Foreign Activities and Canadian Charities

Legal Rules and Risk Management for Canadian charities carrying out foreign activities

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Over 5000 Canadian registered charities operate outside of Canada and they cumulatively spend over $4 billion per year on foreign activities.This course Foreign Activities and Canadian Charities is a course with charity lawyer Mark Blumberg which discusses international activities by Canadian charities and related regulatory issues. The course also deal with international fundraising from Canada which results in Canadian charities receiving over $2 billion per year from donors outside of Canada.

Some charities operating abroad are not aware of, or compliant with, their legal requirements and foreign activities has been an area that has been scrutinized by CRA in its audits and can result in suspensions, penalties and revocation of charitable status if the rules are not followed.

Some of the issues discussed include:

  • Ideas for doing good abroad that do not involve registered charities
  • Some general considerations for Canadian charities carrying on activities outside of Canada
  • Review of the importance of international philanthropy
  • Why would a “local” Canadian charity such as a hospital want to carry out foreign activities?
  • An overview of the Income Tax Act (Canada) regulatory framework governing the over 5000 Canadian charities conducting foreign activities
  • The distinction between qualified donees and non-qualified donees
  • A detailed discussion of CRA publication “Canadian Registered Charities Carrying Out Activities Outside Canada”:
  • Direction and control over resources
  • Avoiding being a “conduit”
  • Abiding by local laws
  • Risk Management for international activities
  • Types of permissible relationships for Canadian charities operating abroad
  • Avoiding misuse of charitable assets
  • Charitable goods policy
  • Keeping books and records in Canada
  • Challenges in dealing with natural disasters
  • Transfers of Capital property to local partners
  • Misuse of international activities for private gain and abusive charity gifting tax shelters
  • Due diligence and procedures to avoid terrorist abuse
  • Inflated valuation of pharmaceuticals for developing countries
  • More in-depth discussion of books and records
  • Some important ethical issues with foreign activities
  • Can "local ownership" be compatible with "direction and control".

The sections covered include:
  1. Introduction and Overview
  2. Basic considerations for registered charities
  3. Cross border philanthropy (money in and money out)
  4. International Fundraising
  5. Grant making from Canada by individuals outside Canadian Registered Charities
  6. Good work outside the charitable sector
  7. Grant making from Canada ("Foreign Activities")
  8. What is a qualified donee?
  9. CRA Guidance and Rules for foreign activities by Canadian charities
  10. Local Ownership and Some Ethical Issues
  11. Some questions for follow-up on foreign activities
  12. CRA Audits and Foreign Activities
  13. Recent Developments and Resources
  14. Quiz

This course Foreign Activities and Canadian Charities will be of interest to staff at non-profits and charities responsible for compliance issues especially program and finance staff and professional fundraisers, professional advisors such as lawyers and accountants who advise charities that receive funds from abroad or send funds or staff abroad, board members of Canadian charities that conduct foreign activities and philanthropists who want to understand the regulatory requirements of Canadian charities who operate abroad.

Your Instructor

Mark Blumberg
Mark Blumberg

Mark Blumberg is a lawyer at the law firm Blumbergs Professional Corporation (Blumbergs) in Toronto and works almost exclusively advising non-profits and registered charities on their work in Canada and abroad. Mark has written numerous articles, is a frequent speaker on legal issues involving charity and not-for-profit law. He is the editor of a blog,, and created the largest portal of data on the Canadian charity sector, Mark also edits, which provides information on due diligence when selecting charities.

Mark is particularly interested in the regulation of non-profits and charities in Canada, philanthropy, transparency requirements for the voluntary sector, providing accessible information on regulatory issues, and the use of data to make more informed decisions on the charity sector.

Mark is quoted regularly in print media and frequently appears on radio and television on topics relating to philanthropy and the regulation of charities in Canada. Mark has also appeared on a number of occasions in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on topics such as charity regulation, transparency, accountability and tax incentives for philanthropy. Mark has testified at the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance and the House Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Mark has also made presentations to the Charities Directorate Annual All Staff Meeting as well the Annual Divisional Staff Meeting of the Determinations Section of Charities Directorate. Mark presented to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) when the FATF conducted an evaluation of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism in Canada in 2015.

Mark sat for 4 years on the Charities Directorate Technical Issues Working Group, which is a bi-annual meeting between the Charities Directorate, the Department of Finance and the charity sector to discuss technical and policy issues pertaining to registered charities and the Income Tax Act (Canada). Mark is a member of the Exempt Organizations Committee of the American Bar Association. Mark spent 6 years on the Advisory Committee for the Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership (MPNL) at Carleton University. Mark is on the Board of the Canadian Charity Law Association.

Mark has co-authored 20 Questions Directors of Not-for-Profit Organizations Should Ask About Mergers (Published by CPA Canada) and co-wrote a chapter on International Trends in Government-Nonprofit Relations: Constancy, Change, and Contradictions in Non-profits and Government: Collaboration and Conflict in Non-profits and government: collaboration and conflict (Edited by Elizabeth T Boris and C Eugene Steuerle)

Mark frequently lectures to various industry and professional groups on charity compliance issues including the Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPA Canada), as well as CPA Ontario, BC and Alberta, the Canadian Bar Association, Ontario Bar Association, Canadian Association of Gift Planners, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Ontario Hospital Association, Ontario Non-profit Network, and many other organizations.

Mark has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto, an LLB from the University of British Columbia and an LLM from Osgoode Hall Law School in Tax Law.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
The course starts now and you will have access to it for at least one year! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.

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