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Added: Wednesday, July 29th 2020 at 7:30pm by wesleyonrot

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We Charity controversy From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to navigationJump to search Prime Minister Trudeau - 2020 (cropped).jpg This article is part of 
a series about Justin Trudeau Electoral record Family Trudeaumania Prime Minister of Canada Premiership Cabinet Foreign trips Elbowgate SNC-Lavalin affair Pipeline and railway protests COVID-19 pandemic WE Charity controversy Elections Liberal leadership election 2015 2019 Common Ground

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The We Charity controversy (stylized as WE Charity controversy) is an ongoing political scandal that involves the awarding of a Government of Canada contract to the We Charity in order to administer the proposed Canada Student Service Grant program. The contract has since been cancelled.

Contents 1Early events 2Timeline 3See also 4References Early events[edit]

In 2020, the federal cabinet selected WE to administer a payment program for the Canada Student Service Grant program, a $900 million volunteer program, for a contract worth $19.5 million.[1][2] The decision raised questions about the charity's ties to the Trudeau family and why the federal public service could not administer the funds as part of their regular mandate. Conservative MP Dan Albas raised concerns about accountability, stating that the private charity could not be audited by the Auditor General of Canada.[3] Previously, the charity had received $120,000 in at least five federal government contracts and $5.2 million in grants and contributions under the Trudeau government from 2017 to 2020.[4]

Co-founder of Democracy Watch Duff Conacher expressed concerns over the relatively sudden and large amount of funding for an organization for which the Prime Minister's wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, was a high-ranking volunteer. Volunteer Canada, a national volunteer group, rejected the fund, saying that it would pay volunteers less than minimum wage and would be against the law. Craig Kielburger - the organization's CEO - called the program a way to hire students at a discount rate while calling the program a "grant."[5] The charity itself offered 450 virtual volunteering positions as part of the program, further raising concerns of a conflict of interest.[6]


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the government's initial decision to have WE Charity administer the program, saying that the organization's networks across the country made it the right choice and WE Charity itself would not profit from the contract.[1] On July 3, 2020, Liberal Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and YouthBardish Chagger, announced that WE Charity would no longer be administering the Canada Student Service Grant program, per a "mutually agreed upon decision" between the organization and the federal government,[7][8] and that WE Charity would return any funds that had been received.[7] While it was initially characterized as a mutual decision, Trudeau later said that it was a decision made by WE that the government supported.[9] In a statement, WE founders Craig and Marc Kielburger confirmed that the decision to cancel the contract was mutual between their organization and the federal government, saying that while they regretted the controversy that threatened to overshadow the program's intent, they felt the government had entered into the contract in good faith, and that they "wish the program all the best of continued success."[10]

On July 3, 2020, the Ethics Commissioner announced an investigation into Trudeau and the decision to have WE Charity administer the summer student grant program.[11][12] It was later revealed that Trudeau's mother Margaret and brother Alexandre received $250,000 and $32,000, respectively, for speaking at WE events between 2016 and 2020.[13] Two of the daughters of Minister of Finance Bill Morneau were also found to have worked in unrelated work for the charity, one in a paid contract position, and the other as an unpaid volunteer; Morneau did not recuse himself from the cabinet decision for the contract.[14] Opposition parties have called for a variety of actions including the release of documents related to the charity and for high-ranking Liberals to appear before Parliamentary committees; the Conservatives asked for an investigation by the RCMP.[15]

On July 9, 2020, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet suggested that Prime Minister Trudeau should step aside "for a few months" during the ethics investigation, and "leave responsibilities to the Deputy Prime Minister" Chrystia Freeland.[16] On July 16, 2020, during a press conference in Ottawa, Freeland stated that the Prime Minister has her "complete confidence" and that "all of us, everyone in our government, everyone in cabinet, bears responsibility for this situation."[17]

On July 16, 2020, Minister Chagger told a parliamentary committee that the Trudeau government had been willing to pay WE Charity more than $19.5 million if the Canada Student Service Grant program had been implemented, up to $43.5 million.[18][19] Chagger went on to say that she was not directed by the prime minister or his staff in suggesting that WE Charity run the program, reiterating that it was a recommendation by the non-partisan civil service.[20] In testimony delivered the same day, Rachel Wernick, the senior assistant deputy minister at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), corroborated this claim saying that she had recommended WE Charity to administer the program, citing its far-reaching connections to youth and the scale and speed at which the program was to be delivered.[21] Wernick further explained that she made her recommendation because the public service was overburdened with responsibilities pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that while other charities were consulted and considered, the program had to be started quickly, and an open bidding process would have taken months.[21]

On July 21, 2020, Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart backed up Wernick's statements supporting the prime minister's assertions, adding further that there was "no evidence" Trudeau had contact with WE Charity prior to the awarding of the contract,[22] and that the public service and cabinet did not flag any potential conflicts of interest with the program. Shugart went on to say that the public service administering the program would make it less comprehensive than if it had been facilitated through the third-party delivery mechanism originally proposed.[21]

On July 22, 2020, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau testified at the Standing Committee on Finance that he recently repaid WE Charity $41,366 for expenses incurred by WE for trips his family took to Kenya and Ecuador in 2017.[23][24] Morneau said the repayment was done after "a thorough review" of his records, and that "this should've been something that we rectified sooner. It was absolutely an error. In looking through my records, I was completely surprised by the situation."[24]

On July 27, 2020, media reports revealed that based on documents shared with the Finance Committee, while the $900 million figure originally reported was a maximum budget for the program, officials had drawn up a plan with We Charity to spend only about half that amount.[25] Additional documents supported the government's claims that the civil service had evaluated several other nonprofits, including the United Way and Canadian Red Cross, before recommending We Charity as the ideal organization to administer the Canada Student Service Grant at the capacity and scale intended, though officials at some of those organizations said they were never contacted to discuss the program itself.[26] However, Peter Dinsdale, president and CEO of YMCA Canada, one of the organizations that documents indicated the civil service took under consideration, said that while the YMCA was not contacted, they might have faced difficulties implementing the program because the impact of COVID-19 had presented new challenges for the organization. Speaking to CTV News, Dinsdale stated that "It would have been tough given the state of YMCAs across the country, given the impact of COVID — really fighting for basic survival. In normal times, [this] 100 per cent would have been something we could have done."[26] Other organizations on the list, such as Colleges and Institutes Canada, confirmed that they had been approached to discuss the program.[26]

On July 28, Michelle Douglas, former chair of We Charity's board, testified before the House of Commons finance committee.[27][28] Douglas had resigned in March 2020, saying publicly that she did so due to "concerning developments" at the charity.[27] She told the committee that during her tenure as chair, We Charity's board made specific inquiries and were told that speakers were not being paid for appearing at We Day events.[28] Douglas said she resigned because the organization refused to provide the board with financial documents or access to its chief financial officer, Victor Li, when the board was reviewing mass layoffs at the organization.[29] Asked whether she concurred with the government's assertions that We Charity was the only organization that could deliver the program at the intended scale and capacity, Douglas said that she could not speculate on that prospect because she had resigned months before the contract was awarded.[28] Responding to concerns that We Charity benefited from a close relationship with the federal Liberals, she went on to say that the board of directors considered We Charity to be "non-partisan."[28]

Craig and Marc Kielburger also testified before the finance committee on July 28.[28][30] The brothers asserted that they did not stand to gain financially from running the program nor did they exploit their ties with the Trudeau family to secure the deal.[28] Asked how "close" their relationship was with the Trudeaus, Craig Kielburger said that neither he nor his brother have ever "socialized" with the prime minister, his wife, his mother or his brother, going on to say that they only invited Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Margaret Trudeau to take part in wellness programs because of their history of mental health advocacy.[28] They added that elected officials of all political parties at all levels of government had participated in and sponsored We Charity events, including former Alberta NDP premier Rachel Notley and Laureen Harper, wife of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, who had hosted a reception for them at 24 Sussex Drive in 2013.[31] The brothers also reiterated that it was a member of the civil service who had reached out to them to discuss the program and that they had mistakenly identified the contact as being from the prime minister's office.[31] Craig Kielburger said that he regretted their team having answered the phone call from the civil service and that they did not foresee the escalating consequences that would arise as a result.[31]

Trudeau and his chief of staff, Katie Telford, are scheduled to testify before the finance committee on Thursday, July 30.[32]

On July 30, Trudeau and his chief of staff, Katie Telford, testified before the finance committee.[32] In his opening statement, Trudeau said that he was not aware that the public service had chosen WE Charity to administer the program until a briefing on May 8.[33] He expected the preexisting Canada Student Service Corps to deliver it but was informed that they would not be able to do so at the scale and capacity required, in the rapid timeframe in which aid programs were being delivered during the pandemic.[34] He again apologized for not recusing himself from cabinet discussions but reiterated that there was "absolutely no preferential treatment," nor direction or influence, from him or his office in selecting WE Charity to administer the Canada Student Service Grant.[33] He went on further to say that the public service told him that the choice was between having WE Charity administer the program or having no program at all.[33][35] The same day, Liberal MP Wayne Long released a public letter in which he criticized the government's decision-making process and called for full transparency and reform in the PMO and government more broadly to prevent "a systemic failure" in the future.[35]

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