Right-wing charity offers tax breaks to donors who pay convoy leader’s legal bills in criminal case
A controversial right-wing charity funds the criminal defense of one of the leaders of the Ottawa convoy occupation through state-subsidized tax receipts.
Tamara Lich, one of the main organizers of the convoy, is faces multiple criminal chargesincluding mischief, intimidation, counsel to commit mischief, counsel to intimidate, as well as counsel to obstruct the police in connection with the convoy’s occupation of Ottawa.
The right-wing Justice Center for Constitutional Liberties, which has spent decades litigating cases on conservative social causes, is a registered charity which promotes “official donor receipts for donations of $50 or more” on its website.
At the beginning of the occupation of the convoy, the JCCF issued a statement announcing that he “represents the Freedom Convoy 2022 in Ottawa and has a team of lawyers on the ground providing legal assistance and advice”. The JCC has since said it has “established a network of criminal defense lawyers to advise and represent those accused of offences”.
— Justice Center for Constitutional Liberties (@JCCFCanada) February 3, 2022
This includes Tamara Lich.
Indeed, on June 29, the JCCF announcement it “funds the legal defense of Ms. Tamara Lich, who was recently re-arrested for an alleged breach of bail conditions”.
On this website, the JCCF explicitly linked funds from Lich’s bail hearing to charitable tax receipts.
“You can direct your donation to the cases we litigate in the drop-down menu on our donation page,” the JCCF wrote. “Ms. Lich’s Defense is part of the menu selection titled: Trucker’s Legal Defense, which is aimed at truckers participating in the Freedom Convoy and peaceful protests in Ottawa.
The JCCF added: “If you would like to receive an official receipt from the CRA, please include your legal name, full mailing address and email address in the electronic transfer notes.”
Lich has taken a bigger role in recent JCCF fundraising efforts.
Last month, the JCCF presented Lich with its annual “freedom award” at the right-wing charity’s $200-per-plate fundraising dinner, which featured Rex Murphy as the glitzy gala’s keynote speaker.
Lich was arrested last month following his participation in the JCCF awards gala, with Crown alleging that Lich breached his bail conditions by meeting other convoy organizers at the fundraising dinner.
Justice Center Board Chair Jonathan Allen and Justice Center President John Carpay present the 2022 George Jonas Freedom Award to Tamara Lich in Toronto on Thursday, June 16. pic.twitter.com/I6fZk10g9z
— Justice Center for Constitutional Liberties (@JCCFCanada) June 17, 2022
As a registered charity, the JCCF has the legal authority to issue tax receipts which allow donors to deduct a portion of their contributions from their tax bill.
In its filings with the Canada Revenue Agency, the JCCF provides this description of its current programs:
“To educate the public about human rights and constitutional freedoms and to provide legal assistance to defend the human rights and constitutional freedoms of Canadians when their rights and freedoms are threatened.
Richard Warman, an Ottawa lawyer and board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said he struggled to understand how funding a convoy organizer’s criminal defense could be considered a normal “charitable” activity.
“The Canadian Anti-Hate Network believes that raising funds to pay for the criminal defense of those involved in the unlawful occupation of Ottawa is in no way charitable,” Warman said. PressProgressadding that it “clearly should not entitle a donor to a charity tax receipt”.
Earlier this year, Warman filed a code of conduct complaint against JCCF attorney Keith Wilson, who acted as attorney for the convoy organizers.
“CAHN is deeply concerned about the activities of JCCF management and staff,” Warman said.
The JCCF did not respond to a request for comment from PressProgress about his use of charitable tax receipts to fund Lich’s criminal defense.
Warman noted that the RCAF has four “categories of charitable purposes”: Relief of poverty, advancement of education, advancement of religion and “other purposes beneficial to the community”.
“They don’t appear to alleviate poverty or advance education or religious goals as defined by the ARC,” Warman said.
The list of CRA activities that are “Beneficial to the community” includes helping the elderly, preventing or alleviating illness, providing public amenities, volunteer firefighting, counseling people in distress, and running animal shelters.
The Canada Revenue Agency did not immediately respond to questions from PressProgress seek clarification on the charitable rules for funding criminal defenses.
University of Toronto law professor Anver Emon said he believed the JCCF and other groups that supported the convoy did not face the same scrutiny as other charities. In particular, he noted in a report 2021 that several Muslim-run charities are frequently profiled for alleged extremist ties.
Emon said he was curious that “groups that support the Freedom Convoy will enjoy doing whatever they want without the same kind of suspicion we’ve observed applied to Muslim-run charities during ARC audits. “.
Last year, an academic asked for an audit by the CRA why it is a registered charity, after the JCCF was linked to a plot to hire a private investigator to dig up information about the Chief Justice of Manitoba who was presiding over a case in which the JCCF was involved, looking for evidence of the judge breaking public health rules.
“The JCCF has a fairly controversial history, and while it doesn’t take government donations, it enjoys charitable status at the expense of taxpayers,” said Lori Williams, a professor at Mount Royal University. PressProgress.
Williams said that while governments could be accused of bias by denying charitable status to groups simply because they have “controversial beliefs”, she added: “Polls show that most Canadians disagree with Lich and co. and would likely object to their taxes being higher in order to offer them tax breaks.
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