Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday July 30, 2020
The Kielburgers boys’ self-described ‘labyrinth’ organizational structure is still murky
WE Charity. ME to WE Foundation. ME to WE Social Enterprise. WEllbeing Foundation. Imagine1day. WE 365 LP, and at least two other entities that sound like the prototype numbers for do-gooder androids. There is such a long list of entities in the WE umbrella that the former chair of WE Charity’s board, Michelle Douglas, wasn’t confident enough to say how many.
The brothers clarified that they need to incorporate in every country where they operate. And under Canada Revenue Agency rules, charities can’t operate as businesses in the administration of “social enterprise,” said Craig. So they had to “build a labyrinth to adhere to Canadian laws and regulations.”
Marc later explained the two started the charity when they were children. He said it’s like building a house. “You add a wing, and add a skylight, and add a swimming pool for your kids,” he said. “This wasn’t out of malice.” A global consulting firm, Korn Ferry, has been hired to help streamline the structure.
The Kielburgers said the government was fully briefed on the fact they planned to use a separate nonprofit entity, the WE Charity Foundation—which had been set up to help limit liability—as a party to the contribution agreement. (In the agreement, WE agreed to full liability for participants in the program.)
Former board chair Michelle Douglas, in her testimony, described concerns around the executive team’s refusal to provide substantial financial records that would allow the board to fulfill its functions.
“I did not resign as a routine matter or as part of a planned board transition. I resigned because I could not do my job. I could not discharge my governance duties,” she said in an opening statement.
She described in March, the executive—including Marc and Craig—had not fulfilled requests for evidence, reports or data that could support their rationale for laying employees off during the pandemic. In a March 25 phone call, she alleged that Craig asked for her resignation. She gave it. Most of the rest of the board left the organization shortly thereafter, although Craig claimed in committee that this could be explained by an existing “renewal” process.
Douglas said she had also raised concerns, in early 2018, about the WE Charity Foundation. “The board was never satisfied that the operation of this foundation was in the best interests of the charity or its various stakeholders,” she said, adding her understanding at the time was that the organization was intended to hold property. In their testimony, the Kielburgers dismissed the real estate claim as an inaccuracy, saying there were “multitudes of purposes” for such an entity.
Although Douglas said nothing in the organization’s operations caused her “deep concern,” she described a climate characteristic of “founder-led” organizations: “We were always striving to get greater insight into the work.” (Maclean’s)