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  • Writer's pictureSebastian Elawny

Relief of Poverty as a Charitable Purpose

Updated: Jul 4

Volunteers handing out food at a food bank for a charity

To receive charitable status in Canada, an organization’s purpose must align with one of the four heads of charity: relief of poverty, advancement of education, advancement of religion, or other purposes beneficial to the community in a way the law considers charitable. This post is part of a series on each of the four heads of charity. In this post, we dive deeper into relief of poverty.

What is considered poverty?

According to charity law, experiencing poverty in Canada refers to individuals not having the ability to access either the basic necessities of life, or simple amenities that are considered necessary for a sufficient quality of life. This definition can result in discrepancies over what conditions constitute poverty. For example, a “sufficient quality of life” in Canada looks different than that of a developing country. There may even be difference in what constitutes a “sufficient quality of life” within Canada. Factors such as income, education, health outcomes, socioeconomic opportunity, and cost of living influence what poverty looks like for a particular individual or community. Importantly, this means that poverty is not merely situations of destitution or homelessness. Poverty can also include situations such as a family that has suffered job loss and must make use of a foodbank.

Relief of poverty as a charitable purpose

To relieve poverty in a charitable sense, an organization’s activities must align with its purpose. Its activities should therefore provide beneficiaries with a charitable benefit that allows them to obtain the basic necessities of life or provides them with simple amenities. However, the scope of such aid is limited: preventing poverty is not considered charitable. Therefore, for activities to be considered to relieve poverty in the charitable sense, beneficiaries must be currently experiencing poverty.

What are considered as basic necessities?

Basic necessities are those essential to ensuring a proper standard of living. The law considers it charitable to supply these necessities to those who cannot obtain them alone. These basic necessities include having access to a suitable shelter and proper clothing, access to food, personal hygiene items, and healthcare, as well as access to suitable water and sanitation.

What are considered as simple amenities?

Simple amenities allow for a modest yet adequate standard of living and can include activities that promote social inclusion within communities. For example, simple amenities include access to learning materials, school supplies, computers, cell phones, internet, and public transportation. While some of these may seem unnecessary, our social patterns are such that a lack of access to a computer can severely limit someone seeking education or employment. Simple amenities can also include access to home repairs, financial education, employment support, childcare services, children’s recreational activities, and legal services.


Relief of poverty as a charitable purpose is about bettering the lives of individuals and communities by providing goods and services that will help to increase their quality of life to a socially adequate level. While this head of charity can be quite broad, it is limited. An organization planning to apply for charitable status under this purpose must have activities that will relieve poverty by providing basic necessities or simple amenities to its beneficiaries to those currently experiencing poverty.

Outsiders Law has extensive knowledge of the charity application process. We help organizations looking to become registered charities under the category of relief of poverty. If your organization would like to do so, please contact us.


The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. Nothing contained herein should be considered as legal, professional, or tax advice. Please contact us directly if you require legal assistance.

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