More than 400 academics have accused the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) of auditing a think tank to "intimidate and silence" its criticism of government policies.
The claim is made in an open letter to Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay concerning the CRA's treatment of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The signatories claim that the CCPA is being audited "on the grounds that it allegedly engages in politically partisan, biased, and one-sided research activity."
The letter refutes this and suggests that by undertaking the audit, the CRA "fails to understand the nature of what academic research is about." It adds that "if there is bias, the bias seems to be mostly in the CRA's decision to audit the CCPA and apparently no other think tanks, whose policy conclusions are friendlier toward current government policies."
In July, the Opposition in Canada claimed misuse by the CRA of its auditing powers in favor of the Government. It has been pushing for an independent review, but the Government has said that it will not subject the CRA to unjustified scrutiny.
The letter urges the CRA "to put a moratorium on its audits of think tanks, until such time as a truly neutral criteria and auditing process are implemented to ensure neutrality and fairness, and to ensure that the audit process does not silence dissenting voices."
"Periodic audit should be conducted in a fair, transparent, and even-handed fashion across all the various think tanks that claim charitable status in Canada, with a focus on financial management and integrity (not on the content of the research being conducted)," it concludes.
In 2012, the Government allocated CAD8m (USD7.2m) to the CRA to create a special team of auditors to monitor the political work of charities. Only ten percent of a charity's resources may go towards activities that must be exclusively politically non-partisan.