Montreal-based charity fears closure thanks to Harper's crackdown on charities

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The foreign-aid work done by a Quebec charity may come to an end after it lost its charitable status due to increased measures by the Harper government to target Canadian charities. If Alternatives shuts down for good, it will be the first charity to close down to these measures.

The charity, Alternatives, aims to "create a world where international solidarity, environmental rights, democratic rights and human dignity are universally respected," according to their official website. 

The organization is part of an eight-member federation that includes Alternatives chapters in different countries around the world such as Brazil, South Africa, and Morocco.

Alternatives have employed and trained over 1,000 interns to promote international solidarity abroad since their founding in 1994.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) gave the organization its charitable status 20 years ago. This status has helped Alternatives stay afloat to conduct its projects, hire staff, complete annual reports, and train interns.

However, since the CRA has deemed sending workers and funds overseas as non-charitable work, Alternatives faces an uncertain future.

The Harper government began its notorious crackdown on anti-poverty, human rights, and environmental groups in 2012, when the federal budget gave the CRA more funding to conduct audits on organizations who take a stand against government policies.

Alternatives posted articles on its social media pages about the ramped-up scrutiny on Canadian charities to its members as well as other articles opposing the government's silencing of Canadian scientists and dissent on the long-gun registry.

Environmental organizations have taken a considerable amount of flack from the government, as then-Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver referred to them as "radical groups" who are trying to block opportunity and a diversified Canadian economy.

This February, it was reported that seven environmental charities face audits from the CRA. 

One group, Environmental Defence, was issued a deregister letter in 2012 as CRA deemed the group non-charitable despite the group's commitment to preserve the environment, plant and animal ecosystem, and promote green jobs.

Environmental Defence told CBC they will challenge the CRA's decision in court.

Francella Fiallos is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa. She sits on the Board of Directors for OPIRG-Carleton, edits a campus newspaper, and hosts a radio show on CKCU 93.1FM in the capital region. In her spare time she enjoys rock climbing and kayaking.

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