BY SURJIT SINGH FLORA
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized earlier this week for participating in his federal cabinet’s decision to use a hand-picked charity co-managed by him and his family to oversee a $900 million student funding program. After his government commissioned WE Charity Canada to manage the program on June 25, the prime minister faced a third conflict of interest investigation in more than three years. Less than a week after the contract was announced, the charity withdrew their involvement.
“Given the history of our family, I didn’t immediately quit the discussion and made a mistake. I’m very sorry for this,” Trudeau stated at a press conference earlier this week. This is the second time in less than a year that the Prime Minister has publicly apologized for his move in a nationwide live news conference. The first time was in Sep. 2019, after which photographs of Trudeau in blackface appeared in the runup to the federal election. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh wrote in a social media post that “Mr. Trudeau, apologizing isn’t enough when the apology is only because you got caught. Aga Khan trip – caught. Helping friends at SNC- Lavalin – caught.
WE Charity – caught. Saying sorry in front of cameras means nothing when you keep doing the same thing behind closed doors.” The Prime Minister also said: “I know very well that my family has worked with and contributed to the WE organization, but I do not know the details of their salary,” he said. WE Charity disclosed last week that between 2016 and 2020, it paid Trudeau’s mother, Margaret, about $250,000 to reward him for speaking at about 28 events, while his brother Alexandre received about $32,000. PM Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau regularly participate in WE charity events, while GrégoireTrudeau hosted a podcast on the charity website, but she was not paid. The grant program is designed to help students find a difficult summer job during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the controversy has cast a spotlight on the program, and the government is now looking for a different way of management.
“I’m sorry, because young people who should contribute to the community through this program voluntarily participate and will now have to wait for a while,” Trudeau further said.