FB12. How can we make sure that the charitable activities our church wants to undertake will meet the criteria of the CRA with regard to public benefit?

FB12. How can we make sure that the charitable activities our church wants to undertake will meet the criteria of the CRA with regard to public benefit?

In Canada, it has generally been accepted that religious charities provide a public benefit. The advancement of religion is one of the four core purposes as established by case law and accepted by the Canada Revenue Agency. However, this presumption can be challenged. It is possible that the presumed public benefit through the advancement of religion might be challenged if one or more of the religious charities’ promoted beliefs were at odds with accepted societal norms dealing with morality.

To date, this has not happened frequently enough to establish clear criteria for when the negative impact, or perceived negative impact, associated with a faith-based purpose will be considered to override the public benefit it is presumed to have. In this context, however, it is always a good idea for charities to support their applications with evidence to establish public benefit related to their programs and activities. Such evidence might include:

  • needs assessment studies by government or non-profit organizations to document the existence of the need and benefit to the community;
  • project or funding proposals that demonstrate how the proposed activities will meet the needs of and benefit the community; and
  • program evaluations of similar programs that show benefit to the community by effectively meeting the identified needs.