Earlier this month, the Federal Court of Appeal was asked to
consider whether the Minister of National Revenue (the
"Minister") had erred in confirming the decision of the
Canada Revenue Agency ("CRA") to deny the Humanics
Institute's application for charitable status. CRA denied
the application on the basis that: 1) The Humanics Institute's
purposes were too broad; 2) the activities stated in support of its
purposes were not charitable; and 3) it did not demonstrate that it
would have direction and control over certain of its resources, as
its proposed funding of a foreign scholarship could not be
considered to be the organization's "own activities"
or the funding of a qualified donee.
According to its website, the Humanics Institute is:
"...focused on promoting principals of non-violence, human
development, justice and peace in the world, through programs or
ventures aimed at understanding and [appreciating]: the Oneness of
Reality, Respect and Dignity of all Human Beings, and the Intrinsic
Relationship between Human Beings and the Cosmic and Natural
Environment in the World around us."
Based on the above, the organization's mission is not to
advance a particular world religion, but rather to encourage the
acceptance of many religions in recognition of a unifying religious
value called the Oneness of Reality. To promote this concept,
the Humanics Institute cited its proposed development and
management of a sanctuary and sculpture park designed to embody the
The primary consideration before the Federal Court of Appeal was
whether the particular belief system constituted a
"religion" for the purpose of charitable
registration. CRA generally requires a belief system to have
three attributes in order to constitute a religion for this
faith in a "higher unseen power" such as God, a
supreme being or entity;
worship/reverence of the supreme being or higher power;
a particular and comprehensive system of doctrines and
The Federal Court of Appeal confirmed the Minister's finding
that the concept of Oneness of Reality was too broad to be a
"comprehensive system of faith and worship".
Furthermore, and of particular importance, the Court confirmed the
proposition in Fuaran Foundation v. Canada (Customs and Revenue
Agency) that a charity whose purpose is to advance religion
must demonstrate a "targeted attempt" to promote
it. Specifically, the provision of a space whereby
individuals may pursue religious thought, such as the proposed
sanctuary and sculpture park, is not an activity which will be
considered to advance a particular religion in the charitable
Having found that the belief system described by the Humanics
Institute was not a religion for the purpose of charitable
registration, the Court went on to reject the various Charter
arguments advanced by the organization. Specifically, the
Minister was not (and based on the previous finding could not) be
held to have interfered with the organization's section 2(a)
right to freedom of religion. The organization, according to
the Court, had also failed to provide any supporting argument for
its section 2(b) claim for a breach of freedom of expression.
Finally, the Court also held that the Humanics Institute, as a
corporation, could not bring its section 15 claim as this provision
of the Charter (which addresses discrimination) only applies to
This case is interesting, in part, because it re-affirms the
previous ruling in Fuaran Foundation's
regarding the requirement of a targeted attempt to advance
religion. Activities intended to promote religion that are
too "passive" in nature may be challenged by CRA.
The case also affirmed an understanding of religion that requires a
comprehensive system of beliefs – a test which may be
difficult to meet for many non-traditional religions or religious
schools of thought.
We will continue to keep our readers apprised of developments in
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