The Federal Court of Appeal recently released its decision in the Church of Atheism of Central Canada case. While the Appellant appears to have been self-represented the case provides guidance to lawyers in the area and corrects what may have been the start of a very difficult path for the law of charities.
Most organizations that are pursuing charitable status are incorporated. Part of the requirement for achieving such status is that the corporation is organized to pursue charitable purposes. But that by itself is not enough for charitable registration and so prospective charities must apply to the CRA for registration. The question then arises about the tax status of those corporations that are not yet (and may never be) registered charities, and what are their responsibilities?
Fundamentally, charities are actors in society as are any others. We all have a duty of care to some degree to our neighbors. Indeed, generally the closer the relationship the higher the standard of care one expects. Consequently, charities need to be aware that even in the pursuit of charitable activities, they could be liable if their activities do not take into account the safety and the potential damage of their actions to either their beneficiaries or to their patron donors.