In an article in the Toronto Star, Matthew Torigian says virtually every allegation made against the Trudeau government’s involvement in the WE Charity affair has been proven to be false. The story comes out on the day after the board of directors of the Pierre Elliot Trudeau foundation have resigned over the acceptance of a gift that may have ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Torigan is the former deputy solicitor general for Ontario from 2014-2018, responsible for justice and public safety systems. He previously served as chief of police for the Waterloo Regional Police Service and is currently a distinguished fellow in the Global Justice Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.
Among Torigan’s findings are the following:
Federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion exonerated former Finance Minister Bill Morneau of conflict of interest charges over his participation in two volunteer trips for WE Charity. Morneau said he thought he had paid for the travel, and when he learned he hadn’t he paid up. Dion wrote: “I accept that you genuinely believed you had paid for the entire cost of both trips, including the portion of the trip that involved the use of non-commercial chartered aircraft.” Still the allegations resulted in Morneau stepping down as finance minister an d as an MP.
A bigger casualty was the WE Charity itself, which was basically run out of business in Canada. It had been alleged that Prime Minister Trudeau had pulled strings to hire the charity to administer a $543 million COVID relief program, in part to bail the charity out from financial difficulties. Origan wrote, “ The media narrative was that WE Charity’s senior leaders, Marc and Craig Kielburger, approached the government with the CSSG idea to rescue the charity from financial crisis and make a personal profit themselves. Torigan went through over 5,000 pages of documents, including papers filed by WE Charity. He concluded that the idea of using WE Charity to administer the program originated with a public servants who reached out to the Kielburgers-not the other way around. A forensic audit showed WE Charity was not in financial distress, and that the contract did not provide a profit to the organization.
In fairness the audits were commissioned by the U.S.-based Stillman Foundation which is a WE Charity supporter, but Torigan, as mentioned, conducted his own extensive research, which made the key finding that it was the federal bureaucracy that reached out to WE.
Concluded Torigan, “the case is clear: WE Charity was not looking for a lifeline. It didn’t get special treatment. It was properly approached by the bureaucracy. And neither the charity nor its co-founders stood to profit from the CSSG.”
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