Dear Duceppe, Ignatieff, Harper, Layton and May families,
More than 50 years later, after a lifetime of helping people and animals, my mother’s words still ring true. We know you care about animals and that’s why our family is turning to yours for help because backed up by serious threats to end charities, and using taxpayers’ money, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) wants to decide for you what cruelty and suffering animal welfare groups like The Humane Society of Canada can tell you about -- and what it should hide from you.
That’s not going to happen on our watch.
We are humbled by the trust and confidence Canadians have placed in us and we are not about to let them or the animals down because when it comes to fighting cruelty and violence we don’t give up. Ever.
Our humanity has to burn brightest in the darkest places which hide the cruelty, suffering and abuse of animals. We can’t be a beacon of hope for people and animals if the tax man won’t even let us turn on the light.
Everyone I have ever met has a story about how animals have touched their lives. They become part of our family, fill our homes with wonder and joy, make us better people, and while it breaks our hearts as we mourn their passing, we are comforted by the memories of our all too short time with them.
We are grateful to your family for your patience and understanding and for taking the time to listen to our concerns. We know time is short, but please settle in and get comfortable, it is a long letter, but we think an important one, and we hope you’ll agree.
Public and government surveys tell us what we already know in our minds and in our hearts, and from our rich and diverse history as a nation along with our charitable work: more than 95% of Canadians care deeply about the protection of animals and the environment and think we should reduce animal pain and suffering as much as possible.
And yet five times since 1980, our elected officials and our unelected Senate have refused to strengthen the Criminal Code, first passed in 1892, to help protect animals from violence. Does that mean the rest of us should not be allowed to speak out for the animals who would otherwise have no voice, just because the tax man says so?
Across Canada and around the world, we have known for centuries that the way we treat animals is a reflection of the way we treat each other. Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
For one moment in time, it seemed at last that politicians finally listened, and with the support of all parties on November 6, 2009, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion which calls on the Government of Canada to support in the principle the development of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare which would eventually be signed and adopted by all countries at the United Nations declaring our duty and corresponding actions to respect animals and their welfare needs which in turn would have a positive and lasting benefit for people, animals and the environment.
CRA and the Heart of the Matter
Apparently, however, the Canada Revenue Agency doesn’t agree because they know what’s best for everyone, even though they are supposed to be held to account and work for all Canadians.
Not so very long ago, and for eight years in a row, the United Nations told us something we already knew - that Canada is the best place on earth to live. But what about the animals who are a part of our family and share our lives, the more than 18 million of them in our homes? What about the ones that swim beneath our ocean depths, soar through the heavens, run through our forests and mountains? Shouldn’t life be fair for them as well?
Not according to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Like most Canadians, we believe you don’t know how the tax man operates using your hard earned money in covering up the actions of government and special interest industries which harm animals and the environment – and if that if you knew about it, you probably wouldn’t like it much.
Bottom line: CRA says that if they decide the use of an animal is legal or if the government of the day signs off on it, The Humane Society of Canada and other charities are not allowed to tell you about the pain and suffering it causes to animals. Same thing for wildlife and the environment, and get this: our charity and others like us, have to prove that the person inflicting the cruelty on animals isn’t harmed somehow because we told you about it – and CRA can decide what the law is, whenever and wherever they feel like it.
Not only that, the tax man, once again backed up by your money, turns the law upside down so that our charity and others like us are publicly guilty until it we can prove we are innocent, wasting valuable time, your tax dollars, donations and energy – instead of protecting animals.
We can all have our charitable status taken away at any time if we tell you something CRA thinks you shouldn’t know about – and they don’t even have to set foot in court to prove a single fact. If that’s not enough, the tax man can retaliate against you by starting a smear campaign, accusing you in public of doing terrible things, without ever having to prove it or even being forced to answer for his actions.
For charities who get on their hit list that means CRA gets to act as judge, jury and executioner, using your money.
Don’t get me wrong. We know there are bad charities out there and we agree they need to be shut down. With our own extensive contacts, experience in law enforcement and the way charities operate we want to help.
Everyone who uses your tax dollars and your donations needs to play by the same rules.
However, instead of targeting these high risk bad guys and the threat they pose for all Canadians, CRA continues to waste valuable time, energy and your money by going after charities not because they broke the law, but because they said something the tax man doesn’t like.
Lots of Questions for the “Taxman” but no Answers
CRA is always asking you for more power and more of your money. Out here in the real world, if we made mistakes like this, do you think any of us would get a second chance, let alone more money and power? Of course not, we’d get fired, and replaced by someone who knew how to get the job done right the first time.
Why won’t CRA tell you if they are investigating more charities or the same ones over and over again? Why is this information secret and why do they have a right to keep these secrets from all of us?
Even when you read through CRA’s legal guidance on animal welfare, if you don’t know how they operate, it really doesn’t look too bad, it evens look like their trying to be helpful and make things easier for you to understand.
Until you look a little closer. Why did CRA keep what they were doing a big secret? Why didn’t they let charities or anyone else know about it? Did they consult with provincial, territorial and local governments where all Canadian charities are based?
After releasing it, why did CRA make changes to their own law without telling anyone? Did we miss the democratic debate in the House of Commons about this? What industries that harm animals and nature asked the tax man to come up with this law in the first place? Who are they and what exactly do they have to hide from all of us? Let’s get it all out in the open, so we can all find out what this is all about.
Why did CRA tell you that their law against telling people about animal cruelty has always been this way, when the tax man himself, along with animal and environmental experts, like The Humane Society of Canada, all of whom have been working on these issues for decades, knows that is simply not true?
Shouldn’t we be allowed to tell you that using your tax dollars, your own federal government has policies that support the killing of foals for food to be shipped to Europe while their mothers remained confined in stalls producing a drug that has been found to be harmful to women; and polar bears killed that can’t even be stuffed and taken home by the American hunters who shot them; and what about Canadian black bears killed for their parts; and Canadian support for the killing of rhinos and elephants, dolphins and whales and sea turtles; and the import and sale of clothing here in Canada made from dogs and cats killed for their fur half a world away -- just because the tax man says this is all ok with him?
CRA has been picking and choosing what to tell Canadians and what to hide from them for a very long time; using propaganda instead of education which violates CRA’s own law.
CRA keeps quoting England’s laws and practices to make their own case against protecting animals and the environment right here in Canada.
Only problem with that is, using their own laws, the British allow animal welfare charities to speak freely and do everything CRA says we can’t do here at home in Canada. Why didn’t CRA tell you that the British Government treats everyone fairly and has to actually prove charities did something wrong - but that here in Canada under their law, CRA can accuse you publicly of doing terrible things and even shut down charities without having to prove a single fact because the tax man says that Canadian charities are guilty and have to prove their own innocence?
Why did CRA leave out that it was the Royal Family who put the “Royal” in protecting animals as far back as 1835? and the well publicized fact that Prince William and Kate, broke with royal tradition for the first time in British history by asking people not to send them wedding gifts, but instead make donations to their favourite charities, including those that support conservation and animal welfare?
Why didn’t CRA tell you that here in Canada, just like in the United Kingdom and the United States, organizations to protect animals came first, and that many of the same people were then responsible for setting up organizations to protect children which came afterwards?
Why didn’t CRA tell you that Canadian law was used just last year in Australia in a victory to allow charities to speak out freely on issues of social concern?
We think the tax man is breaking their own mandate, mission, Canadian laws and international treaties - who told them they could that? Why didn’t CRA come clean about the other laws they plan to use to cause a cascade effect to harm charities?
Why didn’t CRA tell everyone that the humane treatment of animals and the environment has a direct impact not only for animals, but also on human health and safety, along with our environmental and economic security?
Look at the worldwide harm done by a Canadian company, an income trust, whose chief officer admitted selling off a bunch of his stock two weeks before his company went public with their tale of poisoned pet food which caused illness and the death of thousands of pets; and the tragic sickness, death and economic loss caused by SARS linked to wildlife markets in China; and mad cow disease, swine flu and avian flu from barnyards; and the Gulf oil spill which harmed fragile habitats and the oil economy, killing millions of marine animals including thousands of Canadian migratory birds.
Why didn’t CRA tell us that if other countries treat their animals more humanely, it puts Canadian businesses at a competitive disadvantage here at home and around the globe because well educated consumers have more choices than ever before about how to spend their money? Given the choice, what Canadian wouldn’t buy dolphin safe tuna, shrimp caught without drowning sea turtles or free range eggs?
Why didn’t CRA tell you about the other side of the story the one about how your hard earned tax dollars are being used to support special interest industries that harm animals? Why should we be stopped from telling you?
Why is the tax man, a civil servant who is paid to work for all of us, getting involved in politics and political influence? Why should it be up to him to decide how you should vote and think? Why should CRA punish charities like The Humane Society of Canada because you exercise your own freedom to listen to all sides and then make up your own mind?
In order to pierce this veil of secrecy, we’d like answers to these and many more questions, but the tax man isn’t talking.
Maybe he’ll answer you. The tax man can’t hide things from you, right? Please promise us, no more back room deals in the shadows for anyone.
Canadians Can Make up our own Mind
As Canadians, we believe in rigorous public debate about everything under the sun and in one way or another everything comes down to who is going to pay for it. Because we believe in fair play, we make sure we hear from all sides, and then you sit back and make up your own mind. And why shouldn’t you? After all, it’s a free country and your hard earned money, every penny of it.
That’s the way we do things as Canadians. The last thing Canadians need is one more person telling them how to think or how to vote, especially the tax man.
We can’t speak for everyone, but we are not going to let CRA bully Canadians or animals.
Honestly, like everyone else, we’re afraid of taking on the tax man, and how he might retaliate against us.
But you know what I’m more afraid of? Turning my back on all of those animals and just walking away. Letting them suffer because we didn’t try to stop it; breaking our promise to all of those caring people that we would stand our ground and be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.
How can Canadians create and build a truly “humane society” if the tax man gets to call the shots for the rest of us?
Should CRA get away with this, those affected will be the people whose animals are helped and those who care about animals, taxpayers, other charities, our economic and environmental security, and most of all the animals who will suffer as a result.
And once the tax man is finished with The Humane Society of Canada and other animal welfare groups who say things he doesn’t like, do you really think he’s going to stop there? Does the tax man have a list? Who is he coming for next?
There is a proven link between cruelty to animals and later violent criminal behaviour towards people. The FBI considers cruelty to animals one of the three primary indicators of future criminal behaviour. The cycle of violence it seems is continuous.
Kindness towards animals and respect for nature makes us better people and strengthens the social fabric of Canadian society. Enlightened self interest along with common sense and hard earned lessons tells us that whatever we do to animals and the environment we do to ourselves.
So you see, if the animals lose, then so does everyone else.
As we watch and support ordinary people just like us around the world, including our own troops, fighting and dying for freedom, democracy and justice, we are reminded that we should never take our Canadian quality of life for granted.
Even more importantly, we owe a debt of honour to repay all of those who came before us, the ones who made the sacrifices that mean we can live in a free and open society.
To push back the tide of cruelty and indifference, we need to prove once again that for people, animals and the environment, who cares wins and that good government only comes with accountability and consequences.
It all comes down to a simple choice really and we have to ask ourselves, each one of us where we really stand. Canadians have worked long and hard to pay for our freedoms and for a democratic political system which sadly many Canadians believe has abandoned them.
Where Do You Stand?
Should their sacrifice and their own hard earned money be used to threaten charities and influence politics, to support violence and cruelty, and to end the freedom of Canadians to be informed and make up their own minds and to help people, animals and the environment, just because the tax man says so?
You already have our answer and we are asking you to please help people, animals and the environment.
Talk to CRA to get their side of the story, the one they won’t tell us.
Canada Needs You. We are stronger together.
From our family to yours,
Michael, Lise, Pierce, Elan and the fur faces (Denali, Chewie, Pasha & Luther)
Chairman & CEO
The Humane Society of Canada
Toll free 1-800-641-KIND
Cell (416) 876-9685
P.S. We like to learn more about your family’s kindness towards animals and respect for nature. Please send pictures, video and stories about what they mean to you and we’ll give them a special home on our website www.humanesociety.com
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.
The only organization of its kind, seven days a week, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works across the street, across Canada and around the world helping people, animals and the environment.The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) depends entirely on donations to support our programs to help animals and the environment. All donations are gratefully acknowledged with a receipt for income tax purposes. If you would like to support our educational campaigns that protect animals and the environment please make a donation here. Because when it comes to fighting cruelty and violence, we don’t give up. Ever.