09/16/2014 04:31 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:54 EDT

Basic Income Canada Network rejects charitable tax status

A non-profit group advocating for Canadians in poverty says it has decided to forgo the tax benefits of being a charity so that they can continue to speak out "to serve the public interest."

On Tuesday the Basic Income Canada Network, released an open letter to Canadians saying that it was essential for groups like theirs to be able to express their views on public policy.

"We don`t want to be driven by fear of losing charitable status," BICN chair Sheila Regehr said. 

The move comes on the heels of news earlier this month that the Canada Revenue Agency was auditing left-of-centre think-tank Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives at least partly because the research and education material on its website appeared to be "biased" and "one-sided."

BICN says voluntary organizations willing to speak out are essential to democracy and good governance, encouraging new ideas and debate.  It says freedom to maintain the status quo is not real freedom.

"Our democracy is severely undermined as long as citizens associated with charities... are restricted in engaging in the important debates of the day," the open letter says.

"We hope for a more positive climate in future, but for now we believe that BICN, in order to serve the public interest, must stay a non-profit organization without charitable registration so that [it can] fully participate in our democracy."