Politics
EXCLUSIVE - Feds target charity chaired by London Mayor Fontana

Mayor Joe Fontana during the budget meeting at City Hall in London, Ontario.

Credits: DEREK RUTTAN/ The London Free Press /QMI AGENCY

CHIP MARTIN | QMI AGENCY

LONDON, Ont. -- A charity chaired by Mayor Joe Fontana and run by his son is on the verge of losing its charitable registration from the federal government, QMI Agency has learned.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has decided to revoke the registration of Trinity Global Support Foundation as of March 3.

That move prompted Trinity lawyers to launch an application in the federal Court of Appeal in Toronto to "stay" the order until they can make their case revocation isn't warranted.

"(Revocation) would result in immediate unavoidable irreparable harm," Trinity lawyer Duane R. Milot said in an application to the court.

Fontana is chair of Trinity Global and his son, Ugo Joseph Fontana -- also known as Joe Jr. -- is president.

Trinity Global has seen explosive growth in donations of cash and in-kind gifts since 2008. In 2012, it issued tax receipts for $152 million, more than double from a year earlier.

Trinity says it sends HIV/AIDS medicines to Africa, offers breakfast programs to children in Canada, and supports anti-bullying programs and food banks.

But a charity without charitable status cannot issue tax receipts and is out of the charity business, John Bryden, a former MP who spearheaded changes to Canada's charity laws in the 1990s, said Wednesday.

And it raises many more questions, he said, such as: "Does the taxpayer have a claim against a charity for the foregone taxes?"

Bryden said he found it interesting CRA records indicate several board members of Trinity have stepped down in recent months.

"Directors have an obligation to the charity, and if the charity is in trouble the directors are to some extent liable for the trouble," he said. "If they allowed the charity to deprive the people of Canada from legitimate taxes, I would say somebody needs to pay back those taxes."

Last week, Bryden told QMI Agency Trinity's spectacular growth raised questions. After studying Trinity reports to the federal government, he said he can't "fathom" how Trinity operates.

Neither Fontana junior or senior would answer then and they didn't return calls Wednesday.

The Canada Revenue Agency refused to discuss Trinity Global, citing confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act.

But spokesperson Mylene Croteau said CRA records show "as of today, Trinity Global Support Foundation is a Canadian registered charity."

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