Intelligence watchdog investigating CRA following Islamophobia claims
One of Canada’s intelligence review bodies has launched an investigation into the Canada Revenue Agency’s work on charities in response to allegations of bias and Islamophobia.
On Tuesday, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) — the watchdog set up to monitor the activities of Canada’s national security and intelligence bodies — released a letter it sent to Bob Hamilton, commissioner of the CRA, announcing its intention to probe the department’s review and analysis wing.
That CRA division is tasked with making sure registered charities aren’t being used to finance terrorism. It has been accused of unfairly targeting Muslim charities for audits based on questionable grounds.
NSIRA said the review will focus on the CRA program’s “national security activities and decision-making relating to registered Canadian charities, to assess their reasonableness, necessity and compliance with the law.”
National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said she welcomes the investigation.
“The government of Canada stands with and supports Muslim communities across Canada and reaffirms its commitment to take action to denounce and tackle Islamophobia, hate-fuelled violence and systemic discrimination whenever and wherever it occurs,” says a media statement from her office.
A 2021 report by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group said CRA’s review and analysis division carried out audits “with little accountability or independent review.”
The national civil liberties coalition reported that 75 per cent of the organizations whose charitable status was revoked following division audits from 2008 to 2015 were Muslim charities, and at least another four have seen their status pulled since then.
NSIRA will have access to classified information
One of those charities, the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), said a years-long audit has been plagued by bias and Islamophobia. The charity, which describes itself as Canada’s largest grassroots Muslim organization, is pursuing a Charter of Rights challenge.
The group’s lawyer said the CRA has levelled unsubstantiated allegations against the charity and has engaged in “innuendo” about improper foreign ties and questions about the charitable benefits of its youth programs.
MAC chairperson Nabil Sultan told CBC News the audit poses an “existential threat” to the organization because it threatens to revoke its charitable status and raises the possibility of damaging sanctions.
“We want to see an audit that is not discriminatory and we want to be treated like any other religious charity in this country,” he said.
In July 2021, Lebouthillier asked the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson to “examine concerns raised by certain Muslim-led charities and engage other charitable organizations led by racialized communities about their experiences with the CRA.”
Lebouthillier said NSIRA will be able to examine documents and specific charity files unavailable to the ombudsperson due to the restrictions of the Income Tax Act and other national security rules.
NSIRA is an independent and external review body with a mandate to review Canada’s intelligence and security activities. The group has unfettered access to classified information and reports to Parliament.
Here are 5 ways Budget 2023 will impact your wallet
Much of the federal Liberal government’s 2023 budget is geared towards helping Canadian households make ends meet — or at the very least, for example, shaving a few dollars off the cost of a concert ticket.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland teed up the 2023 spending plans as providing support for vulnerable Canadians who are feeling stressed about their own budgets after a year of high inflation and rapidly rising interest rates.
Some proposed measures will make a direct impact on households, while others will change the kinds of charges and interest rates businesses can levy at Canadians.
Here are five big takeaways from the federal budget you’ll want to know about.
Tax rebate aimed at grocery affordability
One highly touted measure in the 2023 budget is a one-time tax rebate aimed at helping Canadians cope with rampant food inflation.
The so-called “grocery rebate,” as reported by Global News and others ahead of the budget’s release on Tuesday, would be aimed at lower-income households. It would be delivered through the existing GST tax credit mechanism, with an estimated 11 million Canadians and families expected to qualify to receive the support.
The rebate is expected to deliver $467 directly to a family of four, $234 to a single Canadian without kids and $225 to the average senior.
Despite the name, the government won’t be checking that the rebate is spent directly on groceries.
But given that prices for food from the grocery store clocked in at 10.6 per cent annual inflation in February and has remained in double-digits since the summer, groceries continue to be major stressors on household budgets.
The timeline for the rollout of this rebate is uncertain and depends on when and if the 2023 budget is passed in Parliament.
Cracking down on ‘junk fees’
In the 2023 budget, the Liberal government is declaring war on “junk fees” — defined as “unexpected, hidden and additional fees” that crop up on everything from concert tickets to airfare, from telecom services to excessive shipping costs.
Details were sparse on how and when the government would tackle these fees, but the budget said Ottawa would work with regulatory agencies, provinces and territories to reduce unfair and excessive costs on some common expenses.
The United States government recently announced a similar crackdown on fees as consumers have swiftly complained online in the past few years about the exorbitant amounts charged for tickets to popular concerts, for example.
While some measures in the 2023 budget might reduce what you pay on airfare, others could see those costs rise.
The air travellers security charge (ATSC), which is typically paid by passengers on their tickets and helps to fund security screening and baggage protection services in Canada, is set to rise under the 2023 budget proposals.
The ATSC rate for a round-trip domestic flight would rise almost $5 to $19.87 under the new regime, while an international flight will see the charge hiked by nearly $9 to $34.42 on a flight out of Canada.
Help on loans
The federal government also announced its plans to help Canadians dealing with high interest rates on some loans.
Debt-servicing payments have grown rapidly over the past year as the Bank of Canada raised interest rates in an effort to cool spending and take some stream out of inflation. A rise in the central bank’s benchmark policy rate affects multiple kinds of debt, including mortgages, lines of credit and credit cards.
For Canadians struggling with mortgage payments after a year of rate hikes, Ottawa proposed a new mortgage code of conduct in the 2023 budget.
Through the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the document would direct financial institutions to provide Canadians struggling to make mortgage payments with “fair and equitable access to relief measures.”
This could include adjusting payment schedules, extending amortizations on the loan or authorizing lump-sum payments, strategies some lenders already offer to clients who are in danger of defaulting on their mortgage.
Beyond mortgages, Ottawa is also planning to crack down on payday loans and predatory lenders.
The budget notes that these loans often target low-income and other vulnerable Canadians with a promise of quick relief at the cost of “very high interest rate loans” that can end up trapping consumers in a cycle of debt.
The Liberals are proposing to amend the Criminal Code to lower the threshold at which a rate of interest would be considered criminal from today’s annual rate of 47 per cent federally to 35 per cent, in line with the current rate in Quebec.
Payday lenders would also be able to charge Canadians no more than $14 per $100 borrowed under the new regime, bringing it down to the cap currently in place in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Standardizing chargers for devices
The federal government is also planning to cut down on the number of charging cables Canadians have lying around their kitchen drawers by standardizing the charging port for smartphones and other devices.
Following the lead of the European Union, which signalled it would mandate USB-C charging ports for small handheld devices and laptops by the end of 2024, Ottawa will also work with international partners to “explore implementing a standard charging port in Canada,” according to the budget.
The document said standardizing the charging port on phones and other devices could lower costs for Canadians and cut down on electronic waste.
Also in the vein of cutting down on waste, the Liberals are proposing a new “right to repair” framework for existing devices.
Currently, fixing broken appliances or devices can come with high fees or face delays when specific parts aren’t available.
The government is looking to roll out a framework in 2024 to make electronics easier to repair with spare parts expected to be readily accessible.
“By cutting down on the number of devices and appliances that are thrown out, we will be able to make life more affordable for Canadians and protect our environment,” the budget read.
Automatic tax filing to help low-income Canadians
Ottawa is also looking to help the estimated 12 per cent of Canadians who don’t currently file tax returns take advantage of benefits they might currently be missing out on.
Starting in 2023, the Canada Revenue Agency is expected to pilot a new “automatic filing system” to help vulnerable Canadians who don’t regularly file taxes receive the benefits they’re entitled to receive.
The government also intends to expand its existing auto-file program, File My Return, which sees low-income Canadians file returns by answering a few questions over the phone.
Ottawa plans to nearly triple the number of Canadians eligible for the auto-file program to two million by 2025.
PLAY to offer flights to Amsterdam from Hamilton airport
Amsterdam will be available to Canadian travellers on June 22
Hamilton, ON, March 28, 2023 – PLAY, a low-cost airline operating flights between Iceland and Europe, has added Amsterdam to its summer schedule. Tickets for the new route are now available for purchase, and the destination will be available for Canadian travellers when PLAY launches its inaugural flight out of Hamilton on June 22.
As a transatlantic carrier between Europe and North America, PLAY operates from its hub at Keflavik Airport in Iceland, perfectly positioned between the two continents.
From John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, Canadian passengers can fly to Amsterdam for as low as $169. Travel for this new route will be facilitated through Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
Since its first flight in June 2021, PLAY has expanded its fleet from three Airbus A320neo aircraft to six in 2022 and will operate 10 Airbus A320/321neo aircraft in 2023. The average age of PLAY’s aircraft is just 2.3 years, making the passengers’ journey comfortable, safe and reliable. With a network of nearly 40 destinations and over a million passengers flown since its launch, PLAY has a solid track record of an impressive 87 per cent on-time performance in 2023.
In Iceland, PLAY is a listed company in the Icelandic stock market with around 4.000 shareholders.
“We are thrilled to launch our services to Amsterdam and connect more customers to our affordable travel options,” said Birgir Jónsson, CEO, PLAY. “Amsterdam is one of Europe’s biggest hubs and a vital destination for our VIA operations between Canada and Europe. At PLAY, our mission is clear: to provide low-cost flights and offer our customers more value for their money. We aim to give the competition a run for their money with our low prices, providing people in Canada the opportunity to save money on their flights and enjoy more experiences in their destination. As we like to say at PLAY: Pay less, PLAY more.”
Learn more or book a flight at flyplay.com. See media assets here.
PLAY is a low-cost airline operating flights between Iceland and Europe, and North America as of 2022. Founded in Reykjavík in 2019 by a management team with significant experience in the aviation industry, the company operates flights on new Airbus A321NEO and A320NEO aircraft, offering streamlined, no-frills service that allows travelers to pay less and “play more.” Safety comes first for PLAY. On-time performance, simplicity, happiness and low prices are the airline’s core principles. The airline seeks to enable passengers to see the world, but not without considering its environmental impact. PLAY is being developed with sustainability initiatives and benchmarks in place to track and reduce fuel consumption, offset carbon emissions, and limit waste. Learn more or book a flight at flyplay.com or follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at @PLAYairlines. For media resources, visit PLAY’s online newsroom, flyplay.com/media.
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The Recipee Band Brings Back The LIIVE Reunion
THE “LIIVE REUNION”
“Are you ready?”
Toronto, ON – The Recipee Band’s live music experience that ran for 7 years returns!! April 6th at the Black Pearl Restaurant, 184 Pearl Street Toronto. Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite with limited tickets at the door. The event is 80% sold. Don’t miss out on the iconic sound of Canada’s “The Recipee” band and their special guests, Mike Ferfolia, Jarelle, Oh! The Artist, Yosvanii, and more. The group are known for the passion of their music, combining R&B, Gospel, Reggae, Pop, Rock, and Soul. Their first single, “Edges Laid (Tonight)” is an example of the strength of the combined talent each of the band members brings every time they step into the studio or live on stage. 2023 will bring two highly anticipated singles from “The Recipee” followed by an album in 2024.
“The Recipee” band members, Jason Larmond, Otis Williams, Juwayon Clarke, Jonathan Kerr and Omar Lunan, continue to perform at major events with Juno and Grammy winning artists. Their soulful sound and ability to connect with sold out audiences everywhere is respected both nationally and internationally. “The Recipee” has performed with Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Deborah Cox, Andy Kim, Ray Robinson, Daniel Caesar, Brandy, Foxy Brown, Ginuwine, Usher, 98 Degrees, Jordan Knight & Carvin Winans as well as Canada’s very own Kardinal Offishall, Jully Black, Divine Brown, Shawn Desman & Shawn Hook. With a Canadian Urban Music Award, and drumming championships, the group is constantly evolving… securing their set at the table. Get your tickets now to The April 6th “Live Reunion” Music Event. “The Recipee” will bring the house down!!!
DATE: April 6, 2023
TIME: DOORS OPEN: 8PM DINNER: 9PM SHOW: 10PM
Follow the Recipee Band:
Media RSVP & Inquiries:
Sasha Stoltz Publicity:
Sasha Stoltz | Sasha@sashastoltzpublicity.com | 416.579.4804
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