MADD Canada

MADD Canada

December 13, 2006 15:17 ET

MADD Canada responds to Toronto Star stories

Full text of the letter to the editor

Attention: News Editor OAKVILLE, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 13, 2006) - December 13, 2006

Dear Toronto Star Editor:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada) is disappointed and offended by the Toronto Star's recent series of one-sided, misleading and inaccurate stories.

MADD Canada has always complied with the directives and regulations of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The National Board reviews the organization's practices and procedures on a regular basis. The Finance Committee of the Board reviews all fundraising practices and all financial statements. MADD Canada's financial statements are audited by an independent firm on an annual basis.

Not surprisingly, the tax legislation governing charities and the CRA's guidelines on reporting are complex and technical. That is why MADD Canada works directly with its lawyer and auditors, as well as the CRA, to ensure that it is in full and complete compliance with the current laws and policies.

In June 2002, MADD Canada was contacted by the CRA and informed that it was to be audited. MADD Canada co-operated fully with Mr. G. Garcia from the CRA, who was assigned to undertake the review. Following the audit, Mr. Garcia made three recommendations to MADD Canada:

1. MADD Canada will commit to reviewing its accounting system of allocating costs.
2. The Board of Directors will do a review of its current allocations for Direct Mail and Door to Door fundraising at its next board meeting (September 28, 2002).
3. MADD Canada will request its external auditors to review all our allocations on a yearly basis and ensure their recommendations are documented in their report to the Board of Directors.

In a face-to-face meeting held in MADD Canada's National Office on July 16, 2002, Mr. Garcia recommended that a word-allocation approach be adopted in assigning expenditures between the purely fundraising activities of MADD Canada and its victim services, public education and awareness, and chapter services. Mr. Garcia then demonstrated how this word-allocation system would apply. MADD Canada took immediate steps to follow-up on the recommendation made by Mr. Garcia.

On April 7, 2003, MADD Canada wrote to the CRA staff and, among other things, explained the steps it had taken to ensure that its allocation approach met with the approval of the CRA's Charities Directorate. The letter ended with a request that the CRA contact MADD Canada if it had any further concerns.

MADD Canada is now seeking clarification directly from Ms. E. Tromp, Director General, CRA's Charities Directorate, on the statement that was attributed to her in the first Toronto Star story (Dec. 9, 2006). We do note that, in the latest Toronto Star story, the reporter has significantly altered the statement attributed to Ms. Tromp.

In any event, the Toronto Star reporter apparently does not agree with the CRA's policies on how charities should allocate expenditures. While the reporter is entitled to his opinion, MADD Canada must and does follow the recommendations and directions it receives from the CRA.

The reporter has continually criticized MADD Canada's CEO Andrew Murie for failing to meet him for a face-to-face interview. However, the reporter had made his biases clear from the outset, and it was his aggressive and threatening attitude that led Mr. Murie to decide that it would be prudent to have a written copy of the reporter's questions and a written copy of his responses. MADD Canada volunteers, staff and board members probably do thousands of media interviews a year, often with individuals supportive of MADD Canada's approach and often with those who are not. Only rarely is it necessary, as in this case, to take precautions to ensure that our views are not misrepresented.

The reporter also appears to be concerned that MADD Canada uses outside contractors to undertake many of the technical aspects of informing the public about its policies and programs and fundraising. He apparently believes that these tasks should be done by victim/volunteers. MADD Canada fundamentally disagrees. Our victim/volunteers have a unique contribution to make in supporting, advising and assisting those who have recently lost a loved one to impaired driving. They are also in the best position to give talks in local high schools and to undertake other public relations initiatives in their communities. In MADD Canada's view, these are far more important functions for our victims/volunteers than stuffing the millions of envelopes and making the millions of phone calls that are part of MADD Canada's ongoing national campaigns. These millions of direct contacts are vitally important to educate and inform the public, to advise them of our victim and Chapter services, to encourage them to be responsible and, yes, to ask them for their financial support. However, these essential components of MADD Canada's national campaigns are best done by professional outside services.

We agree with the reporter that MADD Canada's victim/volunteers and the local chapters have and should continue to play a central role in the organization. Their dedication and hard work in communities across Canada are absolutely essential to the ongoing success of the organization. However, we fundamentally disagree with the reporter that MADD Canada's role should be limited to helping victims and raising awareness at the community level.

MADD Canada has a dual mission, both parts of which are equally important. As outlined above, one of MADD Canada's goals is to support the victims of impaired driving. Its second goal is to reduce impaired driving deaths and injuries across Canada. The second goal involves undertaking research both nationally and internationally to determine the most effective means of reducing impaired driving. It requires working with traffic safety organizations, and with the provincial, territorial and federal governments. These tasks are best undertaken by MADD Canada's National Office.

In addition to these tasks, the National Office is responsible for preparing a broad array of public information and public education materials, many of which are specifically designed to assist victim/volunteers and the Chapters. The National Office also maintains MADD Canada's website, and organizes and funds the National Candlelight Vigil, the National Chapter Leadership Conference, the National Chapter Presidents' Conference, all of which are directed at supporting victim/volunteers and MADD Canada's 90 Chapters. The National Office works with the governments of all 13 provinces and territories, as well as with officials and elected members of Parliament. MADD Canada views impaired driving as a non-partisan issue and thus works hard to provide assistance to all politicians, regardless of their party affiliation.

The way in which the Toronto Star reporter has characterized the work of the National office is inaccurate, uninformed and offensive. Frankly, he owes an apology to all members of the National Staff for suggesting that they are simply administrators who have no independent role in advancing the mission of MADD Canada.

Through of the hard work of the Chapters, victim/volunteers and National Staff, MADD Canada has become a large and, more importantly, an effective voice in the fight against impaired driving. Needless to say, not all of MADD Canada's current and past staff, volunteers, and donors agree with all of the decisions that the organization is called upon to make. Unlike some organizations, MADD Canada takes great efforts to investigate the concerns raised by those both within and outside of the organization. We do not expect that, at the end of the day, everyone will see the issues the way we do and agree with the decisions that we have made. However, the Toronto Star reporter appears to have focused on an extremely small and select fraction of MADD Canada's thousands of volunteers and supporters. The views of those quoted in the Toronto Star do not reflect the feedback that we receive at our national and regional conferences, or the feedback from our surveys of volunteers, chapters and internal and external stakeholders.

The reporter has done a disservice not only to MADD Canada, but also to the millions of Canadians who support the goals of helping the victims of impaired driving and reducing the incidence of this needless crime. He has also brought into question the credibility of Canadian media. Frankly, MADD Canada's National Board expected a higher standard of journalism from the Toronto Star and its staff.

Karen Dunham
National President
Volunteer, Victim

Carolyn Swinson
National Board Member
MADD Toronto Chapter Co-president
Volunteer, Victim

/For further information: Karen Dunham, National President @ 506-635-5800, or 506-650-7473/ IN: MEDIA, OTHER

Contact Information

  • Andrew Murie, Chief Executive Officer
    Primary Phone: 800-665-6233 ext. 224