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Over the holiday season a story out of Winnipeg grabbed the attention of the Canadian public. The story went something like this: an elderly woman fell in the home she shared with her middle‑aged son. She was injured in the fall and left unable to get up under her own power. Her son, apparently carrying out the wishes of his mother, did not call for emergency assistance and did not move her to bed. Instead, the 62‑year-old covered his mother with a blanket where she lay and provided her with food and water until she passed away several weeks later.
On October 29, 2014 the government introduced Bill C‑44, an Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other (related) Acts, cited in short form as the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney stated that the amendments put forward under Bill C‑44 are required to keep Canadians safe from terrorism and to protect and uphold the privacy of confidential informants.
A storm of controversy erupted amongst Canadian lawyers when the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) decided to intervene in Chevron's appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The appeal is part of Chevron's battle against Ecuadorian Indigenous peoples who seek to enforce a massive court judgment against the company for environmental damage in Ecuador. Amid increasing pressure, the CBA ultimately decided not to intervene. However, the event speaks to an apparent divide within the legal profession: around the relationship and importance of corporate law principles (such as the corporate veil), corporate accountability, and access to and the administration of justice.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) operating agreements with non‑profit housing co‑operatives and rental housing providers have begun to expire across Canada at a rapid rate. These agreements with their related mortgages, entered into under various federal programs between 1970 and 1994, supply housing providers with between 25 and 40 years of annual subsidy money to provide reduced monthly charges to a specified percentage of tenants and members who qualify for support. With the conclusion of these agreements and their related mortgages, housing providers will cease making mortgage payments, but at the same time, they will no longer receive housing subsidy payments -- payments that subsidize some 200,000 households in Canada comprising half a million people.
Last week, Greenpeace Canada filed a defence in a claim by Resolute Forest Products Inc. This was the result of a failed motion by Greenpeace to have Resolute's claim for intentional interference with economic relations dismissed by the Divisional Court of Ontario, together with an order requiring Greenpeace to pay $20,000 in costs.
Environmental Defence. PEN Canada. Amnesty International Canada. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Canada Without Poverty. The David Suzuki Foundation.
What do these organizations have in common -- aside from all doing great work?
All are registered charities.
All have been publicly critical of Stephen Harper's government.
And all are undergoing audits of their political activities by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
What's this about? Here's what you need to know.
When organizations seek charitable registration from government in order to entice donors who would like tax receipts, they necessarily accept oversight by a government agency that, in an atmosphere as poisonous as Canada's these days, can overreach.
In the past few years, the Harper government has aggressively pursued its own agenda without due regard for the Canadian Constitution, the rights of the provinces and the rights of the most vulnerable Canadians. It has pushed for Senate reform, tougher criminal laws, and even subtly attempted to shift the balance of the Supreme Court of Canada by appointing judges with a conservative bent.
Stephen Harper may have hoped that his five appointments to the Supreme Court would influence the outcome of the cases before it, but a recent string of well‑deserved thrashings in court have demonstrated that the Supreme Court is truly an independent, non‑partisan body, able to act as a check on the government's (inappropriate) actions.