Friday, November 09, 2012

Canada Revenue Agency tells Canadian Mennonite magazine to watch what it says

The Canada Revenue Agency has issued a warning letter to the magazine Canadian Mennonite for publishing what is considered "partisan political" articles and editorials. The implicit threat is that the magazine could lose its charitable status, whereby it receives operating funding through Mennonite Church Canada and is able to provide tax relief to donors.

According to a CBC story,  and an article on the magazine's website, Canadian Mennonite editor and publisher Dick Benner was shocked to get the warning, saying it was a "chill on speech". But he had the spunk to phone the agency, after the July 23 letter, to find out specific examples and was cited two editorials and four articles:


In one editorial, written before the May 2011 federal election, Benner urged readers to cast their votes based on the Mennonite beliefs of pacifism, social justice and environmentalism.
The same editorial criticized two Conservative MPs — including Public Safety Minister Vic Toews — for distancing themselves from their Mennonite heritage.
In an editorial written shortly after the election, Benner commented on the killing of Osama bin Laden by the U.S. military and "the takeover by a militaristic Conservative majority government" in Canada.
"I didn't see this as political advocacy because we were speaking out of our core beliefs," Benner said.
The articles that were cited by the Canada Revenue Agency were published in the magazine's Young Voices section. They included:
  • A story on the Mennonite Church's concerns about the federal omnibus crime bill.
  • An article on how the death of NDP leader Jack Layton inspired some young Mennonites to get involved in politics.
  • An article about Mennonite youth urging the federal government to "spend less money on war" by sending paper airplanes to Ottawa.
  • A story about the Manitoba election campaign, profiling young Mennonite adults who were thinking about who they would vote for.
In an e-mail to CBC News, a CRA spokesman said that charities are allowed to participate in some political activity, but not partisan politics. 

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