The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), one of Canada's largest Muslim organizations, has launched a court application that alleges both systemic Islamophobia in CRA practices and the specific infringement of MAC's Charter rights by a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) audit.
MAC is a Canadian faith-based charitable organization that aims to foster and promote community service, education and youth empowerment. Over 150,000 Canadians use its mosques, schools, and community centres every year.
Since 2015, MAC has been subjected to an audit by the CRA.
According to MAC, “from its start, the Audit has been tainted by systemic bias and Islamophobia. Nevertheless, MAC has and continues to fully cooperate with the Audit. Although no decision has been made, the prejudiced Audit report threatens MAC with extreme sanctions that are completely unjustified by the findings of the Audit report.”
"The Audit would never have been approached in the way it has been had the organization in question been Christian, Jewish or Hindu," said Geoff Hall, lawyer at McCarthy Tétrault LLP.
"Facts which are innocuous, and that would be regarded as such for a faith-based organization of a religion other than Islam, have been taken as a basis for suspicion of MAC and its activities."
The CRA alleges that MAC activities, such religious Eid celebrations, are not religious but rather social.
It alleges that MAC's sports, social, and recreational activities directed at youth do not provide a charitable benefit.
Of the tens of thousands of emails reviewed in the Audit, the CRA points to a total of four unsolicited conference invitations sent by mass email transmissions, as alleged evidence that there are links between MAC and foreign entities.
According to MAC, “none of these were ever replied to. Imagine an audit concluding that members of another religious charity could not maintain contacts with individuals around the world belonging to the same denomination.In each of these examples and others, the CRA perceives such perfectly normal interactions as sinister and deceptive. Most importantly, the Audit report did not find any evidence whatsoever that MAC is involved in terrorist financing or affiliated with terrorist organizations. Nevertheless, the Audit report relies upon Islamophobic sources and discredited newspaper articles to support its allegations.”
"This Audit is a textbook example of prejudice and discrimination. The Charter challenge will explore instances in which the CRA has attempted to apply to MAC standards that would, and could never justifiably, be applied to any other community of faith." continued Geoff Hall.
The CRA has already been criticized for Islamophobic behaviour.
Last year, two extensive independent reports were published by the University of Toronto's Institute of Islamic Studies and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group that found that the CRA Review and Analysis Division (RAD) has implicit biases and practices, and that RAD was unfairly targeting Muslim charities with prejudiced audits.
CRA conduct was the subject of the National Action Summit on Islamophobia, where Prime Minister Trudeau commented that "[t]here's no question that there is work to be done within government to dismantle systemic racism and Islamophobia."
"Systemic bias hurts all Canadians. MAC has a responsibility to stand up to systemic bias, in the interest of all Muslim groups, but also in the interest of all Canadians," said Dr. Nabil Sultan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of MAC. "CRA needs to understand that our Charter Rights and Freedoms are for everyone."
MAC's court application seeks an Order stopping the audit and confirming that MAC's rights have been infringed under sections 2(a) (freedom of religion), 2(b) (freedom of expression), 2(d) (freedom of association) and 15 (equality) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
MAC has chapters in 13 major cities across the country alongside 20 mosques and community centres, 30 full-time, part-time schools and daycares. The organization serves over 150,000 community members across Canada.