CRA asked to investigate charities supporting Israeli military

Original article in

Karen Rodman, December 18, 2023

A recent access to information request by Just Peace Advocates is shining a light on the billions of dollars Canadian charities are sending overseas.

(Just Peace Advocates is a member of the Canadian BDS Coalition)

Taxpayer subsidized donations by Canadian charities may well be Canada’s most important contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

Just Peace Advocates has been using information available publicly for individual charities through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) portal, as well as through obtaining access to information requests has looked at this in more detail.

Over the years, charities in Canada have sent about a quarter billion dollars a year to projects in Israel, some which provide support towards the Israeli military,  and/or illegal Israeli settlements, which are things that are in contravention of CRA regulations.

recent access to information request (ATIP) made by Just Peace Advocates indicated over $10.5 billion of Canadian tax-subsidized charitable funds have gone to other countries over the last five years. At a 30 per cent tax rate this is more than a $3 billion subsidy by the Canadian taxpayer. Each year between 5,000 and 7,000 Canadian charities are involved in sending these funds to over 180 countries.

The ATIP request from the CRA revealed that Israel received the highest amount of charitable donations from Canadian charities of any country.

On average over the last five years, over 11 per cent of the funds reported as donated to other countries by Canadian charities went to Israel, a country that has a GDP per capita equivalent or higher than that of Canada.

Over 200 charities in Canada each year from 2018 to 2021 reported sending money to Israel.

Israel and the US received the highest amounts of charitable funds, jockeying as to which country received the most in any particular year from Canadian charities.

Canadian charities are approved by the CRA on the basis that the organization’s purposes must be exclusively and legally charitable; and that the charity must be established for the benefit of the public or a sufficient segment of the public. The CRA specifically indicates that charitable status of Canadian organizations is for the purpose of poverty relief, the advancement of education or religion, and/or other purposes beneficial to the community in a way the law regards as charitable.

A charity can carry on its own activities or through an intermediary such as a private contractor, but regardless if the charity uses its own staff and resources, or works through an intermediary, a Canadian charity must direct and control the use of its resources.

A charity cannot act as a conduit that merely funnels resources to an organization that is not a qualified recipient.

Under Canadian law, most activities that are charitable in Canada are also charitable abroad. However, the courts have stated that some activities that are charitable in Canada may not be charitable when carried on in a different country. For example, the CRA says that it is charitable to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces, but it is not charitable to support the armed forces of another country.

Over the last several years, the CRA has been requested to investigate a number of charities that appear to be donating to entities in Israel that are supporting illegal settlements and/or the Israeli military. Just Peace Advocates is aware of about a dozen Canadian charities that the CRA has been asked to investigate with a total of about $100 million from these charities reported going to Israel. Also, requests have been made to investigate many other charities including charitable foundations that use these dozen or so charities as a conduit.

A recent access request has confirmed that reported donations to Israel had dropped significantly in 2022. It showed $132 million sent to Israel in 2022 from about 140 charities.  This is about $100 million drop from 2021, and almost $200M less than in 2020.  There were about 40 less charities reporting sending money to Israel in 2022 than in previous years.

This might seem like an impact is being made based on the request for investigations, along with the thousands of letters sent to the CRA and the Minister of National Revenue.

However, the total numbers provided in the ATIP responses do not account for those charities that fail to provide the country they are sending their money to in their CRA filing.

Over the last five years, over a billion dollars has left Canada with no indication of what country it is destined to. This includes Canadian charities that have been sending money to entities in Israel. Based on a review of those charities not reporting countries, tens of millions if not more has been sent to Israel but not reported as such by Canadian charities.

Also, some organizations are providing funds such as scholarships, or paying for operating funds, and these are not captured in the total amounts going to Israel. Also, some Canadian charities are providing money to entities in other countries which may find their way to the specific project of colonization in Israel. Thus, likely more money is going to other countries, including to Israel than the ATIP information reports, and means that it may not be possible to compare year to year.

The Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada (JHFC) is one charity that, according to CRA data available, failed to identify country codes for the recipients of their funding in 2022.  Founded in 1976, this organization showed no revenue or expenses or CRA financial filing in 2018, but by 2022, it was one of the largest ten charities in Canada with almost $90 million of revenue.

Tracking three “burner charities” (Gates of Mercy, Beth Oloth, and the Jewish Heritage Foundation), academics Miles Howe and Paul Sylvestre in November 2022, used data over two decades to outline “a relationship of activity and dormancy, wherein once an active burner charity has its charitable status revoked a subsequent burner charity is activated in its place.”

Beth Oloth and Gates of Mercy charitable status was revoked by CRA in 2019.

However, interestingly it seems that a number of other Canadian charities sending money to Israel have been revoked since 2020.

Since that time, at least ten other charities providing funds to Israel have been revoked by the CRA in the last couple years.  Most often the revocations were related to lack of direction and control over the charity’s funds, and the conduct of non-charitable activities.

A recent report by Defund Racism about the settler organization, Regavim, shows the now revoked Gates of Mercy and Magbit Canada provided funds to Regavim. Mizarchi of Canada continues to support Regavim. Regavim is at the forefront of efforts to forcibly displace Palestinians. Requests for investigation were sent earlier this year to the CRA to investigate Mizrachi, the Jewish Heritage Foundation and other Canadian charities that appear to be supporting the Israeli military and/or settler organizations.

There has been strong interest, with over 30 organizations joining in the call for an investigation into such Canadian charities that are supporting war crimes.

You can check out more information on the various work underway on the links provided, and if you are interested in helping with some of the research, please be in touch.

Activities that include colonization, war crimes, racism and genocide are not charity, and we so it would be expected that the CRA to investigate charities that appear to be supporting the Israeli military and illegal settlements, and other contraventions of Canadian charity and other laws, and that the CRA would revoke those charities found to be in contravention.


Photo credit: Canada Revenue Agency building sign. Credit: Obert Madondo / Flickr Credit: Obert Madondo / Flickr

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