Ottawa woman defends work of charity revoked by Canada Revenue Agency

An Ottawa woman defends the work of her organization after the Canada Revenue Agency revoked its charitable status due to more than $167 million in false tax receipts.

Canadian Friends of Pearl Children founded in 2008 to help children in Africa, founder says

Charity founder speaks out after status revoked

7 years ago
Duration 2:44
The Ottawa founder of Canadian Friends of Pearl Children denies it was a tax shelter.

An Ottawa woman is defending her organization's work after the Canada Revenue Agency revoked its charitable status due to more than $167 million in false tax receipts.

Dvora Rotenberg launched the group, "Canadian Friends of Pearl Children," in 2008 after she visited Uganda. She said she hoped to help children in Uganda and Western Kenya who were ill.

After seven years, Canada Revenue Agency revoked the organization's charitable status last week because it "improperly issued receipts totalling over $167 million for purported donations of cash and pharmaceuticals, which were not legitimate gifts."

The CRA said from June 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2012, "very little" of the money from Rotenberg's organization went to the work in Africa.

The review showed CFPC paid $3.19 million of the more than $4 million in cash contributions to the promoters of a tax shelter donation arrangement called the Mission Life Financial Inc. Canadian Relief Program.

CRA also said the organization provided $163 million worth of tax receipts for the gifts of pharmaceuticals.

"The organization significantly over-reported the value of the alleged property, resulting in grossly inflated tax receipts to participants," the CRA said.

"Further, the organization failed to demonstrate that it had actually received the tax-receipted pharmaceuticals or that it had carried out any charitable activities using these pharmaceuticals."

'Never' a tax shelter, founder says

Rotenberg said the issues arose from her ties with Mission Life Financial, a company "established to provide innovative financing arrangements for those Canadians wishing to make donations to charity," according to its website.

She said she knew nothing about fundraising when she launched her charity and the company was supposed to help her one-woman operation generate revenue. She denied her organization was a "tax shelter."

This photo from the Canadian Friends of Pearl Children Facebook page show founder Dvora Rotenberg in Putti, a village in the Pallisa District of Uganda. (Facebook)
"I can tell you hundreds of people in Uganda who can tell you their personal stories of how I have worked with them and helped them," Rotenberg said.

"We were never a front for a tax shelter."

Rotenberg said Mission Life Financial found donors and provided her with money and AIDS medicine for her work in Africa.

The company took a "huge" commission from those donations, she added, but "so many lives were changed."

Rotenberg said she plans to appeal the CRA decision. She continues to operate a sister charity called "Lifecan International."


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