My wife’s favourite place in the whole wide world is Killarney Provincial Park. We’ve just returned from spending time hiking and back country camping over the last week of July into the Civic Holiday. If you’ve never been, it’s worth a visit. The geography is unique, largely due to the La Cloche Mountains, which are an estimated 1.8 billion years old. Now a paltry 539 metres high, at their peak, the mountains were thought to once have been taller than the present-day Rockies. The mountains are made mainly of white quartzite, and the southern edge of the park consists of pink granite. The contrast contributes to the beauty of the area. The park itself is a designated wilderness and dark sky preserve. It’s a favourite part of Ontario for both Bridget and me. Today, much of the area is a provincial park, and part of the Wikwemikong Unceded Territory, who in 2015, created Point Grondine Park.

Killarney Provincial Park exists largely due to the efforts of the Group of Seven. Numerous famous paintings by members of the group feature the park, and A.Y. Jackson and Franklin Carmichael revered the area so much they petitioned the Ontario Government to protect the area from logging. It took several decades, but Killarney was eventually set up as a provincial park in 1959. Today, in recognition of their lifetime efforts to preserve the area, Carmichael and Jackson each have a lake named after them. Another lake – OSA Lake, is named for the “Ontario Society of Artists”, which was the name the painters called themselves long before they were known as the Group of Seven.

Today, many others have banded together as “The Friends of Killarney Provincial Park”, a charitable organization that supports the future of the area. You may not know it, but “Friends of” organizations exists both in Canada and abroad and are a useful charitable structure to enable donations for situations that may not normally qualify for charitable receipts.

The best friends help you get a tax receipt.

The “Friends of” charities are usually set up to allow a Canadian resident to get a tax receipt for donating to causes that may not usually qualify for a tax receipt due to jurisdictional issues. In the case of provincial parks, you can donate to Ontario Parks, and they can issue a tax receipt, but they are not actually a registered charity. Instead, they are a government entity. As such, some people would prefer to support the parks with a non-government entity, which is where the “Friends of” charities come into play.

However, there are other situations where a receipt is not normally possible –most often situations where you wish to donate to a cause outside of Canada, but obtain a Canadian donation receipt. A quick scan of the CRA charities database, indicates that there are over 180 charities that start with “Canadian Friends of….” designed for this purpose.

According to the Income Tax act, most foreign donations are not able to be used against your Canadian tax return, unless you are donating to your Alma Matter, or be a charity which has received ”a gift from His Majesty in right of Canada in the last 24 months” – basically a foreign charity that received a gift from the Canadian Government. That’s a very narrow list! This is where “Friends of” organizations become very helpful.

As Canadian organizations “Friends of” charities are able to issue Canadian Tax receipts, but then flow the funds out of the country. The Canadian government has a set of stringent rules they must follow, but it allows these entities to be a conduit for Canadians to have international impact. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Here’s just a few “Canadian Friend of” organizations that support causes around the world, to give you an idea of their reach:

• Canadian Friends of the Israel Philharmonic
• Canadian Friends of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital
• Canadian Friends of Sufi Arts, Culture and Knowledge
• Canadian Friends of the Children of the Californias (Mexico)
• Canadian Friends of the University of Zagreb (Croatia)

Likewise, it is also possible to donate to foreign “Friends of” charities that will flow money to Canada. Many similar organizations exist in the United States, which allow US taxed individuals to claim a US donation receipt against their US taxes.

This can be a super-powerful and useful mechanism for dual citizens, who are obligated to pay taxes on both sides of the border. For example, the organization American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts exists to allow US citizens to contribute to Canadian Land trusts – including gifts of ecologically sensitive properties. This allows US Citizens, who own land in Canada, to transfer their properties to Canadian Land trusts, but still obtain US tax relief.

Friendship is powerful.

I, for one, am immensely grateful for the many “Friends of…” organizations that exists here in Canada and abroad. The impact they make will help ensure the long-term stability of many organizations, including our own beloved Killarney Provincial Park. Friends of Killarney have had a huge impact, including delivering the artist in residence programs, building boardwalks, replacing thunderboxes (backcountry toilets!), and organizing citizen support for many research projects that are undertaken in the park. I hope that the organization continues its good work for many years to come.

In the meantime, I have to go unpack my portage bag, and stretch some aching muscle…the park is no longer so friendly to my middle aged body!