Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for allowing me that extra amount of time. I do want to make sure that my remarks today give a complete understanding of the issue we're discussing.
I know there's been a lot of discussion about the Canada student service grant, the now cancelled contribution agreement with the WE organization to administer this program and my personal involvement with the organization. I'm here today to speak to these matters and provide answers to questions that you may have.
I first came to know the WE organization when I became the member of Parliament for Toronto Centre where WE has its headquarters. I attended numerous student events at its offices and came to understand and appreciate its work on behalf of Canadians, both in Canada and abroad.
My daughter, Clare, spoke at WE events, among other venues, about her book documenting the lives of refugee girls. She was never compensated for any of her speeches. All of the proceeds from the book she wrote went to provide university education for refugee girls.
Grace, who joined our family from Uganda in 2010 and who we've raised as our daughter, worked as an unpaid co-op student at the WE organization in February and March 2019 while pursuing a community development degree at university. After graduation, in July 2019, she was hired for a one-month position with WE, and then, after that, was offered a one-year contract as an administrative assistant in its travel department. That contract concludes at the end of August this year.
In the summer of 2017, my wife and daughter Clare travelled to Kenya to learn about WE school projects. Later that same year, I travelled with my family to Ecuador to see and participate in WE's humanitarian work there.
In recent days, our family has conducted a review of our personal records. We found documentation to confirm our payment of expenses for these two trips, including flight and personal hotel costs of approximately $52,000. However, we were unable to locate receipts for any expenses related to WE programming, including accommodation. This was to my surprise. Yesterday, I asked my assistant to reach out to the WE organization regarding these trips, and for WE to provide me with the amount of total expenses incurred. Today, I wrote a cheque in payment of $41,366.
I expected and always had intended to pay the full cost of these trips, and it was my responsibility to make sure that was done. Not doing so, even unknowingly, is not appropriate. I want to apologize for this error on my part.
My practice has always been to personally pay for expenses incurred in my role as finance minister whenever I've believed there to be any perception of potential personal benefit. The error this time, even though I was not travelling in my role as minister, should not have happened.
I can also confirm that my family made two significant donations to the WE organization, each for $50,000. My wife made one in April 2018 to support students in Canada, and another one in June of this year to support COVID-19 relief in Kenya and Canada.
The work that WE and organizations like it do is important to me. For over a decade my family has been passionate about education efforts in Africa and Canada. After our family sponsored Grace to come to Canada for her education, and before I ran for office, our family led the development of a girls' school at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Over the last three years, our family has personally committed over a million dollars to help refugee students from Kenya continue their education in Canada.
As I've stated previously, I participated in deliberations on the Canada student service grant program. I do not believe I had a conflict, although I fully recognize that there are legitimate questions about the perception of a conflict. In hindsight, I should have recused myself from discussions involving the WE organization, and I will do so in the future. Most of all, I regret that not recusing myself has delayed this important support for young Canadians.
Again, I want to apologize for any mistakes I've made in this situation. I'm sorry that they've occurred.
As I said earlier, I participated in the deliberations on the Canada student service grant. I do not believe that I was in a conflict of interest, although I fully recognize that there are legitimate questions about the perception—