The co-founder of WE backtracked after stating that the office of the PM had reached more than $ 900 million, – National


One of the co-founders of WE Charity said it was “badly spoken” when he told the young leaders that the staff of the Prime minister Justin Trudeau was contacted in April to see if the organization would administer what has become a federal program of student aid of $ 900 million.The canadian Press has obtained a video of Marc Kielburger telling to young leaders during a conference call earlier this month that the office of Trudeau had contacted the charity, a day after the Prime minister had announced his intention to pay a canada study grant for the student services on April 22.

Trudeau is on the defensive since the government revealed last week that WE had been chosen to administer the scholarship program, which will provide students with up to $ 5,000 for their tuition fees for the volunteer work for causes related to the pandemic COVID-19.

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The attacks against the Prime minister, included allegations of cronyism and questions about a conflict of interest, because Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, have both a long-standing relationship with the organization based in Toronto.

Trudeau said that WE would only be paid to cover its costs and that the non-partisan public service has concluded that the organization WE were the only group in Canada that has the capacity to manage the volunteer program and to reach the thousands of young people who could sign. for it.

In the video, Kielburger describes the announcement of Trudeau in April, according to which the government is planning to provide more money for summer jobs and volunteer roles as “substantial” given the challenges that many young people will face to pay for their studies during COVID-19.

“The next day, the Prime minister’s office has kindly called and said:” You know, this announcement that we just made, would you be interested to help us implement it? “, “Said Kielburger in the record.

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“After careful reflection, we have lifted the hand and said:” of course, we are happy to help you. “”

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The 43-year-old, who founded the movement WE and associated charities for young people with his brother Craig he has more than two decades and has since guided its growth to become an international organization, has backtracked on those statements on Tuesday.

“I was wrong,” said Kielburger in a statement. “Speaking freely and with enthusiasm, I referred wrongly to the Office of the Prime minister. In fact, the awareness came from non-elected public servants at Employment and social Development Canada. ”

Kielburger went on to say that “the contact came to WE Charity” of a senior assistant deputy minister in the week of 26 April – the week after the announcement of Trudeau.

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WE did not immediately respond to follow-up questions on the issue of whether there had been contact between him and Trudeau or his staff during the week of April 20, when the announcement was made.

Asked Tuesday if there has been contact between the Office of the Prime minister and WE the week of April 20, the spokesperson for Trudeau, Alex Wellstead, said: “no, not to our knowledge”, adding: “Person of the Cabinet of the Prime minister has asked to WE Charity to administer the canada study Grant for services to students. ”

The conservatives are the official opposition have, however, alluded to the links of Trudeau with WE in a letter addressed to the auditor general Karen Hogan on Sunday, asking him to investigate the decision to ask the charity to administer the program of grants to students.

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The conservatives argue that contracting with an outside organization to administer the program bypasses the ability of the Parliament to ask the liberal government to account over the program and ensure the optimization of resources.

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In his statement, Kielburger said that ” all the discussions came at the instigation of the officials of the ministry and that they have conducted discussions regarding the parameters of contracts and programs.”

In a separate statement Tuesday, a top official has defended the decision to award the work to WE while affirming that “there was no pressure, nor the Prime minister’s office nor the office of the minister (of Youth) (Bardish) Chagger in order to formalize an agreement with WE Charity . ”

“To ensure we maximize the scholarships awarded to students during this difficult period, we needed to act quickly to implement the program,” said Gina Wilson, as senior associate deputy minister of canadian Heritage for the diversity, inclusion and the youth, in a press release relayed. through the ministry of Employment and social Development.

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“The officials have determined that the use of WE Charity with its scope and capacity scopes would be the most effective approach to quickly implement this program.

More than 26,000 grant applications have been received to date by interested students, Wilson added.

© 2020, The Canadian Press


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