Charity Intelligence’s Campaign to Cleanse Negative Reporting

While researching my upcoming book on the destruction of WE Charity, I’ve been intrigued by the role played by Charity Intelligence and its Managing Director, Kate Bahen, in the affair.

I broke the story about Bahen donating to NDP MP Charlie Angus, who tag-teamed with Pierre Poilievre to attack the charity. I also learned Charity Intelligence censored WE Charity’s response to what it saw as an unfair rating. Charity Intelligence scrubbed WE’s comments, vaguely claiming “legal concerns.”

The sanitization of criticism of Charity Intelligence doesn’t just happen on the organization’s own web page. Wikipedia has also been cleansed of well-sourced, legitimate material critiquing the organization’s rating methodology and calling out its political connections.

On March 7, 2024, a Wikipedia editor named “fromfarthernorth” made sweeping edits of the Charity Intelligence Wikipedia entry, deleting a lot of fully-sourced content that cast doubt on Charity Intelligence’s claim to be an objective, effective monitor or charities in Canada.

When those changes were made, Wikipedia user “fromthefarnorth” posted a rambling statement on the entry’s Talk Page accusing other editors of bias. But the post by someone who had deleted all the content critical of the work of Kate Bahen and Charity Intelligence also knew a lot about Charity Intelligence. And its leaders.

How do I know? In the post, the author wrote, “While Graeme Hepburn donated to the Conservative Party, Kate Bahen has donated to both the National Conservatives and NDP.”

Graeme Hepburn (a member of the Weston family) is the Chair of Charity Imtelligence’s board of directors. His and Bahen’s financial connections and donations to the Conservatives have been revealed many times, but no one had reported her donation to the NDP. Somehow, this new Wikipedia user was able to find this interesting fact. It’s not clear how, since the source of the information was not cited.

I found out the claim was true when I sent Bahen questions about her Conservative donations and she said, “more recently I made a small contribution to an outstanding NDP candidate.”  Research on the Elections Canada donation database showed her donation was to Charlie Angus, soon to be ex-MP for Timmins-James Bay.

So how did “fromthefarnorth” know this? Did they check the same database and just drop the fact into a Wikipedia talk page post, and not the article? If they did find it online, why didn’t they think it was important enough to add to the entry, since discussion on Wikipedia was all about whether Charity Intelligence is objective and apolitical?

Another Wikipedia editor (Essence of nightshade) noted in response to the Talk Page post that the edits in the spring were not the first time the page was altered to portray Charity Intelligence in a better light.

“It looks like you've been making the same sweeping edits for two months now and (they are) being reverted. The reasons (for reverting to previous versions of the page) are that you're removing loads of well-referenced material and that companies aren't supposed to be editing their own articles. Maybe no one informed you of these rules… Wikipedia is supposed to be neutral and based upon third party sources. If everyone got to decide what articles about them said, Wikipedia would look very different, and no one would trust it.”

Bahen, of course, denies any involvement in the Wikipedia edits. After weeks of not responding to me, she finally wrote back saying “thank you for letting me know about the Wiki page. I haven’t yet had a chance to read the updates. I nor Greg Thomson or anyone at Charity Intelligence have any idea whatsoever about these changes, “fromfarnorth”, and absolutely no we did not pay for this. That, by my reckoning is unethical. I have no knowledge of this and I have no explanation.”

The “fromfarthernorth” account was paused not long after I started asking questions.  

In addition to writing Bahen in March/April, on April 18, I wrote to Graem Hepburn, the Chair of CI’s Board, and asked him if he knew anything about the Wikipedia page edits, and/or if someone was using charitable dollars to pay to have the page edited.

He never responded.

Before pausing any further activity on the account, “fromfarthernorth” pleaded for Wikipedia editors to “check sources vs Charity Intelligence Talk page.

As for the censorship of WE’s comments on Charity Intelligence’s own web page, I asked Bahen if Charity Intelligence has ever removed another charity’s comments. She ignored the question. I think we can answer that one ourselves.