Evidence of meeting #24 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 program.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marc Kielburger  Founder, WE Charity
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Miriam Burke
Craig Kielburger  Founder, WE Charity

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

I'd like to call this meeting to order.

This is meeting 24 of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

We continue the current study of questions of conflict of interest and lobbying in relation to pandemic spending.

I'd like to remind you that today's meeting is webcast and will be available via the House of Commons website.

Today we have as witnesses Craig and Marc Kielburger. They are the founders of WE Charity. There are here by parliamentary summons.

They are accompanied by their lawyer, Mr. William McDowell. Mr. McDowell has asked to attend today's meeting to be with his clients. This request has been agreed to by the members of this committee.

Mr. McDowell has also requested standing to deliver an opening statement and to intervene on behalf of his clients. This would be unprecedented. It is not the practice of parliamentary committees, nor has it ever occurred, in my understanding, to allow counsel to speak on behalf of their clients or to be granted permission to raise concerns or objections to questions during the parliamentary proceedings. Of course, there are plenty of examples of counsel being present and being allowed to speak, if, in fact, they are an invited witness. This is not a court of law, and the Kielburgers are not here on trial. Our mandate is to inquire into public policy issues. Today's case is the question of conflict of interest and lobbying in relation to pandemic spending.

Furthermore, testimony before the committee is protected by the privilege of freedom of speech. Nothing said before this committee may be used in court. As participants in the proceedings of Parliament, the Kielburgers enjoy the same privileges that members do.

Having said that, I am prepared to allow counsel to communicate with his clients off the record, either by text or by a separate phone line, or however they choose to communicate. I see they're all in the same room. The committee has agreed that would be the case.

We will be prepared to suspend the meeting, if necessary, so the Kielburger brothers can consult with their lawyer. We will also be prepared to suspend the meeting if these guidelines are not respected.

Mr. Kielburger and Mr. Kielburger, you both now have seven minutes to make your opening statements, and then we'll have some questions for you.

The floor is yours.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Chair, excuse me, I have a point of order.

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

On a point of order, I recognize Ms. Shanahan.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you for clarifying those guidelines.

In that same vein, given that we have not had this study in front of us for some time, could you or the clerk read out the motion outlining the study we have before us?

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

I believe that's been circulated to all members, as well as to the witnesses today. I know members have taken the time to read that, and so we will proceed with the meeting.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Chair.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Yes, Mr. Barrett.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

I just ask that, in keeping with previous practice, the witnesses be sworn in.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

We do have the ability to do that.

Madam Clerk, I wonder if that has been emailed to the witnesses.

I'd ask the witnesses, if they have it handy there, to read it into the record.

Maybe we'll begin with Mr. Craig Kielburger followed by Mr. Marc Kielburger

2:35 p.m.

Marc Kielburger Founder, WE Charity

Mr. Chair, that was not provided to us.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

I believe it was provided to your lawyer, but we will do that now.

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Mr. Chair, it was not provided earlier.

2:35 p.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Ms. Miriam Burke

It's been sent, Mr. Chair, just now.

2:35 p.m.

Craig Kielburger Founder, WE Charity

Are you suggesting that we both check our emails, if it was just sent right now?

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

That would be probably the most efficient way to do this.

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

March 15th, 2021 / 2:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

On a point of order, just for clarification here, because I know our clerk is always very much on the ball in terms of her obligations, did she say she did send them the statement they need to read for swearing in?

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

It has been sent now. I can confirm that. I didn't verify whether or not it had been done before. We'll verify now.

Mr. Marc Kielburger and Mr. Craig Kielburger, do you have a copy of the text?

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

At 2:36 p.m. it was received.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Okay, good.

Could we have you read that into the record now, gentlemen?

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

I, Marc Kielburger, do swear the evidence I shall give on this examination shall be the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God.

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I, Craig Kielburger, do swear that the evidence I shall give on this examination shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you, gentlemen.

The floor is now yours to begin with your opening statement.

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Mr. Chair, I will speak for the full 14 minutes.

We grew up in Thornhill, Ontario. We were taught by our family, like countless young people being taught by their families, [Inaudible-Editor] good for others. Craig was 12 years old when he heard how a young child slave in Pakistan was killed for trying to end child labour. It was a tragic lesson but precious...good is fragile, and those in positions of power can easily hurt others for their own benefit.

When we started a Canadian charity 25 years ago, we were just two teenagers who wanted to do good. Once we launched Free the Children—now WE Charity—we found millions of Canadian kids who also just wanted to do good, to help make the world a little bit better. The charity's mission statement is simple: WE makes doing good doable. For the last nine months, we've sought to be measured in our comments, but the good of a children's charity has been destroyed by political crossfire.

Today, we are taking a stand. We have been disappointed in the conduct of all—

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair. The interpretation has stopped.