Charities Muffled & Distracted by Government Actions: Chill


Check out my newly com­pleted the­sis, now posted to I looked at how char­i­ties are affected by fed­eral Cana­dian cab­i­net min­is­ters seem­ingly sug­gest­ing that they are crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions and ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and work­ing against the inter­ests of their coun­try. And how they are being affected by the fed­eral government’s new reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing char­i­ties and the stepped up audits of the “polit­i­cal activ­i­ties” of these charities.

I won­dered: Is the gov­ern­ment action caus­ing a chill among char­i­ties, divert­ing them from speak­ing out about the issues they know so well, effec­tively muf­fling their voices at a time when we most need to hear from them?

And I looked at whether some kinds of char­i­ties are being tar­geted for atten­tion, and what that really means. I exam­ined why this is hap­pen­ing, and hap­pen­ing now, and what the impli­ca­tions of putting char­i­ties under the micro­scope are for pub­lic dis­cus­sions about the choices we have in our eco­nomic, devel­op­ment, human rights, and envi­ron­men­tal policies.

Most of us have our favourite char­i­ties that we donate to and wish the best for. Per­haps you view char­i­ties as experts—not the only experts, but experts just the same—in the issues con­nected to their Mis­sion? And per­haps you believe that we need the best minds, from a cross-section of soci­ety includ­ing char­i­ties and research insti­tutes and non­profit orga­ni­za­tions, to par­tic­i­pate in the big debates about impor­tant issues? Their par­tic­i­pa­tion, and that of civil soci­ety gen­er­ally, ensures that the best ideas rise to the top so that we as a soci­ety make the best all-around decisions.

My the­sis explores issues like these, based on 21 inter­views I con­ducted with lead­ers of some of Canada’s best-known and some­times less-known char­i­ties, and with other experts on char­i­ties, law, gov­ern­ment admin­is­tra­tion, and secu­rity and policing.

In a series of blog post­ings, I’ll share with you what I learned, explor­ing the issues raised in the the­sis, and also includ­ing insights from my data that never made it into the the­sis but should be dis­cussed in pub­lic. And I’ll com­ment on cur­rent events through the prism of my research and inter­ests in pub­lic con­ver­sa­tions, civil soci­ety, and social movements.

Oh, and yes, I did find out that there is indeed an “advo­cacy chill,” that affects dif­fer­ent char­i­ties to var­i­ous extents. We are not fully get­ting the inclu­sive pub­lic dis­cus­sion about top­i­cal and often con­tro­ver­sial issues that we ought to have, that we as Cana­di­ans need to have if our democ­racy is going to be vig­or­ous, and pol­icy deci­sions the best available.

But more on that in the next posting.

Check out my the­sis:

I am a for­mer jour­nal­ist and media man­ager who recently com­pleted my Master’s the­sis for Royal Roads Uni­ver­sity and now work as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sional. I have been awarded a Web­ster Award of Dis­tinc­tion, among other awards, for my reporting.

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