The Freedom to Care Act came into effect on September 1, 2021. The Act protects volunteers of nonprofit organizations (incorporated for public benefit and operating primarily for a charitable purpose) from liability for damage caused by the volunteer if they were properly authorized and acting within the scope of their responsibilities. The Act also allows nonprofit organizations to apply for one-time, short-term exemptions from regulations that were not solely intended for nonprofit organizations.
The implications of this new legislation are not yet clear. The Government of Alberta has launched a new website containing a suite of educational resources to support the sector’s implementation of the Act.
Liability Protection for Volunteers
The liability protection provided by the Act extends to directors, officers, and trustees.
Since a key prerequisite of the application of the Act is that the volunteer was acting within the “scope of their responsibilities” and “properly licensed, certified or authorized, if required by law”, many of the Government’s resources, such as the “Scope of duties considerations for non-profit organizations” focus on how nonprofits can provide volunteers with a clear understanding of their role and the scope of their duties.
As there are many existing regulatory exemptions for the nonprofit and charitable sector that organizations may not be aware of, the Government has developed a searchable inventory of existing exemptions, and provides information as to whether an application process is required for the exemption to apply.
The assessment criteria for evaluating applications for new regulatory exemptions under the Act appears to be fairly rigorous.
A number of uncertainties remain about the application and implications of the Freedom to Care Act, including how it impacts an organization’s risk profile and insurance needs, and how the liability protection provisions interface with other legislation. IntegralOrg will continue to monitor developments closely and will provide further information as it becomes available.
If you have any questions about how the Freedom to Care Act may impact your organization, feel free to reach out to the IntegralOrg team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-910-7279.
Kristina Roberts is a lawyer with experience in public interest matters and social entrepreneurship. At IntegralOrg, Kristina is responsible for developing a toolkit to assist organizations and entrepreneurs with structuring social enterprises, as well as overseeing and assisting with various other legal initiatives relevant to the charitable and nonprofit sector and the organizations that IntegralOrg works with.
Yvonne Chenier, QC, is a lawyer and philanthropy consultant –Yvonne brings more than 35 years of experience helping those in the philanthropic, nonprofit, and social enterprise sectors as general legal counsel and as an advisor on planning, organizational, regulatory and governance matters.