Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized on Monday for granting a federal aid program to a private organization that has paid his family at least $220,000, Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail reported on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Trudeau faced increasing calls from both sides of the aisle for him to testify before parliament over his involvement in the federal government’s decision to grant a now-canceled $664 million federal contract to We Charity, an organization that has paid his family members on multiple occasions for speaking engagements.
“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 press conference.
Both Trudeau and Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau apologized on Monday “for not recusing themselves from a cabinet decision about [the We] contract despite their personal and family ties to the organization. Mr. Trudeau’s family members, including his wife, mother, and brother, have been paid to take part in WE Charity events and Bill Morneau’s daughter is a contract employee there,” the Globe and Mail reported.
The Globe and Mail is “a media partner of WE Charity,” the newspaper disclosed in its article on Tuesday.
The Conservative Party of Canada has asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to open a criminal investigation into the incident to determine whether fraud was committed in the government’s granting of the contract to the charity. Conservative members of parliament have demanded Trudeau and Morneau, both members of Canada’s leftist Liberal Party, testify before a parliamentary committee investigating the contract. On July 3, Canada’s ethics commissioner launched an investigation into whether the president violated the nation’s Conflict of Interest Act.
This marks Trudeau’s third ethics investigation since he was elected prime minister in 2015. Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act in both previous instances. The first, in 2017, involved a vacation Trudeau took on a private island owned by the multibillionaire Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslim sect. The second violation occurred last year when Trudeau attempted to protect the engineering company SNC-Lavalin from prosecution in a case that saw a subsidiary of the group “accused of paying bribes to secure contracts in Libya,” the BBC reported.
On July 13, independent research group Angus Reid released a survey that found that “half of Canadians (50%) approved of [Trudeau], while nearly half (48%) disapproved.” The Canadian non-profit says this represents “a slight drop from a high of 55% in May during the height of [the coronavirus pandemic], but [the percentage is] still significantly higher than [Trudeau’s] pre-coronavirus approval rating of 33% in February.”
The company noted that the “intensity of positive versus negative appraisal is striking – twice as many people strongly disapprove (34%) than strongly approve (16%).”