Trudeau Apologizes for Conflict of Interest with Charity

After defending the deal for over a week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized on Monday for participating in discussions to award an important contract to a charity that has ties with his family.

Justin Trudeau Sophie GregoireJustin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire outside the parliament in 2017. (Photo: Women Deliver, CC BY 2.0)The charity branch of the organization “WE” was awarded without a tender the task to administer US$670 million in scholarships for student volunteering. The charity itself was to receive $14,7 million for its work. 

Previously known as Free the Children, WE is one of the biggest youth services organizations in the country according to Canadian public broadcaster CBC

“Every step of the way, I tried to make opportunities for young people to serve ... When it came to this organization and this program, the involvement that I had in the past and that my family has, should have had me removed myself from these discussions”, the prime minister declared. 

“I made a mistake and I am truly sincerely sorry”, he added. 

Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, hosts a podcast for WE and has appeared at a number of their events.

In addition, both Trudeau’s mother Margaret and brother Alexandre have received thousands of dollars for speaking at events organized by the charity between 2016 and 2020. His mother spoke at 28 events for an estimated salary of US$230.000, according to newspaper The Globe and Mail

It was uncovered on Friday that the daughters of Finance Minister Bill Morneau were also involved with WE, one of them working in their travel department.  

WE stepped down from managing the program and returned the $14,7 million. It should be taken over by the Canadian Service Agency, the prime minister said. 

It’s a third case involving Justin Trudeau to be brought before Canada’s ombudsman. After investigations, he was blamed in the first two cases. 

The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has previously scolded the prime minister for contravening Conflict of Interests laws over a family vacation on the private island of the magnate Shāh Karim al-Husayni, better known as Aga Khan, and over alleged pressure on the Attorney General to intervene in the fraud case against Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin for bribing the Gaddafi regime in Libya. 

Trudeau downplayed calls to resign that came from opposition parties.