For the third time in as many years, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on Friday found himself at the center of a political firestorm — this time over the awarding of a lucrative government contract to a charity that also paid hefty sums to his family members.
Canada’s Conservative opposition has demanded a police investigation to uncover whether fraud was committed in the granting of the nearly billion-dollar contract to WE Charity.
The organisation has admitted paying nearly CAN $300,000 (US$220,000) to Trudeau’s mother, brother and wife for speaking engagements.
And Trudeau himself admitted to taking part in negotiations with the charity over the contract.
WE Charity has said it was withdrawing from the $900 million federal program, which provides grants of up to $5,000 to eligible students for volunteer work with non-profit organizations during the coronavirus pandemic.
‘We know that there are significant financial benefits that have been received by the family of the prime minister,’ Conservative lawmaker Michael Barrett told reporters.
‘It’s very clear there is sufficient grounds for this matter to be investigated by the police,’ he added.
‘We have a sole-source contract worth a billion dollars, a program that was created out of thin air,’ Barrett said.
The country’s ethics watchdog said last week that it had launched a probe into the 48-year-old prime minister, after the contract was awarded to the charity in June.
The charity paid his mother Margaret $250,000 for speeches at 28 events between 2016 and 2020, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
WE Charity also paid Justin Trudeau’s brother Alexandre $32,000 for his participation in eight events, the CBC reported.
And the prime minister’s office confirmed that Trudeau’s wife Sophie ‘received $1,500’ for participating in a WE event in 2012, before he took over the leadership of the Liberal Party.
‘The prime minister’s relatives engage with a variety of organizations and support many personal causes on their own accord,’ Trudeau’s office said in a press release Thursday.
‘What is important to remember here is that this is about a charity supporting students.’
But just a day before, Trudeau’s office said that neither he nor his wife had ever received payment for appearing at events hosted by non-governmental organizations.
Canadian media also reported that a daughter of Finance Minister Bill Morneau received payments from WE Charity.
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