On behalf of JNF Canada (JNF), I wish to respond to allegations made by Independent Jewish Voices Canada, longstanding opponents of JNF Canada, as well as the opinion piece you published [“Tax troubles start year,” Jewish Independent, Jan. 11].
With regard to the substantive issues that have been raised about our projects in Israel we wish to reiterate our position.
• JNF has in the past carried out projects mainly of a charitable nature, such as parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities on land owned by the Israel Defence Forces. Our charitable funds never flowed to the IDF. The charitable funds were directed toward the hiring of indigent labourers to construct these projects. These expenditures represent under one percent of our expenditures over the past decade.
In your coverage, you suggest that we took action based upon an alert from the CRA. This, in fact, is not the case. Rather, it was our legal counsel who advised us several years ago that the indirect association with the IDF may be misconstrued or criticized by the CRA, so we ended our participation at that time. We have not for several years carried out projects located on IDF land, and we continue to operate in accordance with CRA regulations governing our status as a charitable organization. We stopped these projects on the advice of counsel well before this issue was brought to the public’s attention by a group trying to sensationalize it.
• With regard to projects located in disputed territory, JNF is committed to continuing to work with CRA to ensure we are in full compliance.
• Finally, in terms of governance and reporting, JNF operates in compliance with the Canada Income Tax Act. We have Israeli staff on site to direct our projects in Israel and regularly report on our activities.
Thank you for highlighting our work and for acknowledging that “Israel is Israel, is large part, thanks to JNF.” We take pride in having supported the building of water reservoirs, collaborated with dozens of educational institutions, built numerous recreational/educational facilities, planted millions of trees and supported pioneering research in green technology. Key projects for this year include supporting a trauma centre in Sderot, a project to feed Israel’s hungry, the rehabilitation of the Be’eri and Kissufim forests, and more.
JNF’s management and lay leadership are committed to improving our operations. For the past number of years, we have been making changes to strengthen our governance and controls. What will not change, however, is our commitment to helping build the foundations of Israel’s future. We will always stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel to benefit the social service and environmental fabric of the state of Israel.
Lance Davis is chief executive officer of Jewish National Fund Canada.