Timeline: Finance Committee grills WE charity founders

Published On July 29, 2020 | By Kajal Pawar | News, Politics
Marc Kielburger (left) and Craig Kielburger (right) appear as witnesses via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee hearing on July 28, 2020. (Screengrab by Kajal Mangesh Pawar)

Kajal Pawar

WE Charity founders appeared before a Standing Committee of Finance today as a part of the investigation into the $912-million student grant program that was cancelled.

MPs on the Finance Committee questioned brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger and former WE managers regarding the Canada Student Service Grant. The brothers said they started the charity to help youth.

The Kielburger brothers announced in a statement last week that they would testify in order to set the record straight. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced April 22 the Canada Student Service Grant summer program, which was to have been administered by WE, would pay participants up to $5,000 based on the number of hours they volunteered. 

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion announced a probe into the grant program on July 3. Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau apologized for not recusing themselves from cabinet talks about the contract despite WE’s links to their families.

“The opposition has the majority and we’re going to compel sufficient testimony to get the answers,” said Conservative MP Pierre Poillevero at a House of Commons Committee meeting on July 27. “If the Liberals want to want to talk out of the clock as they’ve have done in other committees for the witnesses only to appear for only an hour or a hour and a half – that’s fine.

“We will just invite them back again,” he said.

Michelle Douglas, the former chair of the WE board of directors, said she and the board opposed WE Charity management’s decision to lay off employees at the start of the pandemic.

“It was our view that you could not fire hundreds of people without very strong, demonstrable evidence, and even then, should explore mitigation efforts to save jobs. Instead, the executive team were dismissing employees with great speed and in large numbers,” she said.

Douglas said the board of directors were unaware about financial management and their requests to access information on organization’s finances were unanswered and that prompted her to leave the organization. 

“Generally the information told to the boards was that no speakers were paid to speak on WE days,” she said.

WE Charity provided details in a CBC investigative story in July that Trudeau’s mother Margaret and brother Alexandre were paid hundreds of thousands for speaking at WE Days between 2016 and 2020.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau told the finance committee on July 22 that he had made a repayment to WE of more than $41,000 for travel expenses.

“I was aware that Minister of Finance made a repayment to WE Charity,” Douglas said.

Here is a timeline of these events. 

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