Environmental charities are not the largest recipients of foreign cash in the Canadian non-profit sector. At least not according to the Canadian Press. A CP analysis of tax records shows that, for all the heat green charities are taking over foreign money, only one—Ducks Unlimited Canada—is among the top ten recipients of charitable donations from outside Canada.
According to the story, most of the foreign money being funnelled into Canadian charities is actually coming from large organizations like the UN, which provide in-kind donations (food, supplies, etc.) which then end up recorded in tax forms as cash. McMaster University also made the donation list, partly because tuition from foreign students counts as “foreign funding.” (They also received a sizeable foreign grant for nuclear research.)
Still, the debate over foreign money and Canadian charities is, and will remain, about the environment, or, more specifically, the oil sands. People interested in climate change all over the world feel they have a vested interest in slowing or stopping development of the sands. To do that, they quite logically want to influence Canadian public opinion. Donations are good way to do that. The Conservatives, however, feel that’s dirty pool. (Or at least they feel like there’s something to be gained from pretending they feel that way.)
Caught in the middle of this is Tides Canada, a Vancouver charity that acts as a sort clearing house for other donors, including those from abroad. (Full disclosure: I once worked on a journalism fellowship funded by Tides.) Exactly how much money the organization is getting from abroad, however, is a bit of an open question. From the CP piece:
Tides Canada has reported $7.8 million in foreign income, according to CRA tax returns. That makes it the 16th-largest recipient of foreign money.
However, U.S. tax records show a different amount.
Annual filings to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service from tax-exempt and non-profit organizations show the Tides Canada Foundation has received more than $63 million from wealthy American foundations. That would put it third on the list of Canadian charities that received funding from outside the country.
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation gave the Tides Canada Foundation almost $33 million, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation gave it nearly $14 million, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation gave it $11 million, and other groups gave it smaller amounts.
Ross McMillan of Tides Canada said wording on the CRA tax form changed in 2009 to include a line for revenue received from all sources outside Canada. Prior to this charities only reported foreign funding under “other gifts.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Canada Revenue Agency is now auditing Tides to make sure the organization is complying with all relevant laws.