Charity and Not-For-Profit

Clarification needed on Not-for-Profit Corporations Act

By Tony Poland, AdvocateDaily.com Associate Editor

It’s time to end the uncertainty surrounding the modernization of the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA), says Toronto charity and not-for-profit lawyer Taras Kulish.

Bill 154, which contains improvements to the Act that many charity law lawyers and non-profit organizations have been seeking, is due to be proclaimed in 2020 according to the latest timeline from the Ontario government.

Included in the changes is a registration process allowing open access to comprehensive data. Other improvements will also make it easier for non-profits to operate, such as the ability to give notice of general meetings by email, Kulish says.

However, while charitable organizations and their lawyers have hailed the changes, questions remain concerning the Act’s implementation, says Kulish, chair of the Charity/Not-for-Profit group at Steinberg Title Hope & Israel LLP.

“This has been a huge issue for a long time. The Act was brought to life in 2010, and it’s been pushed back and pushed back,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Bill 154 contains all the enabling legislation needed so ONCA can be proclaimed. If Premier Doug Ford's government does not proclaim it for whatever reason, then it’s a promise broken. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the next six months.”

Kulish says the concern arises because charitable groups don’t really know what to do next.

“Many organizations that have been around for a while would like to update their bylaws and provisions in their Letters Patent, but feel like they are on hold because they would like to comply with the new Act,” he says.

Organizations will have three years after proclamation to conform with the ONCA, Kulish says, but the regulations are still being developed so essential details are not yet known.

Without such information, groups are limited in their ability to make changes to their structure and bylaws, he explains.

“There’s been so much uncertainty, and the proclamation date is being pushed back so that it’s difficult for charities and not-for-profits to allocate their resources and board time,” Kulish says. “There’s been so much ambiguity for nine or 10 years, and it’s time to time to put these issues to bed.”

He says he contacted Minister of Government and Consumer Services Lisa Thompson in August, asking for an update but has not yet heard any new developments

“Maybe the government is intending to make an announcement in September or October or November,” Kulish says. “It would be better for us with our planning to know what is going to happen. Some organizations will need a lawyer to help guide them through it.”

“The charity and not-for-profit sector in Ontario wants the government to make an announcement in September, October or November,” he says. “It would be better for us with our planning to know what is going to happen. Some organizations will need a lawyer to help guide them through the process.”

Kulish says knowing the implementation date is important.

“It would be great to be able to do it all at once,” he says. “What the community really needs is a practical nuts-and-bolts primer of what they have to do.”

He says 2020 is quickly approaching, and lawyers such as himself are already looking to next year and how to prepare for the modernization of the Act.

For example, Kulish is co-chair of the organizing committee which will present the annual Knowledge Hub for Churches, Charities and Not-For-Profits next May.

In partnership with the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services — Toronto, the Ukrainian Canadian Bar Association and the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association, organizers hope to offer guidance to deal with issues arising from implementing the ONCA.

“We’re preparing for this conference, and you have to plan quite a bit in advance, so we’d like to know whether to focus on ONCA or other issues of interest to organizations such as fundraising and volunteer engagement,” Kulish says.

“We would like to know the implementation date so that we can prepare our clients. Whether it’s the economic markets or the legal markets, we want certainty.”

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