Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday September 11, 2020
WE Charity closing Canadian operations, Kielburgers leaving organization
WE Charity is shuttering its Canadian operations and the group’s founders, Craig and Marc Kielburger, will leave the organization entirely, in a dramatic reversal of fortune for the two brothers.
The surprise announcement came Wednesday. In a statement, the charity said it would sell its assets to establish an endowment fund for existing international humanitarian programs and to digitize its education resources in Canada.
The statement attributed the decision to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19pandemic and the continued fallout from its cancelled contract with the federal government to administer a student volunteer program. The agreement to administer the Canada Student Service Grant was first announced in June but was cancelled in July amid growing questions about the group’s connections to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family and his former finance minister.
The controversy has “placed the charity in the middle of political battles and misinformation that a charity is ill-equipped to fight,” the statement said. “As a result, the financial math for the charity’s future is clear.”
Rather than preventing further damage, the decision to scuttle the government contract marked only the beginning. In the past two months, the charity’s founders, senior staff and former board chair have all testified before parliamentary committees. The affair has led to ethics investigations into Mr. Trudeau and his ex-colleague Bill Morneau, who resigned in August. It also brought to light questions about the organization’s governance, work environment and unregistered lobbyingof the federal government.
Since winning government in 2015, Mr. Trudeau has regularly attended WE events. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office said it had no comment on WE’s plans to close its Canadian operations.
In July, the charity announced that it would indefinitely postpone its WE Day events for students, restructure its programs, clarify the roles of its charitable and for-profit arms and conduct an internal review. Less than two months later, it’s taking much more drastic steps.
The double whammy of the pandemic and political firestorm has led to significant financial pressures and a loss of sponsors, the statement said. It also places blame for a lack of future revenue on the continued controversy in Ottawa, which has an indeterminate length. It adds that continuing to operate would consume savings that are “essential to establishing the endowment fund.” (Globe & Mail)