Charity Law: In Search of Leaders

The Charity Law Interest Group, a club at the University of Toronto, is looking for leaders at Dal to join Western, Osgoode, and us in advocating for charity and non-profit law curriculum at our respective schools.

To put it simply, Canada has a problem. It has the second largest charitable and non-profit sector in the world, accounting for 2 million jobs and 8% of our GDP, and only three law schools that teach a course on charity law.

Is that because charity law is covered sufficiently in the general curriculum? According to my research, it barely gets a mention in any of the courses you might expect it (e.g. tax, corporate, admin), with the exception of trusts (which covers only a small portion of charities) and even then not always.

Is it because charity law is simple? When you think of charities, you may be thinking of your grandmother’s bake sale, but it’s also hospitals, universities, museums, international aid organizations, religious organizations, think tanks, conservationists, and much more. Each one brings its own complex legal needs that necessarily intersect and interact with charity law. Just transferring for-profit legal principles just doesn’t cut it.

Is it because law students don’t need to know it unless they want to work in the sector? I once heard that the average lawyer sits on at least two non-profit or charitable boards. So whether you want to practice as a charity lawyer, a for-profit corporate lawyer, or something else, this an ingrained part of the profession and doing it as well as we can is an ethical imperative. Besides, with so many organizations (over 180,000 charities and non-profits) you are bound to get a non-profit or charitable client sooner or later.

Is it because it’s just not practical to learn an area of law where there’s no business? On top of the sheer number of organizations, the fact is more and more services are being downloaded to charities by government. With all that funding, as well as greater awareness through the internet, there is greater pressure for regulatory oversight. Competent lawyers have never been more needed.

In short, we need more charity law curriculum and we need your help to get it. If you’re interested in joining our network of advocates, starting your own club, or simply learning more about this fascinating area of law, email me at