Canada charity no longer running grant program after critics question Trudeau ties

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the Big Rig Brewery in Kanata
FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media as he visits the Big Rig Brewery, which utilizes the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy given to businesses affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Kanata, Ontario, Canada June 26, 2020. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

July 3, 2020

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada said on Friday that a charity picked last week to manage a C$900 million ($663.5 million) student grant program would no longer be doing the job after critics cited historic ties between the group and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau announced on July 25 that WE Charity Canada would administer the program, which will provide up to C$5,000 to post-secondary students who do volunteer work. The program was introduced because the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult or impossible for many students to get summer jobs.

“The WE charity decided to withdraw from working with the government on this. We support this decision. It’s clear that the way all this evolved is disappointing,” Trudeau told reporters.

After last week’s announcement, critics noted Trudeau had regularly participated in WE Charity events, as had his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, who currently hosts a podcast on the charity’s Web site.

The main opposition Conservative Party had called for an official investigation into the matter.

The government responded by saying 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”.

On Friday, Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger said there had been more than 35,000 applications within the first week.

“It’s clear there are lessons to be learned about how we can deliver the best programs for young people without attracting controversies like this,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau has twice 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 Aga Khan’s private island a year earlier, and the second was last year for seeking to influence a corporate legal case.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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