The federal government has passed the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. The new law received royal assent in June 2009, but the government has not set a final date for the Act to come into force. What will this mean for you? According to the member of Parliament responsible for the bill, Diane Ablonczy:
“This new Act will bring the legislative framework governing not-for-profit organizations into the 21st century. It will promote modern standards of accountability, transparency and good corporate governance that will benefit the voluntary sector as it works to build a stronger Canada,” and “allow organizations to spend less time on paper burden and more time on what they do best which is delivering important services to Canadians.”
The new Act applies specifically to not-for-profit organizations incorporated under section II of the Canada Corporations Act, but provincially incorporated organizations may want to consider updating their status with Corporations Canada, as well.
The first step not-for-profits have to take is to officially confirm their incorporation to the federal government. This means filing “articles of continuance” with Corporations Canada within three years after the Act comes into force (in other words, now). This is because the new Act replaces section II of the Canada Corporations Act (which dealt with incorporating a not-for profit organization) and sets out new rules for the process. Existing organizations that wish to update their incorporation status will face no charge for doing so. If a corporation does not apply for a certificate of continuance within the time frame, the government may dissolve the organization.
Not-for-profit organizations that wish to incorporate must now do so under the new articles of incorporation rules rather than the previous letters patent system. This means that organizations don’t need to include with their applications draft bylaws, the powers of the organization or its purposes (although in the case of charities, it will remain a good idea to do so).
The new Act also means that, like their for-profit counterparts, not-for-profit corporations will now have the “capacity and, subject to this Act, the rights, powers and privileges of a natural person”. However, members of the organization may choose to limit its powers and activities via the articles of incorporation.
The Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act contains far too many changes to outline here, but you can find numerous analyses online. You can read about the Regulations amending the Canada Corporations Act in the Canada Gazette. The new law won’t come into force until the associated regulations are ready, which probably won’t happen until sometime in 2011 or 2012. We’ll be sure to let you know when more information is available.
First Reference Human Resources, Internal Controls and Compliance Editor
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