© 1998  Karen Selick
Please Remove Me From Your Mailing List
An edited version of this article first appeared in the October, 1998 issue of Canadian Lawyer.  If you wish to reproduce this article, click here for copyright info.


Please Remove Me From Your Mailing List

Sometimes my mailbox is stuffed so full of solicitations from various charitable organizations that it makes me wonder whether two of the envelopes sitting side-by-side for a couple of hours have somehow managed to spawn a litter of baby solicitations.  I have a collection of address labels and greeting cards that will last me for years. 

Of course, I created the monster by donating money to these charities in the first place.  I feel fortunate to have no major problems in life and Iím glad to be able to help those who do. 

Sadly, however, Iíve decided to stop donating to a few of my former favourite charities.  Instead of my money, theyíll get a request to remove my name from their mailing list, plus a copy of this column. 

Their offence is that they have apparently lost their understanding of what charity really means. Instead theyíve attempted to join forces with the state and employ coercion to implement their own unique notions of utopia. 

One such organization is the War Amputations of Canada.   When I was a child, my mother always carried one of their identifier tags on her key chain. Iíve kept up the tradition, making annual donations for many years and using the key tags and address labels they provide in return. 

Recently, however, I came upon a case report (War Amputations of Canada v. Canada 36 O.R. (3d) 709) that caused me some consternation.  The organization had brought a court application against the Canadian government on behalf of 717 widowed spouses of severely disabled war veterans.  Their complaint was that the monthly survivorís pension received by the widows is lower than the pension the veterans themselves received while alive.   

If a disabled veteranís spouse dies first, the veteranís pension is not reduced; but when the veteran dies first, the survivorís pension continues at only 75 percent of its former rate.  Since most disabled veterans are men and most surviving spouses are women, War Amps argued that this was discrimination on the basis of sex, contrary to Section 15 of the Charter of Rights. 

The trial judge had dismissed this claim, pointing out that the purpose of the disability pension was quite different from the purpose of the spousal pension and that the distinction was not, therefore, based on the irrelevant personal characteristic of sex. 

I would have thought this was obvious, and that the case was a clear loser from the start.  Nevertheless, not content with the trial judgeís explanation, the War Amps went to the Ontario Court of Appeal, where a panel of three judges told them the same thing again and awarded costs against them.   

This is not the way I want my donations spent.  If the War Amps administrators had believed that the 717 widows were truly needy and deserving of supplementary income as a result of their husbandsí war injuries, I would not have objected to their using a portion of my donations to relieve the womenís hardships.  But that was my money, and thatís my choice.  I do object to financing litigation which, if successful, would have resulted in the forcible extraction of "charity" from the pockets of taxpayers who couldnít refuse, for purposes which may not be their preferred use of their money.   

Seeing the War Amps waste my donations on losing this ill-fated lawsuit was bad enough, but seeing them abuse my donations by winning might have been even worse.  Either way, Iíll be getting my address labels elsewhere from now on. 

The Canadian Cancer Society is another organization that wonít be seeing any more of my money.   Its non-charitable activities came to my attention when it obtained intervenor status in a constitutional challenge to the new Tobacco Act.  Its website reveals that it routinely lobbies government for a variety of measures that would violate peopleís liberty and property rights, such as bans on tobacco advertising and the coercive implementation of smoke-free workplaces. 

Itís a pity, because Iíd like to help cancer victims.  Iím not so keen on helping those who have willfully courted disaster by smoking, but Iím realistic enough to know that there will always be people who behave self-destructively.  Iíd be far more willing to donate money towards developing imaginative ways to minimize the destruction their smoking causes, than towards pushing Canada ever farther along the road to totalitarianism.  

Consider: Greece has relatively little lung cancer, despite one of the highest per capita smoking rates in the world.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attributes this to the Greek populationís high fruit consumption.  The Canadian Cancer Society might save many more lives if it redirected its lobbying and litigation budget into a fund to finance the give-away of free coupons, redeemable for fruit or Vitamin C tablets, with every package of cigarettes.  It sure beats the alternative. 

Marvin Olasky showed in his 1992 book The Tragedy of American Compassion how astonishingly effective charities were at relieving hardship historically, before their functions were usurped by the welfare state.  Charles Murray showed in his 1984 book Losing Ground how astonishingly incompetent the welfare state has been at relieving hardship, creating far more misery than it ever alleviated.  Charities should stick to their knitting, instead of allying themselves with this proven loser.


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June 20, 2000