit sector, while proposing measures to update the legal framework. The Committee was formed in 2018 to examine the impact of federal and provincial laws and policies governing registered charities, non-profit organizations and other similar groups, and to examine the impact of the voluntary sector in Canada.

The 20-page letter from the Minister of National Revenue reviews and responds to all of the 42 Recommendations. This Bulletin provides an overview of the Government’s extensive response to the Report (“Response”) and highlights comments of particular interest.

B. strengthening the sector

The Response begins with a review of the first eight recommendations, titled “Strengthening the Sector”, and provides comments on three areas: volunteering, staffing, and governing.

1. Volunteering

In answer to the Report’s call for a “national volunteer strategy to encourage volunteerism with a focus on the needs of northern, rural and urban communities” in Recommendation 1, the Response indicates that Employment and Social Development Canada (“ESDC”) is working with the charitable and non-profit sectors “to build capacity and support” by providing direct funding to voluntary sector organizations.[3] It is organizations, such as Volunteer Canada, that “provide strategic leadership and expertise on volunteerism” according to the Response, noting four national programs of the ESDC: Social Development Partnerships Program; New Horizons for Seniors Program; Canada’s Volunteer Awards; and Canada Service Corps.

The Response reflects the Government’s agreement and supports Recommendations 2–4, to include in contribution agreements the costs associated with the recruitment and retention of volunteers; to seek ways to reduce the financial burden placed on organizations by the need for finger printing services and police checks on volunteers; and recognition programs for volunteers, respectively.[4] In this regard, the Response states that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will promote the incorporation of “unique eligible activities and eligible expenditures” into transfer payment programs that include the charitable and non-profit sector. The Response notes that while the Royal Canadian Mounted Police do not charge fees for finger printing or police checks for individuals volunteering with a charitable organization, Canada’s decentralized policing systems result in different bodies individually determining their fee structure. As such the Government is working with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to encourage their provincial, territorial and municipal counterparts to waive or reduce the fees for criminal record checks for volunteers.