Canada Revenue Agency’s Double Standards on Muslim and Jewish Charities

Why does the Canada Revenue Agency treat Jewish, Christian, and Muslim charities so differently?

In June the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLM) released a report showing that the CRA disproportionately targets Muslim groups. According to the report, 75% of the groups whose charitable status was revoked following a division audit by the CRA between 2008 and 2015 were Muslim. ICLM’s findings add weight to a report released in March by the National Council of Canadian Muslims that also found Muslim charities were disproportionately targeted for surveillance, audits and revocation of their charitable status.

Some Jewish and Christian charities, on the other hand, openly support the Israeli military and West Bank settlements in contravention of CRA rules. Recently, a formal legal complaint was submitted to the CRA by Palestinian-Canadian refugee Khaled Mouammar and Rabbi David Mivasair regarding the charitable status of the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association (CZCA). The complaint details that organization’s support of the Israeli military in contravention of CRA guidelines for registered charities. CRA rules state that “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.” Yet, the Israel Defense Forces website named CZCA as an organization “authorized to raise donations for the IDF.” (When Global News reporter Stewart Bell began asking CZCA questions about its ties to the IDF, the Israeli military quickly removed CZCA from its list of international organizations.) In 2019 the CZCA allocated over $1.7 million to YAHAD, which is run by a retired Israeli General and a Colonel. The organization says its “aim is raising funds for IDF soldiers.”

CZCA’s brazenness is remarkable but it’s not the only charity that appears to be breaking the rules. In 2018 the Toronto-based HESEG Foundation, which was established “to recognize and honor the contribution of Lone Soldiers to Israel,” spent more than $9 million in Israel. Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel and Beit Halochem Canada (Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel) have also directly or indirectly supported the IDF.

For over a century the Jewish National Fund of Canada has financed explicitly racist land-use policies, which should contravene the CRA’s 2003 guideline for charities to promote racial equality. JNF Canada also backed settlement projects in the occupied West Bank in violation of official Canadian policy and supported the Israeli military in clear violation of CRA rules. Despite a 2017 complaint and numerous articles detailing its lawbreaking, the CRA failed to revoke the JNF’s charitable status (three years after the complaint, the JNF was mandated to sever formal ties with its Israeli counterpart and stop supporting the IDF).

Charities that support West Bank settlements also contravene CRA rules since Ottawa officially considers them a violation of international law. A number of registered charities support settlement projects directly or indirectly. Located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Canadian Friends of Ariel University is also a registered charity. So is Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, which says it “provides financial” support to “the Jews currently living in Biblical Israel —the communities of Judea and Samaria” (occupied West Bank).

Canada’s two most significant Jewish charities — United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto and Federation Combined Jewish Appeal Montréal — both violated Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act, which makes it illegal to induce or recruit Canadians to join another country’s military. Last June they publicized a webinar by Nefesh-B’Nefesh titled “Joining the IDF” that claimed to offer participants “everything you need and want to know about joining the IDF.”

Similarly, Jewish schools organize fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives and hold “IDF days.” In effect, the schools celebrate soldiers who regularly kill Muslims and enforce what Israeli human rights group B’Tselem calls a “regime of Jewish supremacy” in a historically Muslim area. A Muslim school that regularly brought in Hamas fighters to talk to students would immediately lose its charitable status, be shut down and its staff word probably pursued criminally. (In 2010 Muslim charity the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN) lost its charitable status essentially because it supported orphans and a hospital in Gaza through official (Hamas-controlled) channels. IRFAN was delisted for supporting orphans of a long-oppressed people and four years later was the first ever Canadian-based organization added to Canada’s terrorist list.)

The CRA’s double standard is even more glaring when looking at the issue broadly. Muslims are the main victims of hate crimes in Canada. In June alone four members of a Muslim family were killed in London, Ontario, a Muslim man was stabbed and had his beard cut off by two individuals in Saskatoon who asked him “why he was in this country” and two visibly Muslim women in Edmonton were attacked with one having a knife put to her throat and the other beaten unconscious.

Globally, Muslims are disproportionately victimized by Western violence. How many thousands of Muslims were killed by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan or fighter jets over Libya? Or US and Canadian troops in Iraq? The Israeli military has also killed large numbers of Muslims in Gaza, Syria and elsewhere. Even the US-fueled (literally) Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 could be viewed as a war of Christians on Muslims.

Looked at from a strictly religious perspective, there’s been a largely one sided “Christian” and “Jewish” war on “Muslims”. So, if the CRA is worried about violence and extremism, it should consider investigating evangelical Christian churches or groups supporting the Canadian and Israeli militaries.

The CRA treats Jewish, Christian and Muslim charities remarkably differently. It harasses organizations from the religious group facing the worst violence here and abroad while largely ignoring Jewish and Christian charities that violate its rules.

It’s time for this to stop.

On August 10 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute will be hosting a webinar on Subsidizing Apartheid: How the Canada Revenue Agency Contributes to Palestinian Dispossession.

Yves Engler is the author of 12 books. His latest book is Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People's History of the Canadian Military . Read other articles by Yves.