The title for this blog post is adapted from the dictum of Lord Wilberforce, making reference to the ever changing legal landscape defining charitable objects and purposes (N.B. From Scottish Burial Reform and Cremation Society Ltd. v. Glasgow Corpn., [1968] A.C. 138 (H.L.)). Not so coincidentally, it is also the top banner phrase of the newly established Canadian charity  The Pemsel Case Foundation, which has been created to conduct research and advance the public’s understanding of the law of charity.

By way of background, the Foundation is named after an 1891 British House of Lords judgment, which famously set out the four heads of charity and became the touchstone for the subsequent case law on the legal meaning of charity.  For a more updated official pronouncement of those four heads of charitable activity from a Canadian perspective, see the Library of Parliament (Canada) publication Charitable Purposes, Advocacy and the Income Tax Act. Whilst there are many sources of law in the area of charities and charitable purposes ranging from Chancery Court (UK) decisions, the Statute of Elizabeth (UK, 1601), to various Supreme Court of Canada decisions and Canada Revenue Agency Interpretation and other bulletins, what is unique about The Pemsel Case Foundation, is its emphasis on defining the current state of the law of charity in Canada, and on assisting in the development of that body of law, and its understanding amongst Canadians.

Those working in this area know that the development of the case law relevant to charities would be welcome.  It is hoped that the introduction of The Pemsel Case Foundation may increase the likelihood of appropriate issues being considered by the Courts.

For further assistance with the establishment of a Canadian Charity, or with the legal issues relating to the administration, compliance and operation of your charity, please contact Paul S.O. Barbeau, at 604-688-4900 or at