Winner of 2019 Charity Law Student Essay Contest

  • May 24, 2019

Granting Charitable Status to Journalism

Daniel Giles, University of Manitoba (Robson Hall Law School)

Note: This date of submission of this winning essay precedes recent changes to the law relating to this subject.


The manner in which people consume news has changed drastically over time. Fifty years ago, waiting for the newspaper to arrive in the morning was commonplace. As television gained popularity, sitting down at an appointed time to watch the nightly news became part of the daily routine. Today, a majority of consumers go online to receive their news, particularly through various forms of social media. A recent study done by Pew Research Center revealed that 42% of Canadians use social media at least once a day for this purpose, the second-highest rate among developed nations.[1] This figure brings home the extent of this fundamental change in our news consumption habits. It also reveals that, while television, newspapers and radio remain features of Canada’s media landscape, the number of people that have replaced these traditional resources with interactive online media has grown exponentially.[2]

While this trend in news consumption presents numerous opportunities for both suppliers and consumers of news, there are also a number of negative consequences. Any individual or organization can now communicate with and potentially influence a great number of people online. This has its advantages, but also carries significant risks, including the absence of “journalistic standards of excellence” of the sort typically enforced within mainstream media establishments.[3] As traditional media outlets disappear, so too do these ethical standards, with the result that many stories are no longer based on a common set of facts.[4]

Another distinguishing factor of today’s digital media age is the emphasis placed on socialization rather than information. Instead of obtaining their news directly from “institutional gatekeepers” that follow an established set of journalistic standards, consumers instead receive it through peer-to-peer sharing. Friend groups on Facebook and Twitter often promote content based on engagement with a topic (through shares, clicks, likes and other online reactions) among friends, rather than through accuracy of the underlying information. On this point, a recent study from the American Press Institute found that the original source of an article now matters less to readers than who within their online network shares the link.[5]

Lastly, today’s online platforms make it difficult to decipher what is real and what is fake news. In the past, readers could easily distinguish between credible and artificial news sources. For example, fake news magazines were easily recognizable in the grocery store checkout aisle due to their aggressive and circus-like appearance, in contrast to those publications originating with credible sources.[6] With the advent of online news and reporting, making these distinctions has become much more difficult.

Recent events suggest that the Canadian government recognizes the profound shifts that have taken place and the need for positive action to ensure the survival of reputable journalism. In this regard, the 2018 federal budget included the following statement:

Over the next year the government will be exploring new models that enable private giving and philanthropic support for trusted, professional, non-profit and local news. This could include new ways for Canadian newspapers to innovate and be recognized to receive charitable status for not-for-profit provision of journalism, reflecting the public interest that they serve.[7]

By way of follow-up, the federal government recently announced in its fiscal update that financial assistance totaling nearly $600 million would be made available to non-profit news organizations over the next five years.  As part of this plan, such organizations will be allowed to accept donations and issue tax receipts to donors.[8] While few details have been released, eligibility will require that the entity in question release content for free through a creative commons license and employ journalists. This extension of charitable status to qualifying journalism organizations is to be accompanied by other forms of financial assistance, including a program of tax credits to eligible providers and subscribers.[9] According to Canada’s finance minister, Bill Morneau, the goal of these changes is to safeguard the “vital role that independent news media play in our democracy and in our communities.”[10]

This paper will review the evolution of journalism in Canada into today’s technological landscape and how extending charitable status to news organizations might counter the negative impacts of the digital information age on traditional media and the public. Allowing these entities to receive tax-deductible donations would help them survive and perhaps even prosper again, by providing them with the resources needed to compete in the digital era. The reemergence of traditional journalism would ensure that trusted news outlets with a common set of journalistic standards continue to exist. This in turn would add to the overall amount of trustworthy information in circulation and combat the fake news phenomenon, discussed in detail below, so prevalent among online platforms.

This discussion will be followed by an examination of the extent to which journalism has been considered a candidate for charitable status under the legal tests established in the case law. It will then consider how the recent decision in Canada Without Poverty v. AG Canada may impact journalism once charitable status becomes available. Finally, consideration will be given to the questions and concerns that inevitably will arise as this fundamental change comes about.

Transformation of News Consumption in Canada

What is today known as the mainstream media began to take shape many years ago with newspapers. Although the range of information providers subsequently expanded, particularly with the introduction of television, newspapers remained the backbone of journalism for many decades. Today, however, there is no question that newspapers are on the decline and increasingly irrelevant to many Canadians. In 1950, there were more newspapers sold daily than there were households in Canada. In contrast, it is estimated that by 2020, only two newspapers will be sold per every hundred households.[11]

The major reason for the decline in the newspaper industry is its traditional reliance on revenue generated through classified ads.[12] In this regard, the introduction of websites that allow individuals to seek out or advertise goods and services for free online hit the newspaper industry particularly hard. In 2005, the year Kijiji came into existence, newspapers made a total of $875 million from advertising revenue. Ten years later, that number was down to $119 million.[13] The importance of these ads to a thriving newspaper industry was noted long before 2005, with Marshall McLuhan stating in Understanding Media: The Extension of Man that “the classified ads are the bedrock of the press. Should an alternative source of easy access to such diverse daily information be found, the press will fold.”[14] This, of course, is precisely the situation that has come to pass.  

Not surprisingly, the Internet has also had a significant impact on television news broadcasting. While television news consumption has not declined as sharply as newspaper readership, it is slowly diminishing and advertising is geared mainly at older adults.[15] The number of younger views, on the other hand, has declined due to the increasing availability of streaming services like YouTube and Netflix.[16] The resulting decline in revenue limits the number of stories that can be covered accurately and in detail. The all-news channels that do exist increasingly rely on opinion and argument as a less expensive alternative to investigative reporting. The overall effect is a decline in the quality of news produced. According to John Cruickshank, former head of CBC News, “the daily picture of our local and national life provided by Canada’s news media is already less complete, less nuanced, less authentic, more sensational, more staged and more negative. As the business crisis worsens, the news media’s representation of Canada becomes less reflective of our collective reality.”[17]

A common belief among many news consumers is that if television news and newspaper outlets simply switched to an online platform, the decline in news outlets would subside. While this proposed solution sounds simple enough, it overlooks the fact that online advertising yields far less revenue than its print or television equivalent, the mechanism by which news outlets make most of their money.[18] This is where funding in the form of charitable donations could prove beneficial in making up at least some of the shortfall by offsetting the reduced revenues and costs associated with a shift into the digital arena.

With the rise of social media and the Internet, newspaper chains and broadcast networks are not the only filters through which the public view the world. Today, these formerly essential organizations are quickly being limited to mere content providers, supplying updates on breaking developments into the circle of public debate where stories can change and take on their own form through platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others.[19] As noted above, these are forums in which truth does not necessarily get the most views or attention. As stated in the Shattered Mirror’s Public Policy Forum, “the 20th-century news media are less and less prominent, except to provide grist for a public conversation they no longer control.”[20]

Decrease in Local News Coverage

The adverse effects described above have been most pronounced at the local level, with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission estimating that local news revenues are decreasing at a rate of about 10 percent a year, causing shortened newscasts, fewer staff and resources, and an overall diminishing local presence.[21] Specific examples throughout Canada include OMNI terminating its third language newscasts in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton, Bell Media laying off 350 employees in 2015 and CHCH-TV in Hamilton, Ontario, moving from 80 hours to only 17.5 hours of daily news per week. Over the last 10 years, 169 local news outlets in Canada have closed.[22] Approximately one-third of Canadian jobs in journalism have been lost in the past six years.[23]

As already noted, one of the main reasons for this decrease is the collapse of traditional advertising and the inability of the Canadian media to offset these losses with online advertising. This problem is most glaring in small towns as they cannot afford the staff or resources to cover matters in their own communities. As a result, events like local sports, school board elections, and local town hall meetings often go largely unreported.[24]

The importance and precarious position of local journalism has been acknowledged not only in Canada, but by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May.[25] She summed up the current situation by stating, “good quality journalism provides us with the information and analysis we need to inform our viewpoints and conduct a genuine discussion, but in recent years, especially in local journalism, we have seen falling circulations, a hollowing out of local newsrooms and fears for the future sustainability of high quality journalism. This is dangerous for our democracy. When trusted and credible news sources decline, we can become vulnerable to news which is untrustworthy.”[26]

The Rise of Fake News

While the freedom and openness of the Internet is beneficial in many ways, the trustworthiness of the content is often a problem. Much of what passes for news on the Internet, particularly stories of a national or international character, have become a “runoff of lies, hate, and manipulations of foreign powers.”[27] The social media approach to news production and consumption has changed the traditional model of “boots on the ground” journalism and verification. Circumstances have evolved to a point where individuals can post their opinions or the stories they read, whether true or false, on a minute to minute basis. As a result, “in the fast-moving, chaotic conditions presented by the digital media environment, it is more difficult for deliberate fakes to be proven wrong in a way and within a time frame that persuades the broad public audience of their fraudulent or dishonest nature.”[28] The result can often be a chain of lies as one fake news website publishes a story that generates attention, which in turn leads another fake news site to pick it up and circulate it further. Even journalists from credible outlets may accidentally publish the fake story, given that they too are trying to write as many pieces as possible and do not have the resources to thoroughly background check stories.

Money is largely behind the growth of fake news. It has been stated that “fake news was invented with the aim of attracting ‘eyeballs’ which could then be monetized through advertising revenue.”[29] This explains why many fake news articles feature extreme and eye-catching titles, as this has the effect of generating more clicks and shares on social media websites, which in turn drive up advertising revenues. With more of this fake news available, people stop seeking out information that challenges their beliefs in favour of widely available material that simply reinforce their existing views. With over 42% of Canadians using social media at least once a day to obtain their news, this is a concern as what people see on social media is not necessarily truthful, but instead represents what is trending or widely shared by their peers.[30]

Fake news stories can be entertaining, but it is important to remember they have real-life consequences. One such example occurred in October 2008, when a CNN iReporter (a platform that allows ordinary citizens to submit stories as they perceive them happening) posted that the CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, was in the hospital after a severe heart attack. An anonymous source was cited in support of the report. Although the story was eventually disproved and removed from mainstream media sites, the rumour spread so quickly it had an effect on the financial markets. Apple's stock fell significantly, reaching its lowest point that year before eventually returning to normal.[31]

A more recent example of the spread of fake news is to look at stories spread over Facebook prior to the 2016 presidential election in the United States. Between August 2016 and the election on November 8, 2016, total Facebook engagements (shares, reactions, comments) in connection with the top 20 mainstream news stories was 7.3 million, compared to 8.7 million engagements with the top 20 fake news stories.[32]

While the reemergence of traditional journalism organizations through the granting of charitable status will not eliminate fake news altogether, any impact it has on minimizing this phenomenon while also increasing in the circulation of local perspectives will serve the interests of Canadians.

Statutory Provisions and Legal Principles Governing Charitable Status

The benefits of charitable status take the form of preferential treatment under the Income Tax Act (the “ITA”). Most importantly, under section 149.1(f) of the ITA, all income earned by a registered charity is exempt from income tax.[33] In addition, pursuant to section 118.1 of the ITA, individual and corporate donors to a registered charity receive donation tax receipts that are utilized to reduce their tax payable.[34] In this way, charitable status has the potential to open up a whole new source of funding as both individuals and companies will have an incentive to contribute financially to these organizations. Given the financial challenges faced by many journalistic enterprises today, the advantages of such a change are obvious.

Interestingly, the ITA does not set out criteria to be used in determining whether a particular organization is entitled to charitable status. Instead, the question has always been addressed through the application of common law principles developed over time in the English and Canadian courts. It is to these authorities that one must look, at least initially, when considering whether public interest journalism is capable of attaining charitable status.

The starting point of this analysis is the statement, articulated in McGovern v Attorney General, that a charity must be established to offer a “public benefit”.[35] The criteria for determining what constitutes a “public benefit” was explored in in Commissioners for Special Purposes of the Income Tax v Pemsel (“Pemsel”). In that case, it was held that an organization is considered a charity if it falls under one of the following four heads of classification: relief of poverty; the advancement of education; the advancement of religion; or for other purposes beneficial to the community not falling under any of the proceeding heads.[36] These criteria have been imported into Canadian law and expressly referred to in many decisions.

Over the years, Canadian courts have wrestled with whether activities broadly coming under the umbrella of “journalism” can be said to be charitable in nature. Given that the Federal Court of Appeal is afforded exclusive jurisdiction over appeals of Ministerial decisions dealing with applications for charitable status, most of the significant decisions have arisen in that forum. The consistent theme throughout has been that the principal point of reference for determining remains the activities listed in the Charitable Uses Act, 1601 and the related heads of classification established in Pemsel.[37] While it has been argued on occasion that its purposes serve the advancement of education, the more widely-accepted view is that any attempt to characterize journalism’s aims as charitable likely engage the fourth category in Pemsel, namely “other purposes beneficial to the community.”

One case of particular significance is Native Communications Society of B.C. v. Canada (M.N.R.) (“Native Communications”). There, an organization seeking charitable status identified its main purposes as the following: (i) the organization and development of comprehensive non-profit communications programs, namely radio and television productions that are of relevance to the native people of British Columbia; (ii) to train native people as communications workers; (iii) to publish a non-profit newspaper on subjects relevant to the native people of British Columbia; and (iv) to procure and deliver information on subjects facing native people of British Columbia.[38] On appeal from the Minister’s decision refusing to grant charitable status, the Federal Court of Appeal held that the purposes outlined above – to which there was undoubtedly a significant journalistic element – were beneficial to indigenous persons in the province. By reason of their particular relevance to members of that community, they were consistent with both the spirit and intent of the Charitable Uses Act, 1601.[39]

The reasons of Stone J.A. in Native Communications include a detailed overview of the principles to be applied when assessing whether a particular purpose is charitable under the fourth category established in Pemsel:

A review of decided cases suggests that at least the following propositions may be stated as necessary preliminaries to a determination whether a particular purpose can be regarded as a charitable one falling under the fourth head found in Lord Macnaghten's classification:
(a) the purpose must be beneficial to the community in a way which the law regards as charitable by coming within the "spirit and intendment" of the preamble to the Statute of Elizabeth if not within its letter. ..., and
(b) whether a purpose would or may operate for the public benefit is to be answered by the Court on the basis of the record before it and in exercise of its equitable jurisdiction in matters of charity....
Can it be said that the purposes of the appellant fall within "the spirit and intendment" of the preamble to the Statute of Elizabeth and, therefore, within the fourth head of Lord Macnaghten's definition of the word "charity"? In answering this question we must bear in mind what Lord Greene, M.R. had to say in In Re Strakosch (supra), at page 537:
Nor should we ignore the advice of Lord Upjohn as expressed in the same case. In deciding whether the charity there in question fell within the spirit and intendment of the preamble to the Statute of Elizabeth, he said (at page 150):
This so-called fourth class is incapable of further definition and can to-day hardly be regarded as more than a portmanteau to receive those objects which enlightened opinion would regard as qualifying for consideration under the second heading.[40]

In Vancouver Regional FreeNet Association v. Minister of National Revenue (“FreeNet”), the appellant was a local, non-profit organization established primarily for the purpose of providing free access to the “information highway”, including the Internet. This was accompanied by a variety of corollary purposes, such as encouraging the development of community electronic resources, encouraging information providers to make their information available through the free service and education of the public in the use of computer telecommunications and the retrieval of information. The Minister refused the appellant’s application for charitable status, resulting in an appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal, where the majority held that the provision of free access to the Internet was a charitable purpose.[41]

Relying heavily on what he described as Stone J.A.’s “masterful review of the law” in Native Communications, Hugessen J.A. reiterated that any determination of charitable purpose under the fourth head of classification in Pemsel must come within the “spirit and intendment” of the preamble of the Charitable Uses Act, 1601. On this point, he noted that the purposes deemed to be charitable in that the statute included the repair of bridges, ports, causeways and highways, which together were critical public works and formed “the essential means of communication” in the Elizabethan period. Reasoning by analogy, it was held that the information highway at issue on the appeal performed a similar function in modern times and that the provision of free access to information and a means by which citizens could communicate with one another was “as much a charitable purpose in the time of the second Elizabeth as was the provision of access by more conventional highways in the time of the first Queen of that name.”[42]

The decision in FreeNet arguably can be taken as support for the idea that public interest journalism constitutes a charitable activity. A close reading of the case, however, suggests that this is a stretch. In this regard, it is important to note that the focus of Hugessen J.A. was placed squarely on the infrastructure through which news and ideas are communicated, rather than the actual circulation of those ideas. Subsequent cases that have considered FreeNet have been quick to draw this important distinction.

Both of the above cases were reviewed in News to You Canada v. Minister of National Revenue. The appellant had sought registration as a charitable organization based on the objects set out in its letters patent, which included the following: fund, develop and carry on activities to research and produce in-depth news and public affairs programs designed provided unbiased and objective information concerning significant issues and current events that are relevant to a large sector of the general public and to disseminate these programs by publishing, broadcasting, cable, satellite, Internet and any other distribution method available now or developed in the  future in order to encourage a well-informed general public and for the benefit of society.[43]

The application was refused and an appeal taken to the Federal Court of Appeal. The appellant’s main position on appeal was that the its objects came within the fourth category of charitable purposes established in Pemsel, namely purposes beneficial for the community as a whole in a way which the law regards as charitable. The appellant argued that such a finding did not require an expansion of the common law definition of charity, since previous cases had recognized the production and dissemination of news and public affairs programming as having charitable purposes. Considerable emphasis was placed on the outcome of the Federal Court decisions in Native Communications and FreeNet reviewed above.[44]

Writing for the court, Mainville J.A. found both cases to be clearly distinguishable. He noted that FreeNet pertained not to the dissemination of information but rather to the “information highway” by which it was delivered. As for Native Communications, the critical factors were the special position of aboriginal peoples in Canada and the fact that the activities in question were directed at members of vulnerable groups or communities acknowledged as needing charitable assistance. Mainville J.A. determined that those considerations did not apply in the present case as the appellant’s objects simply identified the general public as its target audience.[45]

Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed, with the court holding that:

To conclude, in order to be charitable, the appellant’s purposes must be of special benefit to the community, with an eye to society’s current social, moral, and economic context. This appellant’s purposes do not meet this requirement. Though I agree that the production and dissemination of in-depth news and public affair programs may improve awareness of current affairs, I do not consider these purposes alone to be in the nature of the “special” benefit required of a charitable organization.[46]

Mainville J.A. went on to make the point that there was little or nothing that would separate the appellant’s purposes from those of many other broadcasters and publishers in Canada, including those that undertake their activities for commercial purposes.[47]

A good argument can certainly be made that journalism and trustworthy reporting provide a public benefit and improve the community. One might go so far as to say, as did the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, that “news is as vital to democracy as clean air, safe streets, goods schools, and public health.”[48] That said, it is clear that Canadian courts have been reluctant to the take the leap required to afford charitable status to journalistic enterprises. Presumably, it is for this reason that the federal government has decided to take more direct action, which presumably will take the form of amendments to the ITA or changes to the policy statements that govern the interpretation and application of its provisions.

Journalism and Restrictions on Political Activities

Until recently, any attempt to extend the advantages of charitable status to journalistic endeavors undoubtedly would have run into the restrictions imposed upon political activities by such organizations. That is because, in many instances, there is a political component to the content featured in newspapers, broadcasts and other media offerings. Applying McGovern v. Attorney General, Canadian courts have tended to define “political purposes” as including those that either set out to further the interests of a particular political party, or seek a change or reversal in laws, policies or decisions of government authorities, in or outside of Canada.[49] The opinion and editorial pages in newspapers, which frequently advocate certain governmental or party positions while criticizing others, are an obvious example of the latter sort of activity.

In this regard, section 149.1(6.2) of the Income Tax Act reads as follows:

For the purposes of the definition “charitable organization” in subsection (1), where an organization devotes substantially all of its resources to charitable activities carried on by it and
(a) it devotes part of its resources to political activities,
(b) those political activities are ancillary and incidental to its charitable activities, and
(c) those political activities do not include the direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political candidate for public office,
the organization shall be considered to be devoting that part of it resources to charitable activities carried on by it.[50]

In order to interpret and enforce this provision, the Canada Revenue Agency implemented a policy requiring that the ancillary, non-partisan political activities of a registered charity not exceed 10 percent of its resources. This effectively meant that, where a charity was found to utilize more than 10 percent of its resources communicating policy messages, it was in breach of section 149.1(6.2) of the ITA and in danger of having its charitable status revoked.[51] It is difficult to see how, under this regime, public interest journalism could avoid violating these restrictions.  This is particularly true of those publications that have as their focus advocating for changes to government policy.

It may be that this concern has been addressed, at least in part, by the decision in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Canada Without Poverty v. AG Canada. In that case, the applicant argued that the 10 percent restriction was an unconstitutional restriction on the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the Charter.[52] It also took the position that there was no valid distinction between charitable activities and non-partisan political expression, meaning that subsections 149.1(6.2)(a) and (b) were both redundant and unconstitutional. The court agreed with these submissions and issued a declaration to that effect.[53] It was further ordered that the Canada Revenue Agency cease using the “10 percent rule” when interpreting and enforcing section 149.1(6.2) of the ITA.[54] The result of this decision was to eliminate the restrictions that previously applied to amount of non-partisan political activity a charity can pursue in furthering its charitable purposes. At the same time, the court was careful to note that its decision did not remove the prohibition against charities engaging in partisan political activities.[55]

Since the decision came out, the federal government has announced that it intends to amend the ITA to formally remove the restrictions on non-partisan political activities by charities. This change obviously would benefit those journalistic organizations having charitable status, as they would be less likely to run afoul these limitations. At the same time, care will need to be taken not to be seen as engaging in partisan political activities, such as endorsing particular parties or their platforms, as those would still lead to a revocation of charitable status. 

Questions and Concerns

There is no guarantee that the granting of charitable status to journalism organizations will work to restore all of the local news coverage that has disappeared over the last decade. In fact, a number of statistics suggest there is reason for skepticism. In Canada there are approximately 86,000 organizations that can issue tax-deductible receipts, a number that continues to grow.[56] At the same time, the number of Canadians who claim a charitable deduction on their income taxes has decreased (down from 25.1% in 2005 to 20.9% in 2016).[57] It is also important to note that the older Canadians contribute disproportionately to charitable organizations. It is far from certain that the younger generation will follow suit, especially with respect to print media, a source from which only 5% of 18 to 29 year-olds get their news.[58] In addition, over half the people surveyed opposed the idea of journalistic organizations receiving funding, suggesting that few of them are likely to be contributors.[59] These factors raise a concern about how much of a difference this model is likely to make.

While the full details of the plan are not in place, the general framework has already been met with criticism. One critique is that the financial assistance afforded to news organizations will effectively turn them into a “gigantic propaganda machine for the Liberal party.”[60] The fear is that the majority of journalism or the organizations that qualify for this charitable status will become an arm of the government. Of course, the same can be said about any journalistic organization that receives money from a third party.

The fiscal plan indicates that an independent board of journalists will be established to determine which organizations are eligible for charitable status and the tax benefits that come with it.[61] The ostensible purpose of this panel is to avoid conflict of interest between the news media and the interests of the government. This does not fully address the problem of outside influence and intervention, however, as it is the government who will appoint the journalists to the panel. This raises the prospect of certain journalists working to comply with the standards imposed by the panel so as not to jeopardize their charitable status while others seek to be appointed to the panel, recognizing that this is where power ultimately lies.[62]

There is also the question of what happens to the panel when another government is elected. Does the new government retain the existing the panel, thereby acknowledging its non-partisan status, or appoint new members and invite further debate about freedom of the press? Either way, there are clear political undertones.[63] News organizations have frequently criticized political parties for taking donations, arguing that this makes them beholden to special interests. A similar concern will now be expressed about journalistic organizations receiving financial assistance, be it through the tax code or otherwise, and thereby compromising their independence and integrity.[64]

A related concern is that individuals and corporations will make their donations based on which journalistic or news organization is most likely to reflect their world view. Similarly, this raises the prospect of those organizations to report the news or tailor their coverage in a way that reflects the opinions and biases of their donors.


Based on recent developments, it appears the federal government is committed to moving forward with the plan to grant charitable status to not-for-profit journalism organizations to combat the ongoing disappearance of local news and increasing reliance on information from online and social media sources. At least in theory, the plan will increase the revenues available to journalism outlets, leading to more in-depth reporting and greater sources of credible information. It may also prove helpful to those organizations looking to transition to an online model. The hope is that, with an increase in credible and trustworthy news sources, the presence and negative influence of fake news will decrease. Although these positive developments are undoubtedly worth pursuing, both the government and journalistic organizations must be careful to avoid the reality and appearance of bias and conflict of interest. Accomplishing that goal will go a long way to determining whether extending the practices and policies that govern charitable giving into the journalistic field was a good idea.


The Income Tax Act, RSM 1988, c I10.


Canada Without Poverty v AG Canada, 2018 ONSC 4147.

Commissioners for Special Purposes of Income Tax v Pemsel, 1891 CanLII 21.

McGovern v Attorney General, [1981] 3 All E.R. 493(Ch.D.).

Native Communications Society of BC v MNR, 86 DTC 6353 (FCA).

News to you Canada v MNR, 2011 FCA 192.

Vancouver Regional FreeNet Association v MNR, [1996] 3 FC 880.


Alejandro, Jennifer, “Journalism in the Age of Social Media” (2010) at 5, online (pdf):

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism < efaulttt/files/research/files/Journalism%2520in%2520the%2520Age%2520of%2520Social%2520Media.pdf> [].

Born, Kelly, “Opinion: Six Reason’s There’s More Fake News Today” (26 October 2017), online: MarketWatch <> [].

Coyne, Andrew, “Liberals $600M Aid Package for News Media Will Irrevocably Politicize the Press”, National Post (23 November 2018), online: < pinion/andrew-coyne-liberals-600m-aid-package-for-news-media-will-irrevocably-politicize-the-press> [].

Elgot, Jessica, “Decline of Local Journalism Threatens Democracy Says May”, The Guardian (6 February 2018) <> [].

Hoffstein, Elena, “Political Activities of Charities: A New World” (21 August 2018) at 2 online: Fasken <> [].

Kilpatrick, Sean, “Torries are Making Partisan Arguments About Intent to Help Media: Morneau”, National Post (22 November 2018), online: <> [].

Longhurst, John, “Turning Newspapers Into Charities: A New Model For the Future?” (13 March 2018), online: JSource: The Canadian Journalism Project < /article/turning-newspapers-into-charities-a-new-model-for-the-future/> []

McLuhan, Marshall, “Understanding Media The Extensions of Man” (1964), online (pdf): < /nw_research.pdf> []. 

McNair, Brian, Fake News Falsehood, Fabrication and Fantasy in Journalism, 1st ed   (London: Routledge, 2017).

Mitchell, Amy et al, “People in Poorer Countries Just as Likely to Use Social Media for News as Those in Wealthier Countries” (11 January 2018), online: Pew Research Center Global Attitudes & Trends < orer-countries-just-as-likely-to-use-socialmediafornewsasthoseinwealthiercountries /?utm_content=bufferce337&ut m_medium=social&> [].

“The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age” (2017), online (pdf): Public Policy Forum <> [].

Thomson, Stuart, “$600M In Federal Funding for Media a Turning Point in the Plight of Newspapers in Canada”, National Post (21 November 2018), online: < m/news/politics/600m-in-federal-funding-for-media-a-turning-point-in-the-plight-of-newspapers-in-canada> [].

Young, Nora, “CBC Radio” (27 January 2017), online: Canadian News Industry at Crisis Point, Suggests New Report <> [].


[1] Amy Mitchell et al, “People in Poorer Countries Just as Likely to Use Social Media for News as Those in Wealthier Countries” (11 January 2018), online: Pew Research Center Global Attitudes & Trends <www.pewglobal. org/2018/01/11/people-in-poorer-countries-just-as-likely-to-use-socialmediafornewsasthoseinwealthiercountries/?ut m_content=bufferce337&utm_medium=social&> [].


[2] Jennifer Alejandro, “Journalism in the Age of Social Media” (2010) at 5, online (pdf): Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism < e%2520Age%2520of%2520Social%2520Media.pdf> [].

[3] Kelly Born, “Opinion: Six Reason’s There’s More Fake News Today” (26 October 2017), online: MarketWatch <> [].

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Canada, Department of Finance, Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class, (Report), 27 February 2018 (Tabled in the House of Commons by William Francis Morneau, Ottawa) at 186.

[8] Stuart Thomson, “$600M In Federal Funding for Media a Turning Point in the Plight of Newspapers in Canada”, National Post (21 November 2018), online: <> [].

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age” (2017) at 15, online (pdf): The Shattered Mirror <> [].

[12] Ibid at 17.

[13] Ibid at 17.

[14] Marshall McLuhan, “Understanding Media The Extensions of Man” (1964), online (pdf): < /nw_research.pdf> [].

[15] Shattered Mirror, supra note 11 at 20.

[16] Ibid at 20.

[17] Ibid at 20.

[18] Ibid at 45.

[19] Ibid at 14.

[20] Ibid at 14.

[21] Ibid at 24.

[22] Ibid at 24.

[23] Nora Young, “CBC Radio” (27 January 2017), online: Canadian News Industry at Crisis Point, Suggests New Report <> [].

[24] Ibid.

[25] Jessica Elgot, “Decline of Local Journalism Threatens Democracy Says May”, The Guardian (6 February 2018) <> [].

[26] Ibid.

[27] Shattered Mirror, supra note 11 at 3.

[28] Brian McNair, Fake News Falsehood, Fabrication and Fantasy in Journalism, 1st ed (London: Routledge, 2017) at 19.

[29] Ibid at 54.

[30] Mitchell, supra note 1.

[31] Alejandro, supra note 2 at 9.

[32] Shattered Mirror, supra note 11 at 58.

[33] The Income Tax Act, RSM 1988, c I10, s 149.1 [Income Tax Act].

[34] Ibid at s 118.1.

[35] McGovern v Attorney General, [1981] 3 All E.R. 493 (Ch.D.) [McGovern].

[36] Commissioners for Special Purposes of Income Tax v Pemsel, 1891 CanLII 21 at para 97 [Pemsel].

[37] News to you Canada v MNR, 2011 FCA 192 at para 14 [News to you Canada].

[38] Native Communications Society of BC v MNR, 86 DTC 6353 (FCA) [Native Communications].

[39] Ibid.

[40] Native Communications, supra note 39 at 479-481.

[41] Vancouver Regional FreeNet Association v MNR, [1996] 3 FC 880 [FreeNet].

[42] Ibid at 8.

[43] News to you Canada, supra note 38 at para 2.

[44] Ibid at para 25.

[45] Ibid at para 27.

[46] Ibid at para 30.

[47] Ibid at para 31.

[48] Shattered Mirror, supra note 11 at 4.

[49] McGovern, supra note 35.

[50] Income Tax Act, supra note 33 at s 149.1.

[51] Elena Hoffstein, “Political Activities of Charities: A New World” (21 August 2018) at 2 online: Fasken <> [].

[52] Canada Without Poverty v AG Canada, 2018 ONSC 4147 [Without Poverty].

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] John Longhurst, “Turning Newspapers Into Charities: A New Model For the Future?” (13 March 2018), online: JSource: The Canadian Journalism Project <> [].

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Shattered Mirror, supra note 11 at 45.

[60] Sean Kilpatrick, “Torries are Making Partisan Arguments About Intent to Help Media: Morneau”, National Post (22 November 2018), online: <> [].

[61] Andrew Coyne, “Liberals $600M Aid Package for News Media Will Irrevocably Politicize the Press”, National Post (23 November 2018), online: <> [].

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Ibid.