Tuesday March 16, 2021
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday March 16, 2021
Kielburgers accuse MPs of holding political trial during testy committee hearing
Craig and Marc Kielburger accused a parliamentary committee on Monday of engaging in a political trial as its members grilled the brothers over WE Charity’s operations, including its cancelled deal to run a federal program for student volunteers.
The heated exchange saw the Kielburgers accuse political parties of trying to score points at the expense of children around the world — even as they faced pointed questions from members of the House of Commons ethics committee about their own activities.
Marc Kielburger set the tone by forcefully defending the various WE operations set up over the years — a mix of philanthropic and for-profit entities that he suggested were established in response to outdated restrictions on how Canadian charities can operate.
“Let us be clear — this hearing is a trial and a public one at that,” Marc Kielburger said during his opening statement to the committee. “Without recognizing our right to present our own evidence, this committee is trying WE Charity in the court of public opinion and forcing testimony.”
He blasted NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus in particular for having asked the RCMP and the Canada Revenue Agency to look into the organization’s operations, and then publicly posting those requests on social media.
He also took aim at the Conservatives and the Liberal government, which he accused of hiding “behind a children’s charity by letting it take the fall for their political decisions — and the opposition allowed them.”
Throughout the meeting, MPs questioned how the Liberal government and WE agreed to put the charity in charge of a multimillion-dollar program designed to cover the education costs of students who volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also asked questions about the state of WE today.
The brothers were asked to add up the fees they’ve paid to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his family to speak at different WE events over the years, and to respond to allegations that WE engaged in questionable lobbying and fundraising activities
Ethics commissioner Mario Dion is now investigating Trudeau and Morneau for a potential conflict of interest. Both have apologized for not having recused themselves from cabinet discussions of the WE contract.
“We didn’t advise the prime minister and Mr. Morneau not to recuse themselves,” Marc Kielburger said, arguing that WE was not responsible for political choices.
“We never prorogued Parliament. We were not involved in the decision to filibuster this committee last fall. This is a political scandal for the government, not for WE Charity.”
Liberal MP Francesco Sorbara in turn accused the Kielburgers of not taking responsibility for their own actions. “You want to throw blame on everyone else and not take responsibility for things that have happened within your control,” he said. (Continued: CBC)