Canada's Trudeau apologises for 'mistake' amid charity uproar

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa January 9, 2020. — Reuters pic
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa January 9, 2020. — Reuters pic

OTTAWA, July 14 — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologised yesterday for taking part in a cabinet decision to use a charity he and his family have worked with to administer a C$900 million (RM2.82 billion) student grant programme.

Trudeau, 48, is facing a third investigation for conflict of interest in a little over three years after his government tapped WE Charity Canada on June 25 to manage the programme. The charity backed out about a week after the contract was announced.

“I made a mistake in not recusing myself immediately from the discussions, given our family's history, and I'm sincerely sorry about not having done that,” Trudeau said at a news conference.

It is the second time in less than a year that the prime minister has apologised publicly for his actions in a live, nationally televised news conference. The first time was in September after decades-old images of him in blackface emerged.

“I was very aware that members of my family had worked with and contributed to the WE organisation, but I was unaware of the details of their remuneration,” Trudeau said.

WE Charity disclosed last week that from 2016-2020 it paid honoraria to Trudeau's mother, Margaret, amounting to C$250,000 for speaking at some 28 events, while his brother, Alexandre, received about C$32,000.

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 for which she is not paid.

Also yesterday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, whose daughter works at WE Charity, offered a similar apology. “I will recuse myself from any future discussions related to WE,” Morneau said.

The grant programme, meant to help students struggling to find summer jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, has been stymied by the controversy, and the government is now looking for a different way to administer it. — Reuters

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