Government must take bold action if it is serious about resolving systemic Islamophobia in CRA counter-terrorism audits

Coalition “surprised and disappointed” by latest update on government review

Feb. 9, 2022, OTTAWA – The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) is concerned about the lack of particular reference to the issues raised by Muslim charities and the reports by independent groups, notably the ICLMG and the University of Toronto Institute of Islamic Studies/National Council of Canadian Muslims, in the federal government’s response to concerns of bias within the CRA.

If the federal government is serious about resolving systemic Islamophobia and the CRA’s prejudiced audits of Muslim charities, it must take bold action and acknowledge concerns of Canadians to demonstrate its commitments.

The ICLMG’s reaction comes as the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson (OTO) released an update on its review of the issue. Last August, the government announced a review into the concerns raised in two ground-breaking reports into systemic Islamophobia at the CRA, particularly in regards to the agency’s controversial efforts to counter terrorist financing.

“We are both surprised and disappointed by the update provided by the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson today regarding the agency’s investigation into bias at the CRA, and in particular its Review and Analysis Division (RAD),” said Tim McSorley, national coordinator of the ICLMG. “While we have had positive interactions with the Ombudsperson’s office to this point, we are concerned about the limited focus of their review going forward.”

Today’s announcement does not once mention Islamophobia, and states the review “will be on the fairness of the CRA’s Charities Directorate’s audit process.” While it acknowledges addressing concerns of unconscious biases, and recognizes that Muslim-led charities have raised concerns, these concerns risk being lost if not specifically addressed in the review process.

“In the past year, specific and documented issues regarding bias and prejudice in how the CRA surveils, audits and sanctions Muslim-led charities were revealed. The government acknowledged the validity of those concerns and pledged action. To date, though, the only thing they have to show for it is a review that does not mention Islamophobia, that promises to review ‘fairness’ overall rather than examine specific concerns, and that will not investigate the role of Canada’s national security agencies in this issue,” said McSorley.

The scope of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson review should be modified to include these missing elements:

  • The importance of the review to specifically focus on RAD and not only the CRA Charities Directorate in general.
  • The lack of public transparency at RAD, and concerns of a lack of data collection regarding the impact of its work.
  • The role of the CRA’s international obligations, including to the Financial Action Task Force, in the treatment of Muslim charities.
  • The impact of Canada’s 2015 National Risk Assessment (NRA) in creating an environment conducive to systemic racism, racial profiling, targeting and bias towards Muslim Canadians.
  • Whether current practices have created a presumption that Canadian Muslim charities must be monitored, and possibly audited, to verify no terrorist financing risks exist.
  • Whether sanctions administered by RAD against Muslim charities are disproportionate to other charities.
  • The role of the agency within the government’s overall approach, including but not limited to the involvement of the Ministry of Finance, Public Safety and Global Affairs.
  • Whether appropriate and effective review, oversight and accountability mechanisms exist for RAD.

The ICLMG is calling for the following actions to address the issue:

  • That the OTO revisit their framework to explicitly examine questions presented by Muslim Charities;
  • That the Minister of National Revenue immediately suspend the activities of the Review and Analysis Division;
  • That the Prime Minister refer this issue to the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA);
  • That the government commit to reforming its National Risk Assessment on terrorist financing in order to ensure fairness and eliminate unintended consequences on Muslim-led charities in particular, and the charity sector overall.


Tim McSorley
ICLMG National Coordinator