Report suggests CRA audits of Muslim-led charities driven by biases and prejudicial policies  

April 29, 2021 by A&S News

A new report by U of T’s Institute of Islamic Studies suggests biases and prejudicial policies are influencing the Canada Revenue Agency in its selection of Muslim-led charities for audit, the practices within those audits and their findings.

"The report shows several troubling features of government policies and audit practices that suggest problematic profiling of Muslim-led charities — from the revocation of a mosque's charitable status because of past remarks made by Black Muslim guest speakers to the CRA raising questions about an Eid celebration held two weeks after the end of Ramadan,” says Professor Anver Emon, director of the Institute of Islamic Studies and co-author of the report.

“This report raises important concerns that require further study by academics and the voluntary sector, and action from the government to address systemic biases in CRA audits.”

Headshot of Anver Emon
Professor Anver Emon, director of the Institute of Islamic Studies and co-author of the report.

Published in partnership with the National Council for Canadian Muslims (NCCM), and supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the report, Under Layered Suspicion, undertakes a detailed review of the audit records of three Muslim-led organizations that had their charitable license revoked for violating Income Tax Act requirements, including the Ottawa Islamic Centre and Assalam Mosque; the Islamic Shia Assembly of Canada; and the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy-Canada.

According to the report, all three audits occurred under Canada’s anti-terrorism financing and counter-radicalization efforts. The authors suggest that placing the audits in this context reveals questionable practices in the targeting and selection of Muslim-led charities, as well as the selection and interpretation of the evidence used in those audits.

The report recommends the federal government suspend and review its policies that disproportionately target Muslim-led charities and enact measures that prevent the subjective and arbitrary application of policies that have potential for discrimination.

The recommendations are an important step toward restoring trust, accountability and transparency in government bodies, says Nadia Hasan, co-author and chief operating officer at NCCM. “These are important for our elected officials to act on if we’re serious about eradicating systemic racism and Islamophobia from the way government agencies operate,” she says. "As the government of Canada embarks on a study of systemic racism and bias internally, our study comes at a unique moment,” Emon adds.