Equal Voice 'inadvertently' failed to file tax returns for nearly a decade

Equal Voice, an organization advocating for women in politics that has faced accusations of a hostile work environment this week following staff firings, failed to file its tax returns from 2010 to 2018, a spokesperson for the organization confirms.

Political advocacy group for women is embroiled in recent controversy over the firing of 3 employees

Equal Voice, a non-profit group that advocates for women in politics and organizes the annual Daughters of the Vote event, has failed to file tax forms for the past eight years. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

One of Canada's leading organizations dedicated to getting more women involved in politics failed to file its tax returns for nearly a decade.

Equal Voice, which has faced board resignations and a social media storm this week after several firings and accusations of a hostile work environment, did not file the necessary paperwork from 2010 to 2018, a spokesperson for the organization confirms.

"As you may know, Equal Voice (EV) is a non-profit organization and is exempt from income tax. EV did, however, inadvertently and unintentionally, miss filing T1044 and T2 returns for the 2010 to 2018 fiscal years," Nasha Brownridge, communications manager for Equal Voice, said in an email.

"There are no taxes due, however CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) can assess penalties for the missed returns," Brownridge said.

"Upon realizing our own omission following a change in accounting services and support, EV made a voluntary disclosure to CRA and have applied under the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) to waive the penalties. This request is pending."

Non-profits that are not charities must file a T2, which is a corporate income tax return. A T1044 form, known as a Non-Profit Organization Information Return, is required if a non-profit has assets above $200,000 or if it had dividends, interest, rentals or royalties of more than $10,000, or if it filed a T1044 for the previous year, according to the CRA.

The multipartisan organization, which was founded in 2001, receives millions of dollars in government funding to run a range of programs aimed at boosting the number of women in elected office.

In 2018 it was granted $3.8 million until 2021 for the Daughters of the Vote program, which brings women from all 338 ridings in Canada to the House of Commons for a day of political action.

The event has been criticized online by some participants, who said some delegates felt they were treated with hostility.

While Daughters of the Vote is the most high-profile event Equal Voice runs, it also receives funding for other leadership programs.

Braeson Holland, a spokesperson for the Minister of Women and Gender Equality confirmed that since 2015 a total of $5.17 million has been allocated to Equal Voice.

The organization appears to be in the midst of a leadership crisis, after three staffers were fired on the same day, touching off accusations of discrimination and public criticism of how Equal Voice is run.

Eleanor Fast is executive director of Equal Voice. (Susan Burgess/CBC)

Eleanor Fast, the executive director of Equal Voice, told The Canadian Press she cannot comment on internal human resources matters, but added "the recent staffing changes had nothing to do with anyone's race, ethnicity, religion.... The insinuation in that regard is completely false."

As a result of the backlash to the firings, four board members resigned in a 24-hour span this week.

An emergency board meeting was called for Thursday, but it is unclear what came out of that meeting.