Canadian Nonprofit Laws: What You Need to Know

Jon Tyrell

Jon Tyrell

It is crucial to understand the nonprofit laws that govern nonprofit organizations in Canada. Nonprofits play an essential role in Canadian society, contributing to various causes and addressing social and environmental issues. 


nonprofit laws
nonprofit laws


  • The Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA) is responsible for incorporating nonprofits.
  • Nonprofits in Canada can also be granted tax-exempt status.

Nonprofit Laws in Canada: An Overview

We will provide an overview of nonprofit laws in Canada, including the incorporation process, tax-exempt status, and other legal considerations that nonprofit organizations must consider.

a. Incorporation

Incorporation is the process of creating a separate legal entity that is distinct from its members or founders. In Canada, nonprofit organizations can be incorporated at the federal or provincial level.

Federal incorporation is governed by the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA). Under this law, nonprofit organizations must file articles of incorporation with Corporations Canada, the federal agency responsible for regulating corporations.

Provincial incorporation, on the other hand, is governed by the provincial laws of each province. Nonprofit organizations can incorporate provincially by filing articles of incorporation with the respective provincial government.

Regardless of whether a nonprofit organization incorporates federally or provincially, there are several benefits to incorporation, including:

  • Limited liability protection for members, directors, and officers
  • Perpetual existence
  • Greater credibility and legitimacy
  • Ability to apply for tax-exempt status

b. Tax-Exempt Status

Nonprofit organizations in Canada can apply for tax-exempt status, which allows them to receive tax-deductible donations and other tax benefits. The process of obtaining tax-exempt status depends on whether the nonprofit organization is incorporated federally or provincially.

For federally incorporated nonprofit organizations, they must apply for tax-exempt status with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA requires nonprofit organizations to meet certain criteria, including:

  • Having charitable purposes that provide a public benefit
  • Spending their resources in furtherance of their charitable purposes
  • Having activities that are exclusively charitable
  • Having a board of directors that is at arm’s length from any potential beneficiaries


For provincially incorporated nonprofit organizations, the process of obtaining tax-exempt status depends on the respective provincial government’s tax laws. Nonprofit organizations should consult with a lawyer or accountant to determine the specific requirements for their province.

Other Legal Considerations

In addition to incorporation and tax-exempt status, nonprofit organizations in Canada must comply with other legal considerations, including:

  • Governance

Nonprofit organizations must have a board of directors that is responsible for the organization’s overall governance and direction. The board of directors must act in the best interests of the organization and its members.

  • Bylaws

Nonprofit organizations must have bylaws that govern the organization’s internal operations, such as the procedures for electing directors, holding meetings, and making decisions.

  • Financial Reporting

Nonprofits must maintain accurate financial records and report their financial activities to the CRA or the respective provincial government.

  • Employment and Labor Laws

Charities must comply with employment and labor laws, including minimum wage requirements, vacation pay, and other benefits for their employees.

  • Intellectual Property

Non-profit organizations must protect their intellectual property, such as trademarks, logos, and copyrights.


Nonprofit organizations play a vital role in Canadian society, and understanding the nonprofit laws that govern them is essential for their success. Incorporation, tax-exempt status, governance, bylaws, financial reporting, employment and labor laws, and intellectual property are all critical considerations in nonprofit laws.

If you are considering starting a nonprofit organization or need legal advice for your existing organization, it is essential to consult with a lawyer or accountant who specializes in nonprofit laws in Canada. They can help you navigate the legal framework and ensure that your organization complies with all applicable laws and regulations.

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