United Church of Canada—Charitable Status and Political Activities

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Conservative government has been engaged in “charity chill.” They have been waging war on charities that work for social housing, poverty reduction and the environment.

Now comes the latest attack, this time on churches, in particular the United Church of Canada. It seems the church should be paying more attention to its religious work. It allocates only 2 per cent of its resources for political activity. That is well below the allowable 10 per cent.

This government has no place in the pews of the United Church of Canada. Why is the government attacking an organization which is following the tax rules?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): First, the premise of Senator Munson’s question is false. We are not attacking charities. As honourable senators may know, I was raised in the United Church of Canada. The church I was raised in actually did very good work helping people and helping society, and I hope they continue that good work. I just want to assure the honourable senator that we are absolutely not attacking charities.

Senator Munson: I guess the leader is disassociating herself from one of her colleagues, Senator Eaton. Last week, Senator Eaton on As It Happens was clear in her criticism of the United Church of Canada. The attacks have shades of McCarthyism and witch hunts. First it was international development organizations — the honourable senator must be a little sensitive. The United Church of Canada is not against Israel.

I am the son of a United Church minister, and this is personal. You have crossed the line. This is quite personal. My father was a United Church minister; he believed in charities and he believed in giving. This government has crossed the line, and you folks should know better.

Why do you continue to attack the United Church of Canada, other charities and other Canadians, dammit, who wants to talk on behalf of what they feel is important for the environment, social housing and or anything else, for that matter?

Senator LeBreton: That was all very interesting, but I actually did not hear a question there. I — actually, I was listening and I did not hear a question, and I do have rather big ears, both figuratively and realistically.

The fact of the matter is that, of course, the charitable sector has nothing to fear. All of the good work of charities obviously deserve our support and get our support.

With regard to the United Church of Canada, I did not realize Senator Munson’s father was a United Church minister. I mentioned that I was raised in the United Church. I have my own views of some of the things the church does, which I will not share with honourable senators. In any event, I can assure the honourable senator that we are not in the business of attacking charities.