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Charity seeking tax exemption for island off North Saanich loses appeal

The Matsuri Foundation of Canada sought the exemption for Knapp Island
The Matsuri Foundation of Canada owns Knapp Island. The charity has lost its appeal to be exempt from paying the property taxes for the island. (Matsuri Foundation Of Canada/Facebook)

A religious charity that owns Knapp Island has lost an appeal of a decision denying a property tax exemption for an island near the Swartz Bay ferry terminal.

The Matsuri Foundation of Canada sought the exemption from the Property Assessment Board for the 31-acre island as a “place of public worship,” according to a court decision released on Feb. 5.

In dismissing Matsuri’s appeal, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Francesca Marzani found the board properly denied the requested exemption.

Shin Mei Spiritual Centre is home to the Matsuri Foundation of Canada.

“Here, we offer a sacred space where people can find renewal of spirit and learn Shinto and Buddhist practice,” Matsuri’s website says. “The centre itself has spaces for prayer, meditation and ceremonies and a library of reading materials on spirituality.”

In March 2023, the board found that Matsuri had not established that the public was invited to or had access to the island, so exempting it as a place of public worship was not applicable for the 2022 tax year.

Matsuri accepted the board’s finding on this issue, but argued that the island was entitled to an exemption “on fairness and equity grounds when compared to other similar properties in British Columbia.” Judge Marzani found board’s analysis fully addressed the equity issue.

The judgment said the board had heard from an assessor about 19 other Gulf Island worship sites that had some form of tax exemption, but those differed because of their accessibility, population and size.

Knapp Island is assessed as two parcels, according to court documents. The southern parcel’s land is assessed at $5,107,000, while the value of improvements to the south section is assessed at $3,427,000. The northern parcel’s land is assessed at $4,410,000.

Matsuri was previously sited at Bright Woods Spiritual Centre on Salt Spring Island. In 2021, the operations were transferred to the Shin Mei Spiritual Centre.

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Brendan Mayer

About the Author: Brendan Mayer

I spent my upbringing in Saskatoon, and in 2021, I made the move to Vancouver Island.
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