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Home Politics Amid Chinese donation Controversy, Board and management of Trudeau Foundation steps down

Amid Chinese donation Controversy, Board and management of Trudeau Foundation steps down

Story by Nathan Reid-Welford

Logo Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation (CNW Group/Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation)

The surprise announcement came today that the President and CEO of the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation as well the entirety of its board of directors will be resigning. This announcement comes amid controversy regarding the charity’s integrity after reports that it received a donation from an organization with links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Received in 2016, the donation in question was a $200 000 pledge provided by Chinese businessmen and philanthropists Zhang Bin and Niu Gensheng. However, in February of this year, The Globe and Mail reported that the two had connections to the Chinese government.

This revelation prompted the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation to announce that it will be refunding the money, along with a statement made by President and CEO Pascale Fournier in early March reading: “As an independent, non-partisan charity, ethics and integrity are among our core values and we cannot keep any donation that may have been sponsored by a foreign government and would not knowingly do so.”

However, despite this decision and statement, the controversy wouldn’t go away, leading to the announcement of its members’ resignations.

A statement released by the Foundation today read that the “political climate surrounding a donation received by the Foundation in 2016 has put a great deal of pressure on [its] management and volunteer Board of Directors.”

The statement continued: “the politization of the Foundation ha[s] made it impossible to continue with the status quo,” thus new leaders are required.

Pascale Fournier will be stepping down from her position after five years with the organization, along with the other members of the board. However, three directors will be remaining on an interim basis to ensure the Foundation upholds its obligations as a transition to a new board occurs. 

The scandal surrounding the donation to the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation had become immersed in the larger and more politically volatile controversy of additional allegations of Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, elections in which liberal leader Justin Trudeau, son of the Foundation’s namesake won minority governments.

Each situation has sparked criticism from political opponents, Conservative Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre, and Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, as questions are raised about the integrity of the self-proclaimed non-partisan Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation. Of particular interest is how—and if—the federal Liberals benefited from the alleged Chinese government donations and election interference.

In addition to its board, the Foundation has a membership that includes many notable Canadians. The organization provides PhD Scholarships to Canadians and since its inception has supported just under 300 doctorates. The foundation also offers a mentorship program matching young scholars with distinguished Canadians. It manages approximately $168 Million in assets.

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