Cooperation Canada is proud to welcome Kate Higgins as its new Chief Executive Officer

Cooperation Canada is proud to welcome Kate Higgins as its new Chief Executive Officer

January 18, 2022 (Ottawa) – The Board of Directors of Cooperation Canada is delighted to announce the appointment of Kate Higgins as its new Chief Executive Officer. Kate will take on her new role on April 4, 2022. 

“We are thrilled with this announcement and look forward to the energy and vision that Kate will bring to this role and to Cooperation Canada’s work to build a fairer, safer and more sustainable world. Kate is a strategic thinker and throughout her career has demonstrated her commitment to the principles of cooperation that Cooperation Canada endorses. We are in the best of hands with Kate at the helm, and look forward to working with her as she leads Cooperation Canada and its talented team into its next exciting phase,” said Eileen Alma and Richard Veenstra, Co-Chairs of Cooperation Canada’s Board of Directors. 

Kate is an accomplished leader and experienced manager, with over fifteen years of experience in international development, civil society, think tanks, and government. She is currently the Deputy Executive Director of Oxfam Canada, where she has led the organization’s work on strategy and communications and spearheaded a number of organizational change initiatives, in addition to serving as Interim Executive Director in 2020. Before joining Oxfam, Kate worked for CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations, where she led strategy development and the organization’s work on data, sustainable development and citizen action. She has held senior policy and research roles at the North-South Institute and the Overseas Development Institute, leading work on chronic poverty, protracted conflict, women’s economic justice and international assistance and building several global, multi-stakeholder initiatives. Kate started her career at the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), working on the Indonesia and Papua New Guinea programs. She has lived and worked in Australia, Canada, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Thailand and Uganda and has undertaken missions in several other countries. Kate has degrees in economics and development studies from the University of Oxford and the University of Sydney. 

“I have collaborated with, admired, and celebrated the work of Cooperation Canada for many years. I firmly believe that Cooperation Canada plays a critical role in representing Canada’s international development and humanitarian sector and in pushing for ambitious Canadian engagement in the world. It will be an absolute privilege to lead this organization, and work with the Board of Directors, staff, members and partners to position Cooperation Canada, and our sector, for the future,” said Kate Higgins, Cooperation Canada’s incoming CEO. 

Kate will replace Shannon Kindornay, who is currently serving as the Interim CEO. Shannon will continue as Cooperation Canada’s Chief Operations Officer. Maxime Michel, who replaced Shannon during her parental leave, served as Interim CEO in Shannon’s absence.  

“Cooperation Canada is fortunate to have such a strong management team. The Board of Directors warmly thanks Shannon and Maxime for their dedication, competent management and leadership during the transition,” added Eileen Alma and Richard Veenstra. 

About Cooperation Canada 

Cooperation Canada (formerly the Canadian Council for International Co-operation) brings together Canada’s international development and humanitarian organizations and advocates for them by convening sector leaders, influencing policy and building capacity. Together, we work with partners both inside and outside Canada to build a world that’s fair, safe and sustainable for all.   

Press contact 
Gabriel Karasz-Perriau
Communications Manager
Cooperation Canada
gkaraszperriau@cooperation.ca
(514) 945-0309

Cooperation Canada celebrates the Senate approval of Bill S-216: Effective and Accountable Charities Act

Cooperation Canada celebrates the Senate approval of Bill S-216: Effective and Accountable Charities Act

Cooperation Canada commends the Senate of Canada for approving the private member’s Bill S-216: Effective and Accountable Charities Act, proposed by the Honourable Ratna Omidvar. We applaud the leadership of Senator Omidvar, as well as non-partisan support from Canada’s Senators, who have shown dedication to equitable and effective social justice. We look forward to advocating alongside our members and allies as the bill heads to the House of Commons.  

This is a crucial step towards amending the Income Tax Act (ITA) regulations that drive the outdated regulatory framework of Canada Revenue Agency outlined in guidance notes CG-002 and CG-004. Dubbed ‘direction and control’, this framework disincentivizes Canada’s charities from supporting partners without a formal charitable status, which are often equity-seeking groups.  

These updates, in line with the reports of the Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector and the Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector, will enable charities to better recognize the expertise and the agency of equity-seeking groups who drive social justice in Canada and across the world. In light of the commitments made towards racial and gender justice, as well as the reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples outlined in the last Speech from the Throne, this legislative update emerges as critical for the achievement of our collective agendas.  

We look forward to working with charitable and non-charitable actors as well as political allies across all party lines as we make headway on this long-standing sector-wide priority.  

Alternative Mandate Letter – Minister of International Development

Alternative Mandate Letter – Minister of International Development

Dear Minister,  

Thank you for agreeing to serve Canadians. From coast to coast to coast, people understand the gravity of the global challenges we are currently facing – the global pandemic, climate emergency, economic injustice, and rising inequality. Canada is challenged to help solve these global challenges: our health, our environment, and our economy can’t wait. We need long-term solutions for long-term prosperity. Our prosperity must lead us ever so closer to the reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and racial justice because we cannot build our “today” on the sacrifices of “tomorrow.”

Our four main priorities for making tangible progress of Canadians continue to be: protecting public health, ensuring a strong economic recovery, promoting a cleaner environment, and standing up for fairness and equality. We cannot deliver on these promises in isolation – we must be working with our global partners to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. Canadians sent the message that they want the Government to deliver on lasting solutions, and that’s exactly what we will do. Strategic and coordinated global interventions are our best hope to end the pandemic and build stronger, more inclusive, and more resilient societies.

A more concentrated and deliberate attempt must be made to strengthen the project of the reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada and abroad. You, and indeed all ministers, must play an important role in helping to advance self-determination, close socio-economic gaps and eliminate systemic barriers facing First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada, as well as Indigenous Peoples around the world. Canada’s domestic and international efforts towards the reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples must be coherent and account for historical injustices and ongoing systems of oppression undertaken in the name of development and Canada’s economic and trade interests. As Minister, we expect you to work in full partnership with Indigenous Peoples and communities to advance meaningful reconciliation.

Addressing our global climate emergency cannot be an afterthought. Our domestic policies must be geared towards reducing our emissions as we remain aligned with global frameworks, such as the Paris Climate Accords, which represent our best chance of delivering a global solution to a global problem affecting us all, while disproportionately impacting the most marginalized groups.

We remain committed to evidence-based decision-making that takes into consideration the impacts of policies on all Canadians and fully defends the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You will apply Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) in the decisions that you make and consider public policies through a feminist intersectional lens in order to address systemic inequities including: systemic racism; unconscious bias; gender-based discrimination; ableism; discrimination against LGBTQ2S+ communities; and inequities faced by all marginalized groups. You will work to improve the quality and availability of disaggregated data to ensure that policy decisions benefit all communities.

The human rights-based approach must also consider Canada’s linguistic diversity, particularly as it relates to Canada’s official languages, as well as the importance of meaningfully engaging civil society actors and other formal and informal groups such as organized labour, the charitable and non-profit sector, private sector, media and academia across Canada. These groups should be consulted from the agenda-setting to implementation of Canada’s efforts, in a predictable and dignifying manner. The human rights-based approach and the principle of self-determination are also central for the achievement of the FIAP. Canada’s first feminist policy for global engagement requires investment in initiatives that address root causes of inequality, poverty and conflict, and power asymmetries and leverage the interdependence of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

As Minister of International Development, you will work in coordination with the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Environment and Climate Change, National Defence, International Trade Diversification, National Revenue and Families, Children and Social Development, Women and Gender Equality, among other relevant ministries with the objective of ensuring Canada’s coherent global engagement as well as consistency across domestic and international interventions. You will implement on a priority basis the following commitments:

  • Present a coherent roadmap for raising Canada’s official development assistance (ODA) to the international standard of 0.7 ODA to gross national income (GNI). This is needed to achieve the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) and meet the rising humanitarian needs and the neglected targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Canada currently allocates only 30 cents for every 100 dollars of national income towards investments in global solutions to our shared challenges.
  • Commit additional long-term, flexible funding to address unprecedented levels of global hunger and meet Canada’s commitments to the G7 Famine Compact.
  • Increase international assistance to LGBTQ+ issues and human rights to at least $20 million per year.
  • Leverage the existing evidence on development effectiveness by investing in early warning, preparedness, and locally ledemergency responses to mitigate and prevent existing and future crises and address the worsening humanitarian situation around the world.
  • Ensure that Canada’s international assistance is effective by issuing flexible and predictable funding and prioritizing the decision-making and financial control of local actors and the communities the FIAP seeks to support. Continue to enhance efficiencies in international assistance funding mechanisms which are congruent with feminist practice.
  • Work with your Deputy Minister to ensure that Global Affairs Canada is fit for purpose, including the department’s ability to adapt to a shifting landscape of international cooperation, advance racial justice within its intersectional feminist approaches and integrate mechanisms for the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • With the support of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the Minister of Health, address the vaccine injustice, by investing in a global access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and strengthened public health systems.
  • Support historically disadvantaged countries with their COVID-19 economic recovery, which is a requisite for stabilizing global economy and achieving the FIAP. This should involve grant-based bilateral assistance to enable urgently needed investments in social protection, including access to public health and sexual and reproductive rights of women, girls, and gender-diverse people. You should also advocate for a feminist COVID-19 recovery in multilateral forums and international financial institutions.
  • COVID-19 has disproportionately affected women, girls, and gender-diverse people, which is why you are to develop programming that recognizes, reduces and addresses the unequal distribution of paid and unpaid care work, and that supports and protects the rights of paid and unpaid care workers, to address a root cause of global inequality, building on the commitments made at the 2021 Generation Equality Forum. Operationalize Canada’s Generation Equality Forum commitment to support for women’s rights organizations, through Canadian leadership in the Global Alliance for Sustainable Feminist Movements and corresponding resource investments.
  • The pandemic has also exacerbated the already dire conditions of forcibly displaced persons, particularly those living in camp settings. You will expand support for refugees and internally displaced persons, particularly in the area of education, sexual and reproductive health and rights, water and sanitation services, protection and vaccine access.
        • Lead an international campaign and commit resources to ensure that all refugee and displaced children can get the education they need and deserve.
        • Scale up Global Affairs Canada refugee-led initiatives, which stand out as global good practices proven to uphold human rights and ensure greater effectiveness of interventions.
  • Contribute to improving food systems, which hold keys to ending hunger and ensuring future global prosperity. Develop additional programming on the intersection between women’s rights and climate adaptation in order to better support sustainable and equitable resource management, agricultural production and access to markets.
  • Work with the Minister of National Revenue and the Minister of Finance to amend the Income Tax Act in ways that allow for legislative updates of the ‘direction and control’ regime, which hinders equitable partnerships and development effectiveness of Canadian charitable organizations.
  • Increase investments in feminist programming to address gender-based violence, and strengthen the application of intersectionality within the Feminist International Assistance Policy to ensure the needs of vulnerable populations, such as racialized women and 2SLGBTQ+ peoples, are adequately addressed.
  • Work with the Minister of IRCC to uphold the right to refuge for women’s rights activists, human rights defenders and LGBTQI2S+ survivors of persecution.
  • Support the Minister of Foreign Affairs to establish the Canadian Centre for Peace, Order and Good Government.

We expect you to work closely with your Deputy Minister and their senior officials to ensure that the ongoing work of your department is undertaken in a professional manner and that decisions are made in the public interest. This also entails a good relationship with public servants, whose careers are dedicated to improving our country and supporting you in the performance of your abilities.

We have committed to an open, honest government that is accountable to Canadians, lives up to the highest ethical standards and applies the utmost care and prudence in the handling of public funds. We expect you to embody these values in your work and observe the highest ethical standards in everything you do. We want Canadians to look on their own government with pride and trust.

We will note that you are responsible for ensuring that your Minister’s Office meets the highest standards of professionalism and that it is a safe, respectful, rewarding and welcoming place for your staff to work. We know we can count on you to fulfill the important responsibilities entrusted to you. It is incumbent on you to turn to us and the Deputy Prime Minister early and often to support you in your role as Minister.

Sincerely, 

Cooperation Canada 

Is the end near for Direction and Control?

Is the end near for Direction and Control?

In June, Cooperation Canada held a session dedicated to the sector-wide efforts to address the outdated regulatory framework of ‘direction and control’ which imposes significant barriers to establishing equitable relationships with communities and organizations without a charitable status. As the sector gears up for a new season of efforts of legislative change, we hope this Q&A will help.

 

Why are we (still) talking about the Canada Revenue Agency’s ‘direction and control’ requirements?

The international cooperation sector is undergoing a transformative shift: global governance frameworks are increasingly highlighting the importance of establishing equitable partnerships with local civil society organizations and other non-traditional partners in pursuits of healthier, more equitable and sustainable world for us all. These principles are recognized across global frameworks such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda), the Grand Bargain for Humanitarian Action, and policy instruments such as the recently approved Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD DAC). Canada’s domestic policy framework, such as the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) espouses the same values. However, the ability of Canada’s charities to establish equitable partnerships with diverse actors working in domestic and international contexts is constrained by the 70-year-old legislative framework dubbed ‘direction and control.’

 

What is ‘direction and control’?

Canada’s charities are regulated by the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) guidances CG-002 and CG-004 which respectively set conditions for Canadian charities to work with non-charitable actors internationally and within Canada. Building on Income Tax Act (ITA) provisions dating back to 1950s, these regulations represent a global legislative exception, requiring all registered Canadian charities to implement their ‘own activities’ when working with non-registered charities, and to exercise ‘full direction and control’ over those activities.

For Canadian registered charities supporting a project of a local partner without a charitable status, ‘direction and control’ regulations dictate the need for a written agreement that relegates these local partners – who are generally the ones with context-specific knowledge, community ties, and the initiative behind the given project – to the role of ‘intermediaries’ in need of micromanagement. In other words, staff from Canadian charitable organizations are legislatively obligated to insist on compliance processes that undermine the agency and the independence of actors without a charitable status.

In humanitarian contexts where these constraints cost lives and livelihoods, Canada’s charitable organizations again represent a global exception. In the aftermath of disasters and crises, speed and coordination matter. This is why the global community is increasingly working with ‘pooled funding’ where various actors contribute to centrally coordinated response delivered by pre-vetted local actors. Canadian charitable organizations cannot legally participate in most pooled funds and are forced to spend more resources on burdensome reporting requirements. This means that the contributions Canadians direct to solving global challenges are spent less effectively.

 

How is Direction and Control perpetuating inequality?

Direction and control legislation disincentivizes Canada’s charities from supporting nonprofit and community organizations, as Kevin McCort, the President and the CEO of the Vancouver Foundation confirmed during Cooperation Canada’s Forum 2021, saying that “domestic funders are also increasingly finding that the definition of charitable purposes has excluded a number of groups (…) so we can’t fund (…) community groups, but they are doing the kind of work we want to fund in service of our charitable purposes.” While local actors are proven to be the most effective in addressing community needs including throughout the COVID-19 pandemic they receive insufficient support.

The more marginalized a community is, the less likely it is to have a charitable status. By making it harder for equity seeking groups to access funding, Canada’s legislation is perpetuating inequality. Results of such systems are clear: a Carleton University domestic study found that only 0.7% of grants issued in 2017/2018 was allocated to Black-serving organizations, and just 0.07% to Black-led organizations. Similarly, this analysis of the Registered Charity Information Return database for 2018 shows that Indigenous Groups (defined using the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund developed by Wanda Brascoupe for CanadaHelps) received only $1 for every $178 allocated to non-Indigenous groups.

Internationally, the figures are not better. This 2016 OECD report shows that less than 1% of global funding is allocated to women’s rights organizations in historically disadvantaged countries, and the 2021 Grand Bargain report found that the commitment of ‘localization’ has not been achieved.

 

How were the ‘direction and control’ regulations updated in November 2020?

In November 2020, CRA updated the above-listed guidance documents for clarity and context-informed amendments. During the same Forum 2021 session in June 2021, Tony Manconi, the Director General of the CRA Charities Directorate outlined these updates. Efforts to clarify the terminology entailed, for example, replacing expressions such as ‘agent’ and ‘agency agreement’ with ‘intermediary’ and ‘intermediary agreement’ and spelling out the definition of the term ‘capital’ to include ‘real property land’ and ‘immovable property on land.’

In terms of the changes that do, effectively, shift CRA expectation, a notable update is that of the increased threshold for projects requiring formal agreements from $1,000 to $5,000. Moreover, CRA will no longer require that non-charitable partners use a separate bank account for charitable funds, but the financial records will need to be fully accounted and linked to the reported expenditures. According to the latest guidance, charities are expected to show ‘direction and control’ via written agreements, detailed descriptions of project activities, monitoring and supervising, regular reporting, ongoing instruction, periodic transfers, and clearly separated activities and funds. The new guidance also clarifies the definition of ‘adequate books and records’ for low and high-risk categories.

While helpful, these amendments made by the CRA do not resolve the central concern of ‘direction and control’ focused on micromanaging local partners’ activities and undermining their agency. With the ‘direction and control’ test solidified in the legal precedence and case law on the Income Tax Act, room for regulatory flexibility on the part of CRA is extremely limited. To truly amend this outdated framework, a legislative change to the ITA is required.

 

What is the proposed legislative approach?

Significant efforts have been made to inform legislative reforms of the ‘direction and control’ framework. The Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector (ACCS), established in 2019 to promote dialogue between the CRA, the Department of Finance, and charitable sector experts, has issued recommendations outlined in the January 2021 and April 2021 aligned with previous reports carried out since 2012. These include the 2019 Report of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector, which suggests removing the ‘own activities’ test from the Income Tax Act and focusing on the expenditure responsibility test instead. The Government response to this report, however, has not outlined a clear way forward.

To move away from activity-based compliance approaches and strengthen financial accountability of charitable actors, Senator Ratna Omidvar proposed the private members Bill S-222, which passed in the Senate on 17 June 2021. As the Senator explained during the June Cooperation Forum session, Bill S-222 builds on examples from countries like the United States and focuses on financial accountability, which leaves further room for subsequent CRA regulations to be developed in consultation with the sector. Furthermore, as a group of charitable lawyers supporting this bill claims, the bill does not erode existing guardrails around other aspects of charity regulations, including those related to anti-terrorism and proceeds of crime (money laundering).

According to Senator Omidvar, Bill S-222 aims to strengthen accountability provisions by expanding the definition of charitable activities and defining reasonable steps for ensuring resource accountability. This includes replacing operational direction and control with full upfront due diligence and establishing partner agreements that would, in line with international standards, list expected outcomes and the impact, reporting requirements, as well as budgetary and activity-level commitments. Non-charitable actors would remain accountable for the use of resources towards declared charitable purposes and desired outcomes, but the legal responsibility for project management and financial control would rest within their institution.

 

What are the potential next steps?

Bill S-222 was approved in June 2021, thanks to the all-party support of the Senate, which according to Senator Omidvar suggests a common understanding of the importance and the urgency of the proposed amendments. MP Philip Lawrence, the Conservative Party Critic for National Revenue, had committed to tabling the bill in the House of Commons. However, Canada’s federal election has interrupted this process of legislative change and this fall, the bill will need to be re-introduced.

Should Bill S-222 pass both the House of Commons and the Senate this time aroumd, CRA will have two years to produce regulatory guidance that operationalizes the new provisions and clarifies what, for example, an acceptable due diligence process or a partnership agreement would entail.

 

How can Cooperation Canada members get engaged?

To support sector efforts to amend the ‘direction and control’ legislation, Cooperation Canada members are invited to join a working group dedicated to this agenda. The group will be co-led by Céline Füri (Oxfam-Québec) and John Clayton (Samaritan’s Purse). The group will share intel, resources, and coordinate advocacy outreach in collaboration with other domestic groups. To get engaged you can:

 

The call for nominations for the Cooperation Canada Awards is now open

The call for nominations for the Cooperation Canada Awards is now open

The call for nominations is now open for the Cooperation Canada awards for 2021.

 

The Karen Takacs Award is presented annually to an individual who has notably, by virtue of working collaboratively, made a difference in the lives of women globally. The award honours outstanding collaborative leadership and commitment to promoting women’s equality. The call for nominations is now open.

Nominations will be accepted until end of day, December 6, 2021.  are closed.

 

Cooperation Canada and the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), in collaboration with the trustees of the Lewis Perinbam Award, jointly present the Innovation and Impact Awards, which recognize Canadian individuals and civil society organizations that are doing impactful and innovative work. Submissions for Innovation and Impact Awards are now open.

Nominations will be accepted until end of day, December 12, 2021.  are closed.

 

Learn more about the awards: