Today, the ICLMG released a new report detailing how a secretive division within the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is targeting Muslim charities in Canada for audits, and even revocation, amounting to an approach that is both prejudiced and lacks substantiation.
The findings are included in the report, The CRA’s Prejudiced Audits: Counter-Terrorism and the Targeting of Muslim Charities in Canada. It reveals how, as Canada ramped up attempts to counter terrorist financing after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the CRA and its Charities Directorate were enlisted to monitor the work of Muslim charities in Canada under the unsupported premise that they pose the greatest terror financing risk.
This work has been carried out largely in secret, with little to no outside review or public substantiation of the so-called risk posed by Muslim charities, allowing for the profiling and targeting of Muslim charities to go largely unnoticed and unchallenged.
The report shows that the Review and Analysis Division (RAD), a little-known division of the CRA, is targeting Muslim charities for audits, based on prejudiced and unsupported allegations of a risk of terrorist financing:
- The Canadian government’s National Risk Assessment (NRA) for terrorism financing in the charitable sector focuses almost exclusively on Muslim charities, and entirely on charities based in racialized communities, with little to no public substantiation of the risk;
- This risk assessment is used to justify surveillance, monitoring and audits of leading Muslim charities on questionable grounds;
- RAD operates largely in secret, in tandem with national security agencies, with little to no accountability and no independent review;
- Between 2008 and 2015, 75% of all charities revoked by RAD following these secretive audits were Muslim charities, harming the sector and impacting the larger Muslim community in Canada. The number of audits and revocations before and after that period are unknown because they have never been made public.
- That the federal government refer this issue to review by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) in order to examine the CRA’s RAD processes overall, and specifically its selecting of Muslim charities for audit, to ensure organizations are not being targeted due to racial or religious prejudice. The review must investigate the source of past audits of Muslim charities, active audits of Muslim charities, and Muslim charities identified for audit.
- That the Minister of National Revenue declare an immediate moratorium on the targeted audit of Muslim charities by RAD until the review has concluded. This does not preclude the audits of Muslim charities selected at random by the CRA outside of RAD.
- That the Ministry of Finance revisit the anti-terror regulatory, policy and legislative landscape, particularly the 2015 NRA and its impact, particularly on the Muslim community.
- That the federal government amend the NSIRA Act to allow for complaints from the public regarding the CRA’s national security-related activities.
- That NSIRA and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) coordinate to carryout regular reviews of the CRA’s anti-terrorism activities – including the Charities Directorate and RAD – going forward.
Presentation of the report with ICLMG’s National Coordinator
While there has been much discussion and scrutiny of systemic racism, racial profiling and the overwhelming focus on Muslims in Canada’s national security and anti-terrorism activities, Canada’s work aimed at preventing terrorist financing has not been subjected to the same degree of examination. This is especially true when it comes to the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) activities, via its Charities Directorate and Review and Analysis Division (RAD), in preventing terrorist financing in the charitable sector.
This report demonstrates that a faulty and unsubstantiated national security “risk assessment” approach to the monitoring of terrorism financing in the charitable sector has led to Muslim charities in Canada being unduly targeted for surveillance, audits and revocation of their charitable status. We hope that our findings add to this important yet little studied aspect of counter-terrorism activity in Canada. In particular, we would like to recognize the recent publication of Nadia Hasan and Anver Emon’s Under Layered Suspicion, which presents three in-depth case studies of the audits of three Canadian Muslim-led charities and comes to similar conclusions as our own.
The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States gave grounds for the Canadian government’s creation of broad anti-terrorism policies which granted various departments, and particularly security agencies, sweeping new powers. Over the past two decades, these powers have been criticized for undermining rights, increasing secrecy, and broadening state surveillance programs. Researchers have also documented their use to target specific political or religious groups, particularly the Muslim community, along with Indigenous and other racialized communities.
The CRA also benefitted from this increase in mandate and powers, becoming a partner in the government’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing (AML/CTF) regime in 2001 with the passage of the Anti-terrorism Act (ATA). This bill modified Canada’s Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act to include terrorist financing, creating the new Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA). To fulfill its duties under the PCMLTFA effectively, the CRA’s Charities Directorate established the Review and Analysis Division (RAD) in 2003, charged with investigating terrorist financing in the charitable sector. The work of RAD has become an important, but little known, component of Canada’s anti-terrorism financing apparatus.
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