Evidence of meeting #22 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was charity.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sofia Marquez  Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual
Reed Cowan  Donor and Fundraiser, Wesley Smiles Coalition, Free The Children, As an Individual

1:45 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

I believe that WE Charity had a very strong executive team that oversaw a very large organization. The co-founders' role was one that became truly inspiring, to be completely frank, to many of us as employees, and the board of directors always had, to my understanding, an involvement in every single decision and program that came in hand.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Okay. Fast-forward to today, to the end of February 2021 or thereabouts. What's your current engagement with the co-founders of WE Charity?

1:45 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

After the end of my position as director of government and stakeholder relations at WE on July 31, I have not talked to either one of them.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

I want to ask a somewhat pointed question, because this matter was raised today. We've just heard some of my honourable colleagues characterize some of your past work as a “bribe”. Do you agree, Ms. Marquez, with that characterization?

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

On a point of order, I recognize Mr. Carrie.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

To be very clear, I did not characterize it as a bribe. What I did say quite clearly is that the fact that the Minister of Finance still owed over $41,000 to WE Charity “could be perceived” as a bribe.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you, gentlemen. I don't think that's a point of order, but simply a matter of debate.

I will now turn to Madame Gaudreau for her round of questions.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Thank you, Ms. Marquez, for your testimony.

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Marquez, you talked about due diligence. It is understandable that the duties you performed, as well as your education prior to that, led you to be very vigilant in that regard.

As I also understand it, it was the Kielburger brothers who promoted you.

Why were you appointed director of government relations?

1:45 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

I had the educational background and the understanding on educational policy and youth policy that helped the organization understand how to engage best with these individuals.

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Okay.

You were familiar with the principle of due diligence. You also knew that the potential for conflict of interest was there and that you had to consider that key factor.

Did you get a chance to explain to the Kielburger brothers that they needed to be aware of these issues to avoid any conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest, particularly in the event of a contract being awarded?

1:50 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

I did not have a conversation with Craig Kielburger around that theme of information, no.

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Do you feel the Kielburger brothers kept some information from you, despite the fact that you were the director of government relations?

1:50 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

I can't answer that question. Only they can answer that question.

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Do you feel that your position reflected your true value when you were director of government relations?

February 26th, 2021 / 1:50 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

Fulfilled...? Sorry.

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Do you feel that your position reflected your true value when you were director of government relations?

1:50 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

I think I worked with a team of incredible individuals, including the co-founders, on a number of initiatives. What I can speak to is my willingness and ability to do my best every time.

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Did you get the opportunity to ask these questions to ensure that WE Charity would avoid a conflict of interest? Did you approach your superiors, the Kielburger brothers, to ensure that they were engaging in good practices in that regard?

1:50 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

Are you referring to any specific practice? I'm sorry; it's just a very broad question.

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

It includes registering the organization in the Registry of Lobbyists and ensuring compliance with government grant regulations.

1:50 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

Again, as I mentioned and explained in my opening statement, within the role I held, I believed that everything around lobbying and my activities did not reach a point where I felt the need to bring it up several times or at all with the executives, particularly because I understood that the responsibility lay with the executive level at the organization.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Madam Gaudreau.

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you, Ms. Marquez.