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Justin Trudeau faces calls for criminal investigation into family’s charity links

  • WE Charity, which was awarded multi-million-dollar government contract, paid PM’s mother and wife for appearances at events

Leyland Cecco in Toronto, The Guardian (UK), Published on Fri 10 Jul 2020

Justin Trudeau in 2015 walks with his wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau and their children and his mother Margaret to take part in a swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa.

Justin Trudeau in 2015 walks with his wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau and their children and his mother Margaret to take part in a swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa. Photograph: Sean Kilpatrick/AFP/Getty Images

Political rivals of Justin Trudeau are calling for a criminal investigation after it emerged that members of his family were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by a charity to which his government recently awarded a substantial contract.

The multinational WE Charity confirmed on Thursday that Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother had been paid for appearances at charity events over the years. Margaret Trudeau, the prime minister’s mother and wife of the former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, has been paid nearly C$250,000 (US$182,000) since 2016 – far more than any other family member.

“That revelation raises the need for the police to take a look at it,” said the Conservative member of parliament Michael Barrett on Friday. Barrett said his colleagues believed there were “sufficient grounds” for the RCMP to investigate a violation of Canada’s conflict-of-interest laws.

In a statement, the prime minister’s office said: “The Prime Minister’s relatives engage with a variety of organizations and support many personal causes on their own accord.”

Scrutiny of the Trudeau family’s relationship with the charity stems from a government contract which it was awarded in June to administer a C$900m student-work program.

Under the terms of the deal, the charity was to be paid at least C$19.5m. Amid questions over a potential conflict of interest, the government and WE Charity said the cancellation of the contract was “mutually agreed” on 3 July.

Yves-François Blanchet, the leader of the small Bloc Québécois party – and a legislative ally of Trudeau’s minority government – has called on the prime minister to “step aside” until the ethics commissioner completes his investigation.

“The prime minister should temporarily hand over the reins of power to the deputy prime minister [Chrystia Freeland], who we would offer to work with,” Blanchet said. The Conservatives have not made a similar request.

Trudeau has said he did not recuse himself from the decision to award the contract, despite his family’s ties to the charity.

News that Trudeau’s brother, mother and wife all receive payments from WE Charity over the years contradicts previous statements by the prime minister’s office and the charity itself.

WE Charity initially told the media outlet Canadaland that Margaret Trudeau had not been paid for appearances at charity events. The PM’s office told the Globe and Mail that Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Trudeau’s wife, never received compensation from the charity.

The investigation by the ethics commissioners marks the third time the prime minister has faced queries into his conduct as leader.

In August 2019, the country’s ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, determined Trudeau violated the country’s ethics laws when he urged his attorney general not to prosecute an engineering company in a conflict-of-interest case.

And in 2017, the previous commissioner found that the prime minister violated conflict-of-interest laws a year earlier when he took two all-expenses-paid family trips, including a helicopter ride, to a private residence in the Bahamas owned by the Aga Khan.

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