Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces third ethics probe over charity grant program

WION Web Team Ottawa, Canada Jul 04, 2020, 09.26 AM(IST)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Photograph:( Reuters )

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Ethics commissioner Mario Dion's office said it will look into whether in picking WE Charity Canada to administer a C$900 million student grant program Trudeau broke rules that prohibit politicians from making, or participating in, decisions that further their personal interests.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing his third conflict of interest probe over his government's decision to award a contract worth more than C$900 million (S$926 million) to an organisation that he and his family have ties to.

Canada's ethics commissioner Mario Dion's office said her department will look into whether in picking WE Charity Canada to administer a C$900 million student grant program Trudeau broke rules that prohibit politicians from making, or participating in, decisions that further their personal interests.

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The Canada Student Service Grant was awarded to the WE Charity to set up a programme that would pay students to earn funds for tuition and expenses during the pandemic as employment options dried up.

The plan was to pay students a one-time grant between C$1,000 and C$5,000 to take part in service activities.

Canada's main opposition Conservative Party had requested the probe.

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Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau have regularly participated in WE Charity events, and Gregoire Trudeau hosts a podcast on the charity's website.

WE Charity is no longer managing the grant program, which will provide up to C$5,000 to post-secondary students who do volunteer work. It was introduced because the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult or impossible for many students to get summer jobs.

WE Charity said in a statement on its website the program had been "enmeshed with controversy" since it was announced, and for the good of the program it was best to let the government take over management.

The government said the charity would not profit from its involvement. Trudeau said on Monday that WE Charity was the only group in Canada with the "capacity to deliver the ambitious program."

The ethics commissioner will also investigate whether that statement showed that Trudeau had afforded preferential treatment to WE Charity over other national charities.

Trudeau has twice before been sanctioned by the country’s ethics commissioner for breaking conflict of interest rules. The first time was in 2017 for accepting a vacation on the Aga Khan's private island a year earlier, and the second was last year for seeking to influence a corporate legal case.