Evidence of meeting #45 for Finance in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sir.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michelle Douglas  Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Caroline Bosc
Marc Kielburger  Founder, WE Charity
Craig Kielburger  Founder, WE Charity

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will officially call the meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting 45 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. We are meeting on government spending, WE Charity and the Canada student service grant. Today's meeting is taking place by video conference. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website.

For the information of members—the notice just came out now—on the first panel we will have, as an individual, between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. Ottawa time, Michelle Douglas, former chair of the board of directors of WE Charity. Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger have agreed to come for four hours, from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Ottawa time. They will appear on the second panel.

I'd like to welcome our first witness. Michelle Douglas is a former chair of the board of directors.

Welcome to the committee. We appreciate your appearing. If you could hold your remarks to 10 minutes or less, it would be helpful and would give us more time for questions.

The floor is yours.

12:05 p.m.

Michelle Douglas Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Thank you very much, Chair. Good afternoon, everyone. I'd like to thank you, Chair and members of the committee, for the invitation to appear today.

My name is Michelle Douglas. I'm the former chair of the board of directors of WE Charity. I resigned from WE Charity on March 27, 2020. I was a volunteer with WE Charity for approximately 15 years. For 30 years, I worked as a federal public servant. I retired from the Department of Justice in September 2019 from the role of director of international relations. I'm also a military veteran and I have been a human rights activist for most of my adult life.

My human rights activism emerged as a result of my experience in the Canadian military in the late 1980s. I was fired by the military in 1989. I was a victim of Canada's shameful LGBT purge and endured quite a devastating experience being subjected to horrendous practices designed to rid the military of LGBT people.

My 1992 lawsuit resulted in the formal ending of Canada's armed forces' policy of discrimination against LGBT people. This life-changing experience launched me into a life of human rights activism as a volunteer. I have volunteered on several boards of directors over the past few decades, and volunteerism in service to others is one of the central pillars in my life.

Currently I'm the executive director of a not-for-profit organization that is focused on reconciliation initiatives associated with the LGBT purge. I joined the board of directors of Free The Children in approximately 2005 following a meeting with Marc Kielburger. I'd been inspired by his brother Craig's work as a young teen and I was excited by the prospect of working with an organization that would inspire young people to contribute to a more just, hopeful and loving world.

I was an enthusiastic supporter of Free The Children and later WE Charity. The board that I chaired consisted of dedicated, skilled and committed volunteers. Board members included academics, educators, human rights activists, business people, a chartered accountant, a lawyer and others. In addition to attending board meetings, board members committed a tremendous amount of time to the organization. This took various forms, from regular meetings with the executive team to travelling to see the charity's international operations, to spending time with WE's employees, to attending events such as WE Days.

Given my passion for the organization, it was a difficult decision for me to tender my resignation. 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.

In March, the WE Charity executive team were scrambling to contend with the impacts of the pandemic, and they began to lay off large numbers of staff. As the days went by, the number of job losses grew quickly, into the hundreds. The board felt, of course, a duty to protect the organization and to consider the interests of its stakeholders, including its employees, donors, partners, beneficiaries and others. I convened an ad hoc committee of the board to hold daily calls with the executive team for briefings and updates, and we provided key updates, in turn, to the board at large.

The committee made requests of the WE Charity executive team that we considered necessary for the board to discharge its oversight duties. By March 23, aside from verbal briefings, we had not seen any written evidence, reports or raw data to support the drastic measures that were being taken by the organization. Our oral briefings were focused largely on things like the status of support from sponsors. We were told that the executive team was running daily financial reports to inform their decision-making, but those reports were not shared with the board despite our requests.

It was our view that we could not fire hundreds of people without very strong demonstrable evidence and, even then, that we should explore mitigation measures to save jobs. Instead, the executive team were dismissing employees with great speed and in large numbers.

Given the pace and volume of job losses, the board committee demanded that the executive team produce immediately the documents and reports that were said to be being generated and relied upon on a daily basis. If the organization was making drastic decisions based on daily reports, we needed to see them. The executive team, when asked, did not agree to provide these documents.

On March 25 Craig Kielburger called me to ask that I resign from the board of directors of WE Charity. It was clear that there was a breakdown in trust between the founders and me as the board chair. WE is a founder-led organization, and Marc and Craig Kielburger hold significant power in the organization. As I was not going to be able to discharge my oversight duties, I opted to resign immediately. In an accelerated process, the remainder of the board of directors was replaced—but for one Canadian member and two U.S. board members—in early April. I was not on the board at that time, and therefore cannot speak to the circumstances of their replacement.

Given the nature of these proceedings, I'd like to add the following. Having resigned on March 27, 2020, I have no knowledge whatsoever of the Canada student service grant program. I was involved in some discussions in 2018 with the board of directors that concerned an entity called the WE Charity Foundation. While the entity was established in January 2018, the board was never satisfied that the operation of this foundation was in the best interests of the charity or its various stakeholders. To the best of my knowledge, it was not in operation as of my departure from the board.

The WE Charity board always understood that speakers were not paid by the charity or the related organization to speak at WE Days. The board made direct inquiries on this issue.

As I wrap up my remarks, I want to conclude on two points. My family has been deeply involved in the WE organization for many years. We have fundraised and volunteered. My sister and nephew once worked for the organization. My family values serving others, and WE allowed us to express that value over many years. I know that all of us are saddened by the developments that have led us here today.

Finally, I'd like to affirm my belief in the very good work done by WE Charity. I've always believed in the organization's empowerment of young people to change our world. I've always believed in WE Charity's international development work and life-changing impacts. I've always been grateful for the incredible commitment of the organization's supporters and volunteers. Finally, I've always been inspired by the amazing and selfless professionals, the employees, who work so hard to implement the mission of WE. Those people have my respect and deep thanks.

That concludes my remarks, Chair. Thank you.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Ms. Douglas, for those remarks. I know I speak for the committee when I say thank you for your service to the country through the military, your service as a public servant with the Department of Justice, and your human rights activism, which has been responsible for changing some of the social policy in Canada. Thank you for that.

The speaking order will be Mr. Poilievre, Ms. Koutrakis, Mr. Fortin and Mr. Angus. They will be the first four up.

Mr. Poilievre, you have six minutes.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Thank you for your service to Canada, Madam Douglas, and for your testimony today.

You indicate that the board was told that WE Charity did not pay speakers. Is that correct?

12:10 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

How did they communicate—

12:10 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Let me be more precise: at WE Days.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

At WE Days. Okay.

Were you under the impression that they paid speakers at other events?

12:10 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Employees spoke at other events, and of course they were compensated, but—

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Speaking fees?

12:10 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

No, I don't believe so.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

So, to your knowledge, no one on the board was ever informed that speaking fees would be paid for outside participants to come to WE events and give speeches.

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

At least for WE Days, which was the focus of our inquiries, that was my understanding.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Were you surprised to learn that Margaret, Sophie and Sacha Trudeau received over $300,000 in speaking fees?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I don't know the precise nature of what they were paid for, but if it was exclusively to speak on the WE Day stage, that would have surprised me.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Would it have surprised you if it was to speak at any other event related to the WE Charity?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I never made inquiries into that kind of adjunct or associated area, so I just don't know about that particular aspect.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Did the Kielburgers or WE Charity ever expressly communicate to the board that speakers were not paid for WE Day events?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

They did. Okay.

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Or that may have come from the executive director of the organization, but I know that the board made inquiries into that.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Who was that executive director?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

It was one of two. I can't be precise on the time. It was either Scott Baker or Dalal Al-Waheidi.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Thank you.

The Kielburgers justified their mass layoffs in March on the basis of the financial trouble that they anticipated would be linked to the coronavirus outbreak. Did I understand you correctly when you described that?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Well, they were certainly seized with issues surrounding the impact from the virus, and I know that the organization was being impacted significantly. For example, schools were closing; WE Days had to cease and the ME to WE entity could no longer run trips or have retail operations, so there were significant implications for the organization.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Did the Kielburgers or the management of WE tell the board that was why they were laying off people in March?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Essentially that was a reduced essence of why people were being laid off, yes.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

So the Kielburgers suggested that they were having financial hardship at the time.

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I wouldn't characterize it as financial hardship, but I think they were looking to the future implications of sponsorship, and they were talking to sponsors at the time, but I don't believe they referred to the organization as being in a financial hardship or vulnerable situation.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Is that why you objected to the layoffs?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Well, I objected to the layoffs not as a general matter. Perhaps they were necessary. I objected to the fact that they were being done without the full consultation of the board and without our being provided detailed information that would confirm that it was absolutely necessary to proceed in that way. I accepted what they were saying, but we needed to see the information.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Right.

Did anyone on the board during your time there ever express any concern about WE Charity's payment to other non-arm's-length entities like ME to WE, any numbered companies or any other organizations that were contracted or subcontracted by WE Charity?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Well, the board of directors of WE Charity was quite seized with the issue of looking at transfers to related entities, particularly ME to WE. We required an annual reconciliation report to the board on those transfers. I think we were interested in getting as much information as we could about those transfers, and in this regard, we always invited the executive director of ME to WE to an annual meeting of the WE Charity to kind of provide us with an update and help us understand the reconciliation of funds between the two organizations.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Did anyone on the board ever express—

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This is your last question, Pierre.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

—concerns about those transactions between WE Charity and ME to WE?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I don't think explicit concerns were expressed, but rather requests for enhanced information; that's the way I would put it.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Thank you.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, both.

We turn now to Ms. Koutrakis, followed by Mr. Fortin.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I want to advise you that I will be sharing my time with MP Dzerowicz. Could you please stop me at minute four?

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Will do.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you.

Thank you, Ms. Douglas, for appearing before the committee today. Thank you for your past service and for your continued activism for Canadians at large.

As you stated, you resigned from your position as chair of the board on March 27. While it appears as though the conversation between the federal government and WE Charity on the administration of the CSSG, the Canada student service grant, began on April 7, when Minister Morneau contacted WE as well as a number of other organizations to get their thoughts on the student volunteer program, were you at all aware of the Canada student service grant or similar programs proposed by WE Charity?

12:20 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

While you were in the position as chair of the board, were you aware of any intention by WE Charity to submit a proposal to the federal government?

12:20 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Could you clarify the time period? I was there for a long time. Was it any general submission or specifically regarding the Canada student service—

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Either-or.

12:20 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Grant applications were made to the federal government by WE Charity. I was certainly aware of some of them, but I had no knowledge of their intentions around what became the Canada student service grant program.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Were you aware that there would be a contribution agreement signed between WE and the government at all? Had you heard anything while you were still chair of the board?

12:20 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I had not heard anything about that information or program. I knew nothing about it.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Okay. Thank you for that.

One of the concerns raised in the past has been the idea that a new board of directors may not be best positioned to guide WE Charity in its administration of a program like the Canada student service grant. Would you be able to comment on any policies in place at WE Charity that would ensure the smooth transition of board members?

12:20 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Well, because I was asked to resign by Craig Kielburger and opted to do so immediately as a result of a number of concerns—I would say I had three specific concerns—there was no orderly transition between the old board...or certainly the old board chair, me, and the new Canadian board chair, Greg Rogers. I've met Mr. Rogers before, but I do not know him well. I really have no kind of relationship with him. Unfortunately, the circumstances of my resignation meant that there was no transfer in the ordinary course of information.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

As past chair of the board of WE Charity in Canada, how much say did you have in the overall governance and strategic direction of the organization?

12:20 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Certainly, the board of directors worked as a team. I had the very great honour to be the chair of that board of directors, a position I was very pleased to hold given the amazing people who were there in the team behind me and with me. The board, I would say, has power to make decisions around governance, establish a direction of oversight and so on, and review financial records. As for myself personally, I was just one member of the board, although I met quite regularly with the executive team.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will have to switch over to Ms. Dzerowicz for a couple of minutes.

Julie.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you so much.

Thank you so much, Ms. Douglas, for being here. It's really important. I really appreciate your testimony.

I know you said you volunteered with WE for 15 years, but perhaps you can confirm if you were the board chair for 10 years, right?

12:20 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I actually think it was a little bit longer than that, but my records aren't precise on the point. I would say it was a bit longer than 10 years, but unfortunately I don't have a start date that I could refer you to.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

That's okay.

I have two key questions. I want to focus on what we as a committee are here to do.

One, even though you've left, is there any reason for us to doubt the financial ability of WE Charity to have delivered the Canada student service grant proposal? If they continued to have it, was there any reason from a financial perspective that they would not have been able to deliver it?

12:25 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Well, in the four months from yesterday essentially that I've been away from the organization, I think it's possible that a lot has changed in the financial standing of the organization, but I do not have those details.

Certainly, I did not have immediate questions about the solvency or financial standing of the organization at the time I left, although I certainly deeply appreciated the potential impacts of COVID on the organization from a financial perspective.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

I have only one more question for you.

I think originally our civil servants looked at a number of organizations, and in the short period of time they had, they decided that WE had the best abilities and capabilities and things they were looking for to deliver the Canada student service grant program.

Do you have any doubt that the WE Charity would have been able to deliver the CSSG program?

12:25 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Given the date of my resignation, I didn't know what the scope of the program was at all, so it's really quite impossible for me to explain whether or not they would have been able to deliver it.

I do know that WE Charity had, at one time, certainly many hundreds of employees, but by the time I left, many of those employees were leaving. They had extensive networks both in Canada and in the United States as well as internationally, but insofar as their ability to deliver on that program goes, I just don't know.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you to all three.

We'll turn to Mr. Fortin followed by Mr. Angus.

Mr. Fortin.

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon, Ms. Douglas.

Ms. Douglas, earlier you told us that, as WE Charity was not in the habit of doing so, you would be surprised if Mrs. Margaret Trudeau, the Prime Minister's mother, his wife Sophie Grégoire, or his brother Alexandre Trudeau, were paid. To your knowledge, they were never paid. Is that correct?

12:25 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I didn't make any inquiries into their specific status, but generally the information provided to the board was that no speakers were paid to speak at WE Days.

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Are you aware of the various trips WE Charity offered to certain politicians, including Mr. Morneau?

12:25 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I am aware that a number of people travelled to some of the international development locations, the so-called WE Village locations supported by WE Charity.

As for the list of people who attended, the board did not get into the specifics of every single guest who was attending, whether they were politicians or particularly well-known people. Sometimes we were made aware of them, but not always.

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Okay.

Are you aware of the fact that Mr. Morneau and his wife—and perhaps their daughters too—travelled to places like Kenya with WE Charity in 2017?

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Fortin, the interpreter is having difficulty picking you up. Maybe try raising your mike a little. Try that.

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Okay.

I will repeat my question, Ms. Douglas.

Ms. Douglas, are you aware of the fact that Mr. Morneau, his wife and members of his family travelled to Kenya with WE Charity around 2017?

12:25 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I'm not sure if I have understood the interpreter correctly, so perhaps that's a point for precision, but I was unaware that Minister Morneau had gone to Africa in 2017.

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Last week, Mr. Morneau told us that he had to pay back about $43,000 to WE Charity for his trips to Ecuador and Kenya.

As I understand it, you were unaware that he had to reimburse the charity for travel expenses.

12:30 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Thank you for that precision, Mr. Fortin.

Yes, I was aware that the Minister of Finance made a repayment to WE Charity. I don't precisely know what the details would align or correspond to. I don't quite know about that. I'm aware that he personally, and members of his family, travelled to Equador, and possibly.... I believe other members of his family travelled to Kenya at some earlier date, but I don't know the details of that.

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

However, you do know that he had to pay back about $43,000 in travel expenses. You are aware.

12:30 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I did see that reported, yes.

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Regarding those expenses, do you know if an invoice was issued and sent to Mr. Morneau?

12:30 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I'm not well positioned, as a former member of the board of directors, to know about those details. The executive team undoubtedly would be better placed to address a question like that. I don't know how invoicing systems work.

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

You were the Chair of the Board of WE Charity, after all.

Canada's Finance Minister travelled with the charity. The trip cost about $100,000. They said that he had already paid $50,000 and that $43,000 remained to be invoiced to him. They are no longer sure. Yet these are quite significant expenses for a prominent figure.

Was the board of directors not aware of it?

12:30 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I do know that thousands of people travelled every year to our international development locations and communities with whom we worked closely, but on the actual particulars of payments for family members or costs or elements of their trip, that is not a detail.... The board of directors would see more oversight or aggregate information and not something quite as specific as that.

So I don't know what exactly his invoice would have related to. I was aware that he went to Equador.

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

In your opinion, who at WE Charity could answer these questions?

12:30 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I would expect that the executive director of WE Charity or ME to WE or perhaps the co-founders could answer that question with precision.

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

We know that the Kielburgers are the co-founders.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This is your last question.

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

What is the name of the executive director you are telling us about?

12:30 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

The executive director I'm referring to is Ms. Dalal Al-Waheidi, the executive director of WE Charity. The executive director of ME to WE is Mr. Russ McLeod.

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Ms. Douglas.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will have to end it there.

We'll go to Mr. Angus, followed by Mr. Barrett.

Charlie, you're up.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Madam Douglas. Thank you for your public service. It's really important.

My daughters went to Free the Children when they were, probably, in grades 4, 5 and 6. It changed their lives. My oldest said it set her on a course for human rights activism.

But that's a very, very different group, when they were all young and idealistic, to what we have today, which I find very hard to get my head around—the multiple corporations, the mass real estate dealings, the various what's for profit, what's for public. Therefore, governance is a really, really important question. Governance is super important when we're talking about a deal with the federal government that may be close to a billion dollars. We need governance and oversight.

I'm very concerned about the situation that was happening with your board in March. You said you were trying to get answers; there were mass layoffs taking place. Would you say, in the conversation with Marc Kielburger by teleconference, that he was not forthcoming, that he was getting angry?

12:30 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I had a number of telephone calls during the period of mid-March—actually, I think starting on March 9, but most particularly mid-March—with Marc Kielburger and almost always Dalal Al-Waheidi. I was joined by my U.S. board chair colleague and counterpart Dr. Jonathan White.

Certainly my sense of this is that the organization was feeling intense pressure from the impact of COVID. It was having serious impacts. I mentioned before the closing of schools, the ending of WE Days, the completion of travel and that kind of thing. We were pushing for information. We were told that information was available. We didn't ask for power points or anything new, just simply the information that we were told regularly was being generated on a daily basis. That information was never provided, although we asked.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

We're talking about mass layoffs, hundreds of people, in an organization that is now very much in crisis. Was there a meeting in which Marc Kielburger hung up the phone, and was that what precipitated Craig Kielburger calling you and asking you to resign?

12:35 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I would say there was one particularly dramatic or memorable meeting on or about March 23, when I had asked for the ad hoc committee that I mentioned to be convened. I, the U.S. board chair and two others attended that meeting by phone. I demanded that the executive team produce those records. I gave a short turnaround time, I think later that day or early the next morning. I'll simply say that the call was abruptly concluded.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

So he hung up and then his brother called and asked for your resignation.

The only reason I'm asking to get into this is that the Canadian people have given this organization close to a billion dollars and we need to know that this is an organization that has a proper structure, that it's not just the Kielburger brothers and their family, but that there is oversight. I would say that we were all very shocked that contrary to what the Liberals have been saying on this committee, the WE Charity is not overseeing this program, but a shell company, the WE Charity Foundation. When I look into the WE foundation, I don't see a governance structure in place, other than it looks as though it's people who work for the Kielburgers, and its stated aim is holding real estate. It has no assets.

You said you had concerns about WE foundation. What were your concerns?

12:35 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

The executive team brought forward the idea that a foundation would be a good idea and presented it to the board of directors in approximately 2018. The board had a number of concerns. We simply didn't have enough information.

I considered this matter personally quite deeply, thinking about the interests of stakeholders and contributors to the organization, frankly, and thinking about all the youth who had done fundraising. I wanted to understand in a manner that was crystal clear why such a foundation would exist and what its purpose would be. Ultimately, no resolution was brought before the board to consider whether that should be established. I think the board did not have satisfactory information at that time.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

We have what looks like—

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

It's your last question, Charlie.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

—a holding company set up that the board's trying to get answers about. There's no oversight, and yet this is where the Kielburger brothers decide to funnel $900 million. It certainly protects them from liability, but there is no oversight mechanism, as far as I can see. Would you say that's a fair understanding of how this foundation is set up?

12:35 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I don't know the particulars of the structure around this foundation, so I'm really not well placed to talk about its capacity to do any work. I just don't know enough about it.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

But it had no history.

12:35 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

It did not to my knowledge.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, Mr. Angus.

I do, I think, have to point out, Mr. Angus, that you said this charity had been given a billion dollars. I wouldn't want there to be improper information out there. Basically, the government would provide up to $912—

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

It was nine hundred and twelve million. You're so correct, Mr. Chair.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

—million to be funnelled through on the CSSG grants, from which they would be provided an administration fee of $43 million, just so the record is absolutely clear on this controversial issue.

We'll go to Mr. Barrett, followed by Mr. Fraser.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you, ma'am, for your testimony today and for your service to Canada in uniform, of course, and in the public service as well.

What was your understanding of the purpose of establishing the WE Charity foundation?

12:40 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

At the time the board considered the matter, it was said to be for the possible purpose of holding real property assets, but I don't have a memory of its object or purpose beyond that.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

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

Are you aware of how many entities exist under the WE banner or are operated by the founders? There are a number of these: charities, foundations, numbered companies. Do you know how many there are?

12:40 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

If you put it that way, I don't know the actual number, no.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

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

Do you have an estimation that you'd be prepared to offer?

12:40 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I'm not sure I could provide that with any precision. Certainly, the organization will be better placed to provide that kind of information.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

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

Okay.

Does the board have any oversight of any of those entities?

12:40 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I don't think there's specific oversight. If there's a related corporation that requires our oversight—here, I'm thinking of the organization Imagine 1 Day, which was kind of integrated into the WE Charity organization. There was a separate board constructed, but most entities would have their own standing board of directors.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

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

So, in your understanding, who oversees or controls the WE Charity Foundation?

12:40 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I don't know those details because I was not involved in setting up the entity, in any detail. I was aware it existed, of course—it's referred to in the 2018 audited financial statements—but it's my understanding that, at that time, it hadn't had any operations.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

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

Can you explain what role a founder has in this organization, if the founder is not an executive director or a trustee or a CFO? Where does “founder” fit in, in the organizational chart?

12:40 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Well, I think it's a titular title that someone would have who establishes or is the founder of an entity. In this case, they had significant governance power because the bylaws allowed them to make decisions on essentially dismissing the board of directors, or obligated the board of directors to refer to the founders and inform and consult them on significant directional shifts in the organization. So the founders did have governance power in that sense. Certainly Marc Kielburger, and rarely Craig Kielburger, attended most board of director meetings with the executive director.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you. I want to circle back to the subject of the board.

I want to ask you about a June 2019 article that was published in CANADALAND. I'm sure you're familiar with it.

I'd like to know if you are familiar with it, and specifically if you're aware of any allegations of abuse or bullying at the charity. That article did detail specific allegations by former employees of the organization and some of their experiences and comments related specifically to Mr. Marc Kielburger. Are you aware of any of that?

12:40 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

The board of directors looked into this quite significantly. We were troubled by what we had read and wanted to know the facts about the situation. We did have a number of meetings, or some meetings, about this. We asked for an accounting from the executive director. We had the benefit of reading reports from the organization.

Later, to bring it to today, I saw others reporting concerning allegations. This didn't feel very good to me in the sense that I'm troubled if someone did not have a good employee experience, but I personally never saw anything from Marc that directly concerned me.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We'll have to end it there.

Sorry, Mr. Barrett.

We turn now to Mr. Fraser followed by Mr. Cooper.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you very much, Ms. Douglas, for joining us today. Thank you for your service. Might I just add that the LGBT purge in the military is a stain on our nation's history that I continue to be ashamed of? I am just so sorry for your experience in that regard.

12:45 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Turning to the matter at hand, I have a couple of questions about what the ordinary practice would look like. You said you have no personal knowledge of the Canada student service grant.

Over the past number of years as a local MP or in my role as a parliamentary secretary, I've dealt with proposals that come in from groups who want to do this or that or who have an idea. Some of them, frankly, are pipe dreams from people who have no experience putting proposals together. Others come from well-established organizations with national reputations that can actually turn into great ideas.

I wonder if you could, just in your own words, describe what an ordinary process would be like for the WE Charity to provide a proposal to a provincial or federal government.

12:45 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Right. This was very much a process managed by staff at the organization. They would be identifying needs and the opportunity to potentially fill a need by providing services, or looking for open calls for grants and things of that nature. The actual working process of this was done internally, so I think the next witnesses could provide more oversight or more information on that.

But there was process, and the staff would normally work that up. If it were quite a substantial grant—for example, one grant of $3 million—the board would be well informed about that.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Okay.

Obviously, some internal work would go into developing some kind of proposal to meet these social needs that the charity would identify. I intend to ask this same question of our next panellists: In terms of the pitch that would eventually be made to government, who would normally be involved in that kind of process?

12:45 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

From my understanding, and I didn't see this up close and directly, it would be managed by the executive director, who would have overall responsibility. We did have a government relations expert within the organization.

As for the actual pitch, potentially Marc or Craig Kielburger may be involved, but I think it just depended on the scope and size of the proposal.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Sure. That's helpful information.

On the government relations side of things, one thing I find both interesting and a little bit curious about WE as an organization is that a lot of the charities I deal with go through great pains to remain non-partisan. I find that WE Charity has been, if anything, multipartisan. They embrace governments of different political stripes. We've had pictures of different MPs and party leaders with the Kielburger family at WE Charity events.

I'm curious if this was a strategy that was actually adopted by the board, or was it something that was done independently by the founders of the organization? Could you shed some light on that multipartisan approach to program development and government relations?

12:45 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Yes. This was not a matter that was discussed extensively by the board, but it was always our view, at least on the board of directors, that we were indeed non-partisan, which had the potential of engaging any government—provincial, municipal or federal. Certainly, I did not see this as multipartisan, but rather non-partisan, as an organization.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Sure. I don't mean to suggest there would an effort to ingratiate the organization with one party or another, but only that there was seemingly a complete lack of fear about engaging with different parties and governments.

What I am essentially trying to figure out here is the tie between how the organization would develop these pitches and use contacts that they may have developed through this government relations strategy to actually get the attention of decision-makers on different potential policies. It seems as though a mix of different processes may have been used, with some internal development and some informal outreach, and eventually some conversation between someone at the organization and the government.

From what you've seen or have learned about the Canada student service grant, I am curious to know whether the origin story of this program is reflective, in your opinion, of other programs that perhaps were successfully funded by different governments at different levels.

12:50 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I just can't compare them to anything that's currently before your committee around the Canada student service grant. I just don't think I have enough experience on the application process to be useful to you in answering that.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will have to end it there, Sean.

Mr. Cooper and Mr. Fragiskatos, you will have about four and a half minutes each.

Mr. Cooper, the floor is yours.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Great. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Ms. Douglas, for your testimony and for your service to country.

I want to ask you a little bit about the circumstances surrounding the resignations of other board members following your resignation as chair. Can you provide any insight into that? Was it out of support for you or concern with the layoffs that were taking place without proper or transparent reporting to the board?

12:50 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Well, I don't have particular insight on how they may have expressed themselves to each other, or indeed back to the organization, exactly how they would characterize their departure, but there was a process. We had had ongoing discussions with the organization. In fact, the board set up kind of a rotational cycle as a good practice for moving people along in a staggered kind of.... Not everyone would leave at the same time in a given year. People understood their rotational cycle for service.

In my opinion, the change of the board, the replacement of most on the board, happened in an accelerated way. I know that the members of the ad hoc committee did have concerns. We spoke in solidarity to Marc Kielburger and to Dalal Al-Waheidi in making those demands.

As for the precise nature of how they would characterize their resignation, I just don't know. I do know that on March 9, I was asked to stay on at least another year by co-founder Marc Kielburger.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Then three weeks later, you were gone.

12:50 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

What about the characterization that this was part of some sort of reorganization? Based upon what you know, you would, I take it, disagree with that characterization.

12:50 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Yes. I did not see this as being in the ordinary course, and I resigned because I felt I had to.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Have you had conversations with the other former board members since?

12:50 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I've had a few conversations, yes, with some former board members. I've never had conversations again with Marc Kielburger, Dalal Al-Waheidi or—

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay. The bottom line is that this is all very unusual. There was an upheaval in the organization in March.

12:50 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

It was a concern to me. I did have a number of concerns, yes.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

In terms of the number of employees who were being laid off, you said it was in the hundreds in a matter of weeks. Can you just explain, in terms of the scale of the organization, what that represents?

12:50 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

As we were receiving oral briefings, I heard numbers that literally changed every day. I believe the first number I heard on or about March 9 was 35. Then it moved up to approximately 100. Some of these numbers are combined with those for ME to WE, so they're not exclusively for the WE Charity. Eventually, it entered into the several hundreds—more than 400 at least.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

That would be out of 1,000 or 1,500...?

12:55 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Approximately 1,000.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Just to be clear, then, almost half the employees were gone in a matter of weeks.

12:55 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I think the organization could provide greater precision on that point.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This will be your last question, Michael.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay.

I think you cited in your testimony three specific reasons for your resignation. I don't know that you stated those.

12:55 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

The first, I would say, Mr. Cooper, is that employees were being laid off and the board did not have enough information to provide oversight.

The second reason, I would say, is that we were being denied access to the chief financial officer. We had sought two meetings with them, and they were both cancelled. We asked to also participate as kind of observers in a virtual meeting where many employees were going to be explained the upcoming layoff process.

Finally, I had concerns that in the midst of the crisis, Marc Kielburger travelled twice to Kenya, in a very short period of time, for reasons I don't fully understand. I asked the executive director to explain this to me. I did not receive a satisfactory answer.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, both.

You'll have the last round of questions, Mr. Fragiskatos. Then we'll have to let Ms. Douglas go.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Douglas, I echo the comments of my colleagues. Thank you for your extraordinary service to this country and for your activism. It's admirable, to say the least. Thank you for taking the time to come to our committee today.

I do have limited time, and I want to ask you two or three questions.

The first question relates to your time at WE. Obviously, 15 years is a very long time with the organization. During that time, did you find or see any irregularities, financial or otherwise, that were of concern to you, or have any other sort of lingering questions about WE Charity?

12:55 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

I never saw anything about the integrity of the organization that caused me deep concern. I always felt, though, that it was my duty, especially where there are inherent tensions between co-founder-led organizations and a board of directors, to always push for enhanced forms of oversight and transparency in an effort to be better, but not because something was deeply concerning. We were always striving to get greater insight into the work.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

It's quite normal to see that back and forth between an executive and a board.

To clear it up—and I think you've been extremely clear with our committee—you recently spoke to The Globe and Mail and said that you left the organization over “concerning developments” that were transpiring. As we have heard, these relate to disagreements over WE's current direction, at least in March, and its future direction regarding the course forward. They had nothing to do with the Canada student service grant and nothing to do with the contribution agreement that WE eventually signed with the federal government. Is that correct?

12:55 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

That's right.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

I have a final question for you, and I know others have asked this as well. The organizational structure of WE is a complex one. For example, we have WE Charity, but then it's broken down into various parts. There's WE Charity (U.S.); WE Charity Canada, obviously; WE Charity (U.K.); the ME to WE Foundation; WE Well-being Foundation; WE Well-being Foundation America; We365 LP; We365 Holdings; We365 GP Inc.; Imagine 1 Day International Organization; and ME to WE Social Enterprise. I'm just listing them here from the page in front of me. It's, again, a question that's been asked by Charity Intelligence and other watchdogs of the charity sector. Why is there this organizational structure? It's very complex, very intricate. Do you have any insights on that?

12:55 p.m.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors, WE Charity, As an Individual

Michelle Douglas

Certainly I would acknowledge that there are many entities associated with the WE brand generally. The prevailing work of the WE Charity board was to focus on the areas we had responsibility for. But certainly we were linked by things such as branding, or potentially by connections of closely related individuals. The board was always interested in getting more insight, more information and details about these relationships and entities. I expect, had I continued to serve, that it is an area I would have continued to push on. Obviously, the co-founders are best placed to explain the complex structure that was established.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you very much.

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you both.

Ms. Douglas, we have another panel, which you're very aware of. On behalf of the committee, I re-emphasize my remarks from the beginning. Thanks for your service to this country in many roles, in the human rights aspect around the world, as well, and specifically in Canada.

With that, again we thank you for appearing. We thank you for answering our questions.

We will suspend for about three minutes to give the clerk time to test the mikes of our next witnesses. The meeting is suspended for three minutes.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

All right.

We'll call the meeting to order. All the technicalities are out of the way.

We are meeting on government spending, WE Charity and the Canada student service grant. Just for everyone's information, the meeting is taking place by video conference, and proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website.

We'll now start our second panel of today.

I'd like to welcome Craig and Marc Kielburger, the founders of the WE Charity.

Thank you both for agreeing to take the four hours.

For the information of committee members, because a four-hour meeting is somewhat unusual, the Kielburgers had initially asked for 20 minutes during the two-hour session. We responded that the maximum we'd allow them was 10 minutes, but now that we're doing four hours, I've decided that it's quite fine to do the 20 minutes, which still give us lots of time for questioning.

With that, we are ready to start, with the exception that, I believe, you wanted to be sworn in, and so I'll turn that over to the clerk.

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I'd simply ask that the 10 minutes that we have now consumed on technical things not be subtracted from the four hours of testimony that the committee obliged of the witnesses. We will be at 1:10 when proceedings begin. Thank you.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Yes, we can see where we're at on that. I would say as well, though, that I believe it's proper that we probably take a five-minute break at the two-hour period. Four-hour straight testimony is pretty gruesome, and we all may need a washroom break by that time.

Madam Clerk, would you do the next procedure.

1:05 p.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Ms. Caroline Bosc

Welcome.

We'll ask you to now, one after the other, take the oath or affirmation. You can repeat the text that is in front of you. Please speak clearly and loudly so that everyone can hear.

1:10 p.m.

Marc Kielburger Founder, WE Charity

My name is Marc Kielburger. I 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.

1:10 p.m.

Craig Kielburger Founder, WE Charity

My name is Craig Kielburger. I 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.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay. Thank you both.

We will now turn the floor over to you. If you can hold it as very tight as you can in terms of time length, that would be great.

The floor is yours. Welcome.

1:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Thank you.

Good afternoon.

My name is Craig Kielburger and this is my brother Marc.

First, thank you, Mr. Chair. We will remain within the 10 minutes, in fact. We are grateful to the rest of the committee. We've been looking forward to this opportunity to speak with you here today.

Over the past few weeks, our team has responded to thousands of questions from the media. We have posted dozens of documents online, including an annotated version of the Canada student service grant contribution agreement and information on WE Charity's programs, operations and finances.

Along the way, we have announced that additional experts will analyze our systems to streamline our organizational structure, further improve our governance and focus our efforts to help the most vulnerable children around the globe.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Point of order, Mr. Chair.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Excuse me, gentlemen.

What's your point of order, Mr. Cooper?

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I just want to raise it, at this point, to the degree that my point of order could impact upon...or should either of the witnesses wish to rephrase or reframe any aspect of their presentation.

Given the large number of organizations the Kielburger family is affiliated with or otherwise connected with, from now until the end of this meeting, when Conservative members make reference to WE or your organization, unless otherwise stated, we are referencing, in the broadest way possible, any corporation, company, partnership, organization, association, entity or upper structure, including, but not limited to, WE Charity, WE Charity Foundation, ME to WE, ME to WE Social Enterprise, ME to WE Foundation—

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I'm going to interrupt you, Mr. Cooper. I do not believe that's a point of order; I think it's a point of information.

I will remind you that we are meeting on government spending, WE Charity and the Canada student service grant. That's what the motion we're dealing with as a committee is on. The Kielburger brothers can take your comments as information.

We'll go back to you, Mr. Kielburger. Go ahead.

1:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Twenty-five years ago, we started WE Charity as teenagers because we believed young people have much to offer through service. We still hold this belief.

There is a crisis in Canada's charitable sector. Over the past 30 years, Canada has seen steadily declining rates of civic engagement and reached a record-low percentage of Canadians donating to charity.

WE Charity sought to reverse this trend by launching WE Schools, active in 7,000 Canadian schools, to educate and inspire young people to learn about causes, volunteer for the first time in their lives and fundraise to make an impact for thousands of charities across the country.

Through WE Day, over one million youth earned their free ticket through logging over 70 million hours of service. Youth joined us to build 1,500 schools and classrooms in developing countries around the world, educating over 200,000 kids in clean water and medical programs, reaching over a million beneficiaries.

We launched ME to WE Social Enterprise because traditional models of charity are too limited in Canada. Its purpose is to help end poverty overseas. We create empowering jobs and bring to market fair trade and socially conscious products, helping mostly women entrepreneurs. Although its purpose was never simply profit, since its founding in 2008, 100% of profits from ME to WE Social Enterprise have been donated to WE Charity or reinvested to grow the social mission: every single penny.

This model is called a social enterprise. It's common in Europe, but in Canada the Canada Revenue Agency limits a charity's ability to operate a business model as a solution to solving social problems. In 2019 the Senate of Canada released a report that recommended that the government recognize and reconsider those restrictions for charitable and non-profit organizations. We strongly support that recommendation. With such a change, we would have simply started ME to WE Social Enterprise as a charity.

We acknowledge that over 25 years, our organizational structure has grown overly complex. Our model is different, sometimes misunderstood and, yes, far from perfect, but our purpose has always been social innovation to better Canada and the world.

WE Charity is a non-partisan organization. We have worked with federal and provincial governments of every party across Canada. We have welcomed politicians of all stripes to the WE Day stage, including Conservative MP Mike Lake and then NDP premier Rachel Notley. We're grateful to the previous government that Laureen Harper hosted the WE Day after-reception at 24 Sussex.

Over the years, thousands of stories have been shared on the WE Day stage. We invite individuals to speak who can inspire youth to volunteer and serve, which is what our mission is all about.

WE Charity agreed to implement the Canada student service grant not to be helped by government but to help government and to help young people across Canada. This program was developed in the midst of a global pandemic, when governments and the private sector were scrambling. Some have suggested that WE Charity was in dire financial straits prior to the CSSG, and that it somehow motivated our actions. It simply isn't true, because, like many Canadian non-profits and businesses, we had already taken difficult actions to adjust staff members and to pivot our programs to the new realities of COVID, as you heard a moment ago.

My comments about that time are not false bravado. As we see the organization today, I acknowledge that the fallout now from this political process has resulted in serious challenges that risk the entire organization and our 25 years of work.

As you heard in previous remarks to this committee from Rachel Wernick and the Clerk of the Privy Council, we were not chosen for this work by public servants because of our relationship with politicians. We were chosen because we were willing to leverage every part of our 25 years of experience and to build this program at the breakneck speed required to have an impact for Canadian youth over the summer.

WE Charity had experience in this area. We had previously built two large-scale youth service programs. When Ontario introduced the mandatory 40 hours of community service, we developed a program for many school boards across the province. The College Board, which is the largest U.S. association of colleges and universities, selected WE Charity three years ago to develop a national U.S. service program across all 50 states.

I'll turn now to the contribution agreement itself. As per the contribution agreement, WE Charity would only be reimbursed for its costs to build and administer the program. To be clear, there was no financial benefit for the charity. WE Charity would not have received any financial gain from the CSSG program, and it's simply incorrect to say otherwise. The contribution agreement had proper oversight built in, with some 13 references to audits, and taxpayers were protected. Our team worked incredibly hard to build and launch the CSSG as a national bilingual service program. The results were evident within the first week, with 35,000 youth applications from every province and territory, 83 non-for-profit coalition partners, and 24,000 and increasing service roles.

But the program quickly got pulled into politics. We handed the built system, technology, even the call centre, to the public service, hoping to save the program. We declined any reimbursement for our costs. We thought our actions would enable the program's long-term survival, and we are deeply saddened that it did not. We also regret that the fallout has created hardship for our staff, our partners and the communities we serve.

When Employment and Social Development Canada asked us to administer the Canada student service grant, we regret that we didn't recognize how this decision would be perceived. We would never have picked up the phone when the civil service called, asking us to help young Canadians get through the pandemic, if we had known the consequences: that young people would not get the help they need now and that 25 years of WE Charity's programs helping millions of youth would be in jeopardy.

We are most sorry for the students of Canada. We know that this pandemic has put so many in dire straits, unsure of whether they will be able to continue their education or even pay their rent. This committee heard yesterday about MPs' offices being flooded with emails and calls from students desperate for help. These students should be volunteering, serving their country and receiving critical support for their education.

We respect this process and we are happy to participate. We hope the people of Canada will have their questions answered about how the contract came about and what the value of money would have been. We also hope that as soon as it concludes, all of us—non-profits, governments and all Canadians—can get back to helping the students of Canada get the support they need to get through this time of national crisis.

Mr. Chair, thank you for the opportunity to share those words. We appreciate that. We are ready for your questions.

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you to you both.

The first round of questions will be a six-minute round. We will start with Mr. Poilievre and then go to Ms. Dzerowicz, Mr. Fortin and Mr. Angus.

Mr. Poilievre, the floor is yours.

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Marc, you were caught on tape describing an April 23 call with the Prime Minister's Office. You quoted that office as telling you the following: “You know that announcement we just made, would you be interested in helping us actually implement it?" You now deny that call. Was it a figment of your imagination?

1:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Mr. Poilievre, the call you're speaking about was to a group of potential non-profit partners. We were very excited about the prospect of the program. I got a little bit ahead of myself. I didn't have the full details. I misspoke. As soon as I realized I misspoke and it was brought to my attention, I apologized, and I do apologize again.

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Sir, the Prime Minister's Office never called you, and you never called the Prime Minister's Office, on April 23?

1:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, that is very much correct. The Prime Minister's Office never did call us. Craig has the details. He was the one who was having the conversations.

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

I got it. That's all I needed to know.

1:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will let the witness answer the question.

Go ahead, Marc.

1:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Mr. Chair, thank you.

Because we are together for, I believe, a relatively unprecedented four hours, we just want to make sure we can provide as much context as possible so the answers to the questions can be provided with full context.

Craig has the most specific details, sir, to those conversations because he was the one who was leading them. Thank you.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

All right, so you just imagined a call on a specific date with specific words spoken, and you recounted words that were spoken on the date of a call that just didn't happen.

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, what I shared was, again, incorrect. I shared that we had an opportunity to share this message. I was very excited. Craig, again, had the details, and part of today is going through all those details with you in a very specific manner. Again, I apologize. I was just very excited about the program.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Got it.

The National Post obtained a memo in which, Marc, you said, and I quote, “I'm thrilled to share that we have been invited by the Prime Minister and Canadian Heritage to host a unique WE Day event in Ottawa on Canada Day weekend, 2017.” Then Justin Trudeau personally called you, or was it Craig who got the call from Justin Trudeau?

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, I'm happy to speak to that question.

It was in regard to the fact that the Prime Minister had announced $200 million for funding supporting organizations across Canada for national celebrations for Canada 150. Canadian Heritage was the group that we engaged with. We submitted a formal proposal through Heritage and that was—

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Right. That wasn't the question. That wasn't the question.

The question was, did the Prime Minister personally call? That's the wording of the statement. You were thrilled that “we have been invited by the Prime Minister...”, so that was another imaginary interaction with the Prime Minister's Office, or with the Prime Minister himself.

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, if I may respond—

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Go ahead.

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I can say with certainty that neither Marc nor I has ever, in 25 years, received a phone call from the Prime Minister on this topic.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Okay, thank you.

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

In fact, when people—

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

That's all. That's quite—

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Poilievre, we are going to allow the witnesses.... They're here for four hours, so we will allow them to answer—

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Yes, and also focus on the questions asked.

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

—in relatively equal time.

Go ahead, Craig.

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We understand the politically sensitive nature of the moment, but typically when people say that Heritage Canada, the Prime Minister, in the midst of a moment on Canada's 150th anniversary, has invited you to engage, it was in relation to the fact that the Prime Minister—

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Okay. Did you, Craig, speak to anyone in the PMO? Did you speak to anyone in the PMO on April 23?

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Mr. Chair—

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Did you speak to anyone in the PMO on April 23?

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

—we're happy to be here for four hours, but—

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Great. Answer the question, then.

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, with great respect, we—

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

On April 23, did you speak to anyone in the Prime Minister's Office?

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Order. We're going to lose more time rather than gain more time.

The question has been asked, Mr. Kielburger, if you could answer it.

I'll not take this time away from you, Pierre, but there is a little bit of trouble with your microphones somehow, fellows. I don't know if you have to speak more slowly or what, but it's coming through a little jumpy.

Could you answer Mr. Poilievre's question?

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I'd be happy to answer any question with the appropriate time. Would you repeat your question?

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Yes, I'll repeat it for the fifth time. Did you speak to anyone in the Prime Minister's Office on April 23, yes or no?

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

No, I did not.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Thank you very much.

Did Margaret Trudeau get paid for her presentation at the July 2, 2017, Canada 150 event?

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, we've checked our records. We have no record of payment for her for that event.

Just to further elaborate, that—

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Thank you. You were very clear, and I appreciate the answer.

Did Sacha, Margaret or Sophie Trudeau ever get paid to speak at a WE Day event?

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sacha, Margaret or Sophie Trudeau were paid, yes. In fact, can I take a moment to speak to this?

We appreciate—

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

No, you did answer the question. I appreciate the answer—

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

No, we will allow them time to answer.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

They answered already.

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

No, he asked for more time, and I'm giving him more time.

Go ahead, Mr. Kielburger.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Okay, take it off your clock.

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We were originally asked the question in the crush of literally hundreds of media questions that we received in the context of the CSSG, which was a government-funded program, and we made the statement that WE Charity had never provided funding to a member of the Trudeau family to speak at WE Day. At the time, we believed that statement to be true.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Fair enough.

1:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

However, if I may, there's the social enterprise, which provided that information. We should have been, and allow me to say this candidly, more forthright in acknowledging that the social enterprise provided sponsorship. When it was brought to our attention that there were errors in the billing, we acknowledged it. We acknowledged it in national newspaper ads and we apologized.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Yes, okay, fair enough; none of this is related to my question. I trust the chair is not taking this from my time.

In addition to the speaking fees that the Trudeaus have received, what is the total amount your organizations, including WE but not limited to it, have paid in expenses, benefits, reimbursements, fees or any other consideration, in kind or monetary, for Sophie Trudeau?

1:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, I'm happy to do that.

It's part of our regular course of activities that when a speaker does come, of course we speak to their compensation—

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Sir, just give a dollar figure, please.

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will allow witnesses to answer how they so decide. The witnesses have the floor.

1:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Within the normal course of business, of course, when people do come to WE Day, we also provide them with reimbursement for their direct costs. The information we have readily available, to the best of our knowledge, sir, is that Sacha, or Alexandre, Trudeau came to eight WE days over a span of two years. The average expense was $2,447.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Was that per event?

1:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

No. It came to a total of 28 WE days over a span of five years, specifically speaking on the issue of mental health. From 2016 to 2022, including groups like We Day in the United Kingdom, which of course had an impact on the costs, the average expense there was $5,998. Sophie Trudeau came to a total of seven WE Days over a span of three years. The average expense was $3,618.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Can you just add up those expenses into totals for each of them?

1:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, I don't have a calculator in front of me.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Well, to average them, you must have had the total. You need a numerator to divide it by a denominator.

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will not get into numbers on the fly.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Oh, of course not, Wayne. I'm sure you don't want to.

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will ask them to provide the totals when they can, shortly after the meeting, if necessary.

This is your last question.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

What is the total amount that your organizations, including WE but not limited to it, have paid in expenses, benefits, reimbursements, fees or any other consideration, in kind or monetary, for all of the Trudeau family members?

1:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, we'd be happy to provide that to you, as the chair asked, right after the conversation. That's no problem at all.

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you.

I'm going to ask you fellows to bring your mike a little closer. The interpreters are still having some difficulty.

We will now to turn to Ms. Dzerowicz, followed by Mr. Fortin.

Go ahead, Julie.

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our two presenters today. Thank you for your presentation. Thank you for making yourselves available for four hours; it's highly unusual, so thank you for that.

I also want to say thank you for the tremendous positive impact that WE Charity has had on engaging youth not only across our country but around the world, and for all the amazing work WE Charity has done to reduce poverty. Thanks for all of that.

A lot of misinformation and false narratives are being floated around. I'm going to try to get to some facts, because I think Canadians who are listening need to get to those facts.

First, we're hearing a lot about a “billion-dollar” contract. It gives the impression that WE was getting a billion dollars and that this was the agreement with the government.

Indeed, can you confirm that it was actually about a $543-million contract contribution agreement with the government to deliver the Canada student service grant, with up to $43.5 million going to WE and up to $500 million going to students? Can you confirm that?

1:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Yes, we can confirm that.

I would like to provide a little bit of context, because it's an incredibly helpful piece of context that has been unfortunately misshared.

Number one, the first time we heard about the $912 million was when it was announced. We had never been privy to that information before.

Second, the contract was “up to”, as you very correctly said, $543 million.

Number three, the “up to” is relevant both to the young people who would be participating and in terms of their volunteer service hours, and also relevant to the organization. This was a contribution agreement based on eligible expenses for eligible expenditures. The organization did not stand to financially benefit from this. It was basically an amount of money we received. Anything we received we'd have to use for the program or otherwise return to the government.

The other misconception here is that it really was “up to” the $500 million for young people to do service. Based on our modelling, the average young person may have done 100 hours, 200 hours; maximum 300 hours of service. Very few would have received the 500 hours of $5,000, so the true cost of this program would likely have been in the range of $200 million to $300 million.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Just very quickly, because I have a few more questions and very little time, in the way the contribution agreement was set up, WE Charity was not going to benefit from it. It was only to administer the program.

1:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

That is correct.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

How much money was actually sent to WE? Can you confirm that all those dollars will be coming back?

1:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

A total of $30 million was sent to WE, based on the ESDC process. As soon as this program was put into a political nature, we immediately decided that we would not be taking any of those funds. That was a decision that the organization made. We'd be losing approximately $5 million in this process. It was a very painful, difficult decision, but we felt under the circumstances that it was the right thing to do.

Yes, all the dollars have been or will be sent back. That's a process that's been under way this week.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you. I appreciate that.

Again, we're hearing from the opposition that it was as though the Prime Minister or a minister called WE and said, “Hey, do you want to do this sort of volunteer program?”

Can you just confirm that the first time you heard about, potentially, the need for a volunteer program being delivered nationally for students was on April 19, by Rachel Wernick of ESDC?

1:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I'm happy to confirm that.

Ms. Wernick sent me an email. She had previously been to our offices three years ago. We've had multiple ESDC partnerships over the years. She's very familiar with our work. She asked for an urgent phone call and in that phone call she outlined the idea of a national service program. She asked if we would be willing to assist and if we would provide her with a proposal for her consideration. In that same phone call, I outlined that we were, in fact, on a completely different proposal, a different matter. In fact, I even expressed some reservations, but we sent this to her nonetheless, as per her request, on April 22. It was Rachel Wernick's request, and we fulfilled the civil servant's request.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

I have just two quick questions.

My sense is that there were a number of other organizations being considered, so the question to you was whether you would be interested in delivering this proposal and putting in a proposal. It wasn't, “Hey, you've got the deal.” It was kind of, “Would you be interested? Is this something you'd be interested in doing?” Is that what was presented?

April 22 is when the Prime Minister made the big announcement about $9 billion of aid to students. You submitted the proposal that same day. It was a very quick turnaround. Was the proposal based on the basic outline that Ms. Wernick provided to you on April 19?

1:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

That is correct. Ms. Wernick provided the policy objectives, and we fulfilled them through the proposal.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you very much.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This is your last question, Julie.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

There is another thing that I'm a bit unclear about. I see the contribution agreement in front of me, and it was signed on May 5. Was it signed on May 5, or did the agreement begin on May 5? If you could, just explain the logistics around all of that.

1:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Thank you for asking.

The agreement technically began on May 5. We were working in advance with ESDC, putting in resources to help develop the program. The turnaround time was so tight and we were, of course, so passionate about helping young people at this time, that we got to work right away with the full risk and understanding that if this agreement did not go forward, we would be at the financial risk of doing so. We accepted that risk because we really wanted to help.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We are going on to Mr. Fortin, followed by Mr. Angus.

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon, Mr. Kielburger.

As you know, we do not have much time. You will forgive me for skipping the formalities and getting right to the point.

On the morning of Mr. Morneau's appearance last week, we learned that he wrote a cheque to WE Charity for about $43,000 to reimburse it for travel expenses.

Did you actually receive that cheque?

1:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Yes, we did.

If I may clarify, it was a greater amount than the cost of his trip, but he based it on what conceivably a trip like that would have cost. I just want to correct a bit of the public record on that. WE Charity did not spend that to host him, but we did receive the cheque of that value, yes.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Had you billed Mr. Morneau that amount?

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We did bill Mr. Morneau when his office approached us very recently to seek clarification on what the cost of the trip would have been.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

When was that?

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

That would be prior to his testimony.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Can you tell us what the date was?

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Mr. Chair, if you could simply let us know the date of his testimony, or the clerk could, we could then just go back by one day, please.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

So you billed him that amount on the day he came to testify.

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

It was the day prior, sir.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Chair, are you still there?

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I am, yes. I'm looking for the date.

Go ahead, Mr. Fortin.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

The question was as follows: what is the date on the bill that WE Charity issued to Mr. Morneau?

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I appreciate the question, sir. Can someone see the date that Mr. Morneau testified, and then based on that, we'd be happy to submit that to you, sir. We're also kind of using Google right now to try to answer your question.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I would like a copy of the bill, please.

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We'd be happy to provide you what we have on record, sir.

1:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

The clerk has an answer, and he's waving his hand.

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Clerk, could you give us the date that Mr. Morneau appeared before the committee? I don't have it in front of me.

We will not take the time away from you.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Chair, I am not asking for the date of the testimony, I am asking for the date of the bill. I am also asking for a copy of the bill.

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

The date of the bill was the day before Mr. Morneau appeared, so if we get Mr. Morneau's date, we'll subtract one day and have the answer.

Go ahead, Mr. Clerk.

1:40 p.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Alexandre Roger

Mr. Morneau appeared on July 22.

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay. So the bill went out on July 21.

Mr. Fortin, I'll not take the time from you. Go ahead.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

May we have a copy of the bill, Mr. Kielburger?

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We would be happy to submit whatever we have on record, sir.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Okay.

Will you send it to us soon? Will you do it this week?

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We will endeavour to turn that around as quickly as possible, yes.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

All right.

Mr. Kielburger, are either of you registered with the Registry of Lobbyists in Ottawa?

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Neither of us is registered, and based on our understanding of the definition, neither of us would fall within the allotment of time.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Have you had any contact with any members of the Cabinet in Ottawa, other than Mr. Morneau and Mr. Trudeau?

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sorry; do you mean since the program, over the past 10 years?

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

In the past two years, say, have you had any contact with members of the Cabinet in Ottawa?

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Yes, sir. I can tell you with certainty that on the date of April 7, I had an introductory phone call for the first time with Minister Ng. She represents the home riding that WE Charity started in, Thornhill. On that call, she expressed the desire to help young people start small businesses. We had a proposal, and I submitted the proposal to her two days later on that topic, sir. I can also confirm—

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Kielburger, I am sorry to interrupt. That is interesting, but I fear it may take up more than the five minutes allotted to me.

All I want to know is the names of ministers you have had discussions with over the past two years.

1:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We will get that to you, sir. I can say with certainty that since January, we've had conversations with Minister Ng, Minister Chagger and Minister Morneau. For contact prior to that point, I would have to do a more extensive search.

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Every time, it was in connection with Government of Canada grant programs. Is that correct?

1:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

The conversation with Minister Ng was an introductory conversation. There was no expectation of a grant. With Minister Chagger, the first conversation—actually, in fact none of those conversations were in relation, initially, to grants.

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Could you provide us with a list of the ministers with whom either of you has had discussions over the past two years, including dates and topics discussed?

1:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

It is, sir. We'd be happy to provide that to you.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

It's your last question, Mr. Fortin.

Mr. Fortin, are you frozen? It's your last question, Mr. Fortin. Your line froze on us.

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Kielburger, what is WE Charity's network in Quebec? Do you have branches, business offices or representatives in Quebec?

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Fortin, we'll come back to you a little later. The conversation is breaking up and can't be translated.

We're going to Mr. Angus. Mr. Angus, you have six minutes.

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, gentlemen, for participating today.

The question that interests us is the question of accountability, because a huge amount of money was given to your organization, and Canadians are asking questions.

We heard from the chair of your board that she was denied access to financial records, that she was denied access to your chief financial officer, and that when she pushed for those answers, Marc, you hung up on her. Is that how you guys do business when you're challenged?

1:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, we are grateful for the—

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I'm sorry, but Marc hung up on her. I'm asking about Marc. She said Marc hung up on her.

1:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sure, okay. I'll follow you.

1:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, we're grateful for the 14 years with Michelle. We have great respect for her. The time of the pandemic was extremely challenging for many Canadians. Lots of Canadian businesses—

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I get that, but you hung up on her about financial—

1:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, I don't feel that's a proper characterization of the series of events. We were providing nearly daily briefings to members of the board under the circumstances. We had to make very quick decisions, as many Canadian organizations and non-profits had—

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay, I get that. Thank you.

Craig, you called next and demanded that she resign. Craig, was it that you didn't like the fact that she was asking for financials and then you said you wanted her gone, and then you cleared the board? If there aren't those kinds of accountability mechanisms within your organization, that raises red flags.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

All right, we'll give time to Craig, who's going to answer.

Go ahead, Mr. Kielburger.

1:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

There are two things that are being brought together here. One is a process that started in the fall of 2019 for board renewal. Names were identified, and conversations took place with board members—

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

That's not the question. The question is that you demanded she resign. You kicked her out.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus, we'll see where this goes, but we will allow an answer and then we can go to a supplementary.

Go ahead, Mr. Kielburger.

1:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

A well-planned, well-executed process took place—I say well-planned, but I will acknowledge not executed as well as we had hoped—starting in the fall of 2019, looking at board renewal as we approached 25 years as an organization, and a number of board members—

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay, okay.

1:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, I'm seeking to clarify.

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I know, but she said that you wanted her to be extended and then, after Marc hung up on her, you demanded she resign. so let's not talk about a well-ordered plan. I'm asking about accountability here. This is the issue. It's accountability.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Things will go a lot smoother if we allow an answer in detail, and we'll all save time.

Go ahead, Mr. Kielburger.

1:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Thank you.

In the fall of 2019 it started. Names for new board members were identified. The process was under way. During that process, something none of us could have imagined, a global pandemic, took place. There were near-daily briefings. Fourteen briefings, to be precise, with various board members, took place. There was a full board meeting. From when the request for a staffing list was acknowledged, nine days were provided to the board, and for full financial modelling, there were 11 days.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you very much for that.

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I tried to give the context—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you.

Mr. Easter, will you let me continue? My time is about half over. If you're going to keep—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

No, I'm not going to—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

If you want to run the questions, Mr. Chair.... I'm down to less than half my time now, so I need to move on.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I am not going to take time away from you, but I want to give the witnesses an opportunity for a thorough answer. We have four hours with these witnesses. We should be able to allow them full answers.

If it were politicians, then we'd get into the four-second, four-second business, but it's not.

Complete your answer, if you can, in less than 15 seconds, Mr. Kielburger.

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Suffice it to say we respect Michelle's decision on the matter. We believe that the other board members—

In fact, Michelle had one date on which she transitioned. By the way, we asked if she would transition three months later. She chose to do so immediately. We respected that.

The other board members went through a different process. The board today has eight highly qualified individuals: a doctor—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay, we'll go back to Mr. Angus.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you.

Okay, what we heard was that she was asking financial details. Marc got angry and hung up. You called her and you said you wanted her—

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

With respect to—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We'll allow the question, guys, if we could.

Go ahead, Mr. Angus.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

So then what we find out.... The Liberals keep telling us about the great work of WE Charity. I don't doubt that, but WE Charity isn't handling this money; it's the WE foundation, which she raised questions about.

You moved this money into what is essentially a real estate holding company with no oversight. Don't you figure that Canadians are going to have red flags about...? I've never heard of a real estate holding company getting upwards of $500 million of taxpayers' money to deliver a program.

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, it was not a real estate holding company. Global News provided that information incorrectly. We have sought to have that information changed multiple times. If you go back to the source data of the Global News reports, they have changed it in the body, but they have not changed it in the title of the headline.

It was not a real estate holding company. It has never held any real estate. No real estate and no assets have ever been placed in—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I know there are no assets in there, but it does say that it is there to provide and maintain facilities to house the operations.

Now, come on, boys, men; I'm not a real estate lawyer, and I don't know law, but I know that you guys have multiple corporations. You have this one that's set up to hold real estate, but it doesn't actually hold anything.

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Why is that where you decide to put your money? That's the question. There are no accountability mechanisms.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Could we have time for an answer?

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

I'm really glad you asked the question, because this is actually very much incorrect. We're really thrilled to be able to set the record straight here today.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I'll bet you are.

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

We are.

We'd like to share with you that as part of the conversations with ESDC, ESDC asked us to assume full liability for up to 40,000 young people who would be volunteering and to accept full liability for those 40,000 young people and all the non-profits those young people would be volunteering at, so on the advice of professionals working with us—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay, are you telling us—

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

[Inaudible—Editor]

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

—that it was the federal government's idea to push this through a real estate holding company? Is that what you're saying? Because that's really, really strange.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I want a full answer here—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

This isn't WE Charity, this is—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

—if we could.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Who in the government—

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Mr. Chair—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

—signed off on giving the money, upwards of $500 million, to a company, a holding company that you have—

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

—whose original purpose of was to hold your real estate? Come on.

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Mr. Chair—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We'll come back, if we could, for a full answer on where the money was held. If you know who signed off, you can give that answer as well, but I want to give the gentlemen time to answer the question appropriately.

Gentlemen, go ahead.

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Thank you, Mr. Chair. We really appreciate it.

Again, this information as shared by Global News was incorrect. We want to stress this over again. This is not a real estate holding company. This is actually a charitable organization that was set up to help limit liability.

I'm going to say it again: It's a charitable organization set up to—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

It has no track record and no assets.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Charlie, could we hear the answer?

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

It hasn't done anything. Come on. Come on; don't—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

You'll have to make a judgment on that following the answer, if you could.

Gentlemen, answer.

1:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

It was set up to help limit liability. The Government of Canada asked us to assume massive liability, sir, as part of this initiative for 40,000 young people volunteering during the pandemic. It would have been very difficult for us to put the entire organization at risk under those circumstances.

We had this entity previously set up as one to limit liability, and on the advice of professionals we used that entity—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

But it was the board that—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Your board was concerned about it.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus, let them finish the answer, please.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I'm asking a question, Mr. Chair—please.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I know, but they haven't finished the answer to your third question back—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

The board raised questions about this. The board raised questions about this.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

—and they can—

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

You need to explain how this thing—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Charlie, order.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

—that you created—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Order.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

—was set up.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Order, Mr. Angus.

Gentlemen, answer the question first. Then we'll allow Mr. Angus one final question.

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, it was a legal structure that had the ultimate governance embedded within WE Charity. It used the WE Charity staff and senior resources. It was a contract that was established and signed by ESDC, and, by the way, under section 22, holding the provisions on insurance for the government, sir. This was a very well organized system at the advice of all the responsible experts.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This is your last question, Mr. Angus. We're well over time.

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Well, I guess what's really concerning here is that your board chair, whom you demanded to resign, had raised questions about why you had a shell company that was there to limit liability, and lo and behold, it just became the perfect avenue.

I mean, I don't hold a bunch of numbered companies. I would have thought you were just a charity, but no, it's set up to limit your liability. It was originally set up for real estate, and then you changed it. Don't you get that this looks kind of dodgy to the average Canadian, who's saying, “Oh, did we give these guys $500-and-some million, and we put it into that? Like, what is this?”

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

On the final question and final answer of this round, go ahead.

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, the information you're sharing is fundamentally incorrect. We're seeking to be able to share with you the proper information.

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

But I'm looking at the form that you—

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

We're seeking—

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

It's not incorrect.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus, come on.

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

It's not incorrect.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus—

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Mr. Chair, the purpose was to help limit liability. There were multitudes of purposes for this entity. The primary purpose was to limit—

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

It was to maintain your facilities. That's real estate.

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Mr. Chair, may I finish?

It was to limit liability.

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

It was formally recognized in June for the very purpose; as we created this partnership with the government, it was amended in its structure—

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Amended: yes, it was amended, you're correct.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus.

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

—and further, it's not a company, sir. It's a non-profit, with the proper structure in place of ultimate governance, with the staff of WE Charity, so quite literally, this is an appropriate—

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Your board was your employee.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus.

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

That's not governance.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus, come on.

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

With respect—

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

That's not governance.

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Actually, with respect, sir, you're incorrect in the statement. How the structure of governance was established, it was such that the WE Charity board of directors were the members. They had the ultimate authority through the legal governance and structure in place.

I say with respect that I know—

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

That's not what your former chair said. She said she didn't know why you set this up.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus, we are going to end the round there.

I will give you gentlemen an opportunity later to explain this scenario. I'll come back to this one myself with a question so we can have peace of mind—and quiet to get a decent answer.

We will go to Mr. Barrett, followed by Mr. Fragiskatos.

Mr. Barrett.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

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

We need to get a total amount of all monies, all benefits, paid to individual members of the Trudeau family. Do you have that in front of you today, gentlemen?

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, as requested, we're happy to provide that information to you. That was a question that also came from Mr. Poilievre, if I'm not mistaken. We—

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

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

So you commit to doing a full breakdown of expenses for each one of those individuals, not just for remuneration for speaking fees but also for gifts and other benefits, including covering of travel expenses?

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, yes, we're happy to provide that information in terms of especially the reimbursement of travel expenses that was specifically requested.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

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

Okay.

So Ms. Margaret Trudeau was paid over a quarter of a million dollars in speaking fees. Did anyone else get this much money in speaking fees during that same period of time?

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Yes, sir. This was something where the practice was in place not to pay individuals to go on the WE Day stage, to be clear, but for auxiliary events that took place in various cities, often five or six events per time, where speakers were brought in. In any given year, a small list was identified to support in these types of auxiliary events.

Akin to a university lecture series, or non-profit gala fundraisers—many groups do this, sir.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

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

To be clear, in your previous responses to questions, you did say the members of the Trudeau family were paid to attend WE Day events.

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, it was the premise of WE Day, but the purpose of the speakers, and the remuneration of the speakers, was specifically for the auxiliary events. Margaret Trudeau came to speak about the issues surrounding mental health. Yes, she spoke on the WE Day stage, but she also provided time to come to the receptions, to have the opportunity to meet with individuals, to sign the books, to do all these additional events. It was a very significant ask of her time.

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Actually, it was two or three, typically, per city.

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

She was at various [Inaudible—Editor].

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

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

At those events, how many other speakers were paid?

1:55 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

The vast majority, sir, were done at no cost. It was a small group of speakers who would come, not just Madam Trudeau—again, not just to speak on the WE Day stage. As mentioned, it would be the additional, auxiliary events that we needed to support on some specific issues that were very relevant.

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, I appreciate the heart of your question. In essence, I can answer your question directly by saying that it wasn't unusual what was taking place with her. It was a simple process that we had with others.

2 p.m.

Conservative

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

How much was Ms. Margaret Trudeau paid for speaking before November of 2015?

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, WE did not engage her before November of 2015, from my best understanding.

2 p.m.

Conservative

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

Okay: so she was only ever paid after November of 2015.

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

It was at that point, sir, that WE Days continued to grow, and we needed somebody to speak specifically on the issue of mental health. She came not as Madam Trudeau; she came as somebody who is very focused on that issue, something that's really relevant.

If I'm not mistaken, it's one in five Canadians.

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Yes, one in five Canadians, and it's a big part of what we do with the Well-being Foundation.

2 p.m.

Conservative

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

I think other well-known Canadians who have spoken about mental health....

A name that would be known around kitchen tables would be someone like Theo Fleury, who was informed by you that you do not pay speakers. So I will set aside your qualifier at the end of your response.

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

No, sir, that was not it. The question [Inaudible—Editor]. It's a statement; it's actually—

2 p.m.

Conservative

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

That's right, and so I'm not.... So the floor is not yours.

Are there any ministers who have ever received any form of financial compensation whatsoever—fees, contracts, salary expenses, expense reimbursements, accommodations benefits, or anything whatsoever—from any organization with which you are involved?

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

First, sir, let me just say that we don't pay speakers for the WE Day stage, the few minutes they are there. We believe that's an honour to share the message with youth. We do for those who do two to three days of auxiliary events.

To answer your question now, sir, the only individual that question is relevant to as a cabinet member is Minister Morneau and the McCain family, and I believe that's on the public record.

2 p.m.

Conservative

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

So no other ministers?

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Correct, sir.

2 p.m.

Conservative

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

Okay. What about ministerial staff members? Was there any form of financial compensation whatsoever: fees, contracts, salary, expenses, expense reimbursements, accommodation, benefits, anything whatsoever? Yes or no, please.

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Not to our knowledge, sir.

2 p.m.

Conservative

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

So that would include Ms. Katie Telford,Minister Seamus O'Regan, Mr. Gerald Butts, Minister Mary Ng, Minister Bardish Chagger, Ms. Amanda Alvaro.

What about the organization ArtBound? Have they ever received a payment from any of your affiliated organizations?

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I appreciate your raising that, sir. ArtBound funded very generously WE Charity through their extraordinary philanthropic commitments, and we appreciate their long-standing support in that matter.

2 p.m.

Conservative

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

So have they ever received payment?

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

No, no. To answer your question, sir, the funds have only gone one way, where they are fundraising. Specifically, it was for a school for music in East Africa, supporting an all-girls program in Kenya. They fundraised, but no benefits went the other way, sir.

2 p.m.

Conservative

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

Just to tie that off, you're saying that no staff, past or present, of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or no staff member, past or present, of Minister Bill Morneau have received any compensation as outlined by me above?

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

To the best of our knowledge, we can make that blanket statement, sir, yes.

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

That'll tie off that round, Mr. Barrett.

We'll go to Mr. Fragiskatos, followed by Mr. Cooper.

2 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to both of you for coming to the committee.

I want to ask about the administration fee. How much would it have been had WE administered the Canada student service grant, and for what purposes? When we say “administration fee”, I'm not sure that many, if not most, Canadians understand what is meant by that. So could you—

2 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I appreciate your asking that question. If I can start by clarifying, in fact it actually wasn't an administration fee; it was a program implementation fee. What I mean by that is.... Often in the charitable world, when people think of admin, they think back office or fundraising. The costs here were simply directly for reimbursements on the delivery of the program.

So to answer your question precisely, for the first 20,000 students, WE Charity has provided $14.5 million for all-inclusive aspects. It could have gone up to $34.78 million. What was included in those aspects? It was, for example, technology grants for students who needed access in rural areas, translation of resources for special needs students, coaching and support, the direct supervision of up to 20,000 students to support non-profits that couldn't otherwise mentor and support those students, working with non-profits to help translate their ideas to be COVID-safe and friendly, launching the web support, call centre support, insurance support, payment, T4 form follow-up six months later.

In short, this was a massive program launched during a pandemic to support up to 100,000 young people with a very high-tech program, because the emphasis was on students of greatest need. We were to target particularly indigenous and students in rural parts of Canada.

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We do need to go back to Mr. Fragiskatos.

2 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you for that answer.

I am still left confused on a few things, though, Mr. Kielburger, namely the complex organizational structure. You have WE, and under that umbrella there are a number of entities. I'll just list these.

2:05 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I can save you the time, sir. You already did before. I'm happy to speak to the question.

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Sure. It's a partial list. We have WE Charity U.S., WE Charity U.K., ME to WE foundation based in the U.S., ME to WE foundation in Canada, WE Charity Foundation, WE Well-being Foundation of Canada, Well-being Foundation America Inc., We365 LP, We365 Holdings Inc., We365 GP Inc., Imagine 1 Day International Organization, and there's ME to WE Social Enterprise.

Could you explain what this structure is all about? I think people look at this and have, justifiably so, some questions. It's a charity on the one hand, but why is there this labyrinth that exists under it? What is that all about?

2:05 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I appreciate the question, sir. Thank you.

Fundamentally, there are two overarching structures: WE Charity and ME to WE Social Enterprises. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, as per CRA and the Income Tax Act, section 149 to be precise, charities cannot operate like businesses to solve social issues. They cannot literally operate a business structure. It's because of this unfortunate reality of the CRA structure in Canada that things like Grameen Bank, an extraordinary social enterprise that won the Nobel Peace Prize for microcredit, lifting people out of poverty, frankly, never could have been created in Canada. Social enterprise is a growing and powerful force to better the world.

So WE had to engage the best lawyers and accountants and systems to build what was a labyrinth to adhere to the proper Canadian laws and regulations, and it's a shame because we get called by so many people who are seeking how they can do it themselves in this way. So these fundamental structures exist to fulfill the social mission mandate. Each country you listed adheres to its respective country laws. Canada's has its own incorporation, the U.S., the U.K. In fact, other countries in the developing world have their own incorporation. Fundamentally, it is WE Charity and WE to ME Social Enterprises.

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Fragiskatos, go ahead.

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Kielburger.

Are you then saying that this complex structure was absolutely necessary to the functioning of the charity? If you are saying that, are you also saying that other charity organizations in this country are forced to organize themselves in that way?

I suppose the question is, how unique of a structure is this? Is this something that we see with the majority of charities in Canada, or is WE one of only a few that operate in this way? Because, I'll tell you.... Admittedly, I don't have a background in the organizing of charities and all the complexities surrounding that, but it comes off as a bit strange. Could you, again, tell us? Was this kind of structure absolutely vital, and is it the case that most charities adopt it?

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

That will be the final question in that round.

Mr. Kielburger.

2:05 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

If I may, I'll answer your question by saying that in Canada, to do what we seek to do, this is the legal way to adhere to the CRA rules. I wish it were different and I hope they streamline it in Canada.

Nonetheless, I have just two quick points. Number one, you listed entities around the world; it's because legally we have to incorporate in each country where we operate. Number two, allow me to add that we have actually engaged Korn Ferry, a global expert on organizational structure and design, because, frankly, over 25 years of creating entities and creating organizations, we probably could find a streamlined system to do this; we acknowledge that. It has to be streamlined, so they'll be stepping in to help us in that matter.

What we do here is not unusual in our system of social enterprise, but we know that social enterprise is unusual.

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, all.

We have Mr. Cooper for five minutes, followed by Mr. Fraser.

Mr. Cooper.

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Marc and Craig, for being here and for your testimony.

Your organization provided Bill Morneau with over $41,000 in trips to Ecuador and Kenya. Exactly what did the $41,000 pay for?

2:05 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I'm happy to answer that question, sir.

We extended an invitation, actually to Ms. McCain, to be candid, where she first came with her teenage daughter to Kenya—

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

I understand the chronology, but my question is quite specific. What did the $41,000 pay for?

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I believe that's the answer they're getting to, Mr. Cooper. Let's allow time for answers; it will be shorter.

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

I don't need background. I know the trips. I just need to know what the $41,000 represents.

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Understood. To answer your question, specifically, the first set of expenses was for Ms. McCain and daughter to travel to.... They were already in Kenya and they were looking at other charities they had already funded, so we hosted them at our sites—so the accommodations. They stayed with us; there are no other options. They drove around as they built the schools. They had a development, humanitarian site visit with us.

There was a second trip that took place approximately six months later. That was the one, to answer your question, with Mr. Morneau, and Ms. McCain and other children. In that case, it was to the Amazon. They also, again, paid for their flights and whatnot, but our accommodations, the food and the build site supervision as they were building their schools and working on a service trip....

I mentioned this earlier because it does seem unusual that the price was so high—

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay, that's fine. That's another subject matter. You'll provide a detailed breakdown, I understand. Will you undertake to do that?

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We will provide it.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay, thank you for that. I appreciate that.

When your organization booked the Kenya and Ecuador trips, were they booked specifically as an accounts receivable?

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

WE Charity, similar to many other humanitarian organizations, invites prospective donors, people who head companies and foundations, to witness development projects and what they do—

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

So the answer to that is no?

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

It was not an accounts receivable.

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

They are a—

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

It was a complimentary trip, right? That's what your statement said. Is that correct?

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, could I just finish the statement?

It is to host individuals who have an interest to witness our development work on the ground. To answer your question, it was seen, in our mind, as a complimentary hosting, given that they were already in the country, in Kenya, and were coming in to simply stay with us, and in Ecuador to look at this for the development plans.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Thank you, so no accounts receivable.

Did you hide, to Mr. Morneau, the fact that the trip would be complimentary?

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

The arrangements for the trip were entirely done through an invitation to Ms. McCain and entirely arranged with her and her team, so I don't know whether there was any clarity or conversations that followed. In our mind, it was an invitation to a very prominent Canadian family, Ms. McCain, who is very philanthropic and very beneficial, and that was why—

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay. Thank you.

Now, you mentioned Ecuador and Kenya—Morneau in Ecuador and Ms. McCain and daughter in Kenya. They get to an airport. They travel by commercial aircraft.

How did they get to the site? Did they travel by private aircraft at any time?

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We would have to check the records and to go through—

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

How do you get to the Amazon?

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

A dugout canoe that's motorized; you take a commercial flight from Quito to a small airstrip in....

What's it called?

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

We'd have to double-check.

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

It's a small airstrip. It's commercial, though. Then you get on a motorized canoe down the Amazon at the base of the river.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay. So—

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Then the other possibility, sir, is that some groups actually drive down. They don't even go on the commercial flight.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

But is private aircraft a possibility—since you don't know the answer? Is that a means that people get to either of your sites?

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Certainly not in Ecuador.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

What about in Kenya?

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Private aircraft is a possibility, because—

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay. That's important.

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Let the question be answered, Michael.

Let's firm up the answer here and we'll go back to Michael.

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I'm happy to speak to this.

It's similar to northern parts of Canada. The only way you can access certain corners are these simple two- or three-prop planes that you kind of cram into and fly into northern regions.

We'd have to check our records. As a mother with a teenage daughter, she may have opted for—

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We'll go back to Mr. Cooper for a final question.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Just to flesh this out.... I'm just trying to visualize this place in Kenya. As I'm listening to you provide an answer, what I'm hearing you say is that normally to get there, you need to fly in.

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, that's not necessarily correct. You can also drive.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay: but it would be a long distance.

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

It is a five-hour drive. It's a lovely drive, and you—

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay: can you then just, because my time is limited—

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

It's over.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

—and I want to respect the time—

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Your time is over, but we'll allow this question.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

I just want an undertaking from you, Marc and Craig, that you will confirm exactly—

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

That's very clear, sir. We'll contact our team to look into the question.

We simply don't know. Obviously, that was three-plus years ago.

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

We host hundreds and hundreds of trips, sir.

2:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Yes.

We'll look into that question.

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you. That information will be provided.

We will now go to Mr. Fraser for five minutes.

For the two-and-a-half-minute rounds, we will go to Ms. Gaudreau and Mr. Julian.

Ms. May, I believe you wanted in. That will be a two-and-a-half-minute round.

Mr. Fraser.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'm very much enjoying the back and forth in the testimony, though I sometimes have trouble hearing the answers over the questions.

First, one of the responses you gave—initially to my colleague Ms. Dzerowicz, and then to Mr. Fragiskatos—I found stunning. I want to make sure I have my understanding correct.

Of the $500-or-so million program, there is an “up to” $43-million administration fee, depending on how many students can be placed. I was under the impression that this was going to provide some sort of benefit to the organization for administering this program.

Am I correct in my understanding that every penny of that administration fee, if the program were actually executed properly, would not have gone to the organization but would have been exclusively for expenses?

2:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, that's correct. It would have been exclusively for expenses, number one.

2:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

For program expenses—not even administration [Inaudible—Editor].

2:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Yes.

Number two, it's actually not an administration fee, sir. It's actually a program fee.

We were doing this on behalf of the government, helping the government. We were asked to do this by the government. The organization itself would not profit. We were there because we wanted to be of assistance.

Again, this wasn't an administration fee. It was a program fee, and 100% had to be used, of course, for the program.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

So you're telling me, in no uncertain terms, that none of the affiliated organizations with WE Charity or the ME to WE Social Enterprise actually stood to benefit financially from executing this program.

2:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Correct. In fact, let me add, sir, that the ME to WE Social Enterprise was not a party and has never received federal funding; has never at all.

To answer your question, yes, all of the non-profits, because they're only non-profits as part of this contract, all had the same key aspects on audit, on fulfillment, and yes, every penny had to be spent on the program implementation only or be returned to the government. The—

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

I'm sorry to cut you off, but I do have limited time. I want to turn my attention, if I can, to....

Mr. Angus, in his questioning, seemed to be very frustrated with the notion that there would be a separate corporate entity set up to limit liability. I practised law before I got into politics. It was routine to me to see corporate entities set up new companies for the express purpose of limiting liability.

To be honest, when I first saw it in the charitable context—I have not practised much law in the area of charities—I found it a little odd, but it's starting to make a little more sense to me today. What I'm hearing is that you stood to gain absolutely nothing financially, but you were asked to take on all of the liability for placing 40,000 or more students during a global pandemic.

I trust that if you did not have the opportunity to limit your liability, you would not have taken on the task of executing this program. Is that fair?

2:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Correct, and allow us to underscore that this was the request of ESDC and the terms of this contract were agreed to by ESDC.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

When ESDC made that request, are you saying they requested that you set up a corporate entity, or they requested that you take on the liability?

2:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

They requested that we take on the liability. We informed them that the only way we would feel comfortable fulfilling the government's request was through this structure. They analyzed it, they endorsed it and they signed a contract.

2:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

We shared all the information with ESDC, in terms of what these structures would do, and we specifically explained to them that this would be our ability to hold, to limit that liability as part of that process, and they were aware.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

And their recommendation to the government that WE Charity was best placed to execute on the service grant program was made after you had made clear to them that your strategy to limit liability would be to set up a separate corporate entity that did not hold assets.

2:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, it wasn't a separate corporate entity; it was a separate non-profit organization—

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you. That's—

2:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

I was on the call with other individuals from the professional services side with ESDC. We made that clear, because we were very concerned about the request that we were asked to take on a liability for 40,000 young people to volunteer during a pandemic.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Okay.

I expect I have limited time left, so I'll try to get one question in and let you answer it as you will. I asked the previous witness about proposal development and sort of unsolicited program ideas that are submitted to MPs, to governments. I take it this is what happened, at least with some different program that preceded the student service grant, but I'm curious, more broadly. Is this something that WE Charity does on occasion? Have you done it with previous governments? Have you ever had other programs funded by previous governments after that kind of a back and forth?

2:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I appreciate the question. Sometimes we're responding to formal proposals, as we have with Canadian Heritage for Canada 150. Sometimes it is iterative with the government. For example, we worked closely in the previous government with Minister Flaherty and Minister Clement on various projects that we created together with them. This is an interesting fact: In previous years, under the previous Harper government, we actually had a higher percentage of our total budget given by the federal government than last year under the Trudeau government.

We have worked with a number of governments in the same manner, of all political stripes.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

When you were receiving those grants from the previous government, that would have been around the same time...it would have been contemporaneous with the hosting of WE Charity events or ME to WE events at 24 Sussex by Ms. Harper, or the attendance of WE Day or other charitable days or activities with other MPs of the governing party at that time as well. Is that fair?

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

That would be a fair assessment. We appreciate every government's support, and we will approach every government to support children and youth in this country.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We'll have to end that round there.

I believe we're going to Ms. Gaudreau, who will be followed by Mr. Angus and then Ms. May.

Ms. Gaudreau, you have two and a half minutes.

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon, gentlemen. On behalf of all our constituents, thank you for all this time, which allows us to shed some light on things.

I have two minutes and 30 seconds and am going to ask you a few simple questions in quick succession.

First, do you have a government relations expert in your organization?

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We don't find a need for a full-time person for such a role. We do have a person whose title is “government and stakeholder relations”. She splits her time among multiple stakeholder groups, including government.

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Can I please have her name?

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sofia Marquez.

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Very good.

Do you know if she is registered with the Registry of Lobbyists?

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

No. Given her previous work and the multitude of stakeholders she engages, she is not on a formal registry.

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Okay.

I am very familiar with the structure of not-for=profit organizations. Can we see WE Charity's by-laws?

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Could you clarify in terms of the general rules, please?

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

It is the basic document, the one that lays out all the details on the governance and operating structure of a not-for-profit organization.

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

We're certainly happy to take that back and seek greater clarification.

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I will be even more specific. In Quebec, certainly, those by-laws have to be prepared.

What are your organization's interests or assets in Quebec?

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We do not hold formal assets in Quebec. Although a Montreal office has been active and we've done 11 years of WE Day and programming, there is no formal ownership. The bank account is based—

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

From the best of our understanding, there's no.... This is a very specific question, as you can appreciate, and this is the best of our understanding.

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I have one last question, Mr. Chair.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Make it the last question, Ms. Gaudreau.

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Last week, a witness told us that your organization was able to provide students' personal data to the Liberal Party of Canada for electoral purposes.

Is that true?

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

If a fraction of what we've heard over the past four weeks were true—what has been published in the media, shared on social blogs or even shared by various politicians—our faces would go pale. This is one of the many things that are incorrect and being circulated.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus, you're up for two and a half minutes.

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Sofia Marquez does government relations with you. Her bio says she works as a liaison with government, yet she's not registered to lobby. Why don't you guys register to lobby the government?

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I'm happy to speak to the question, sir.

Sofia Marquez does government and stakeholder relations, if I may just correct you, sir. That's her title. She engages a multitude of stakeholders across provincial governments—

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

But why don't you register to lobby?

2:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We don't because engagement with the federal government is a relatively.... It has never been more than a few percentages of our budget. In fact, last year it represented 1.03% of—

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

How little money you get has nothing to do with the legal obligations; it's about how much time is spent. In the last month, you've been heavily involved in programs with Minister Chagger and Minister Ng, and Bill Morneau's office has been involved. Are you telling me that somebody in your office wasn't spending at least 7.5 hours a week doing this? I ask because that preparation—

2:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I'm happy to speak to that, sir.

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

—is lobbying. Why don't you register to lobby?

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay, it's time to answer.

2:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Thank you.

To clarify this point, the government came to us and asked for assistance in a program. Previous to this point, it was highly unusual for us to be spending any significant amount of time with the federal government on these types of proposals.

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

But you're getting lots of money from it.

The YMCA registers to lobby. The Heart and Stroke Foundation does too. They don't get nearly the kind of money that you guys have gotten. The registry of lobbyists is full of charities, except your organization; yet none of them hires, for example, the Prime Minister's mother or the Prime Minister's brother, or have the Prime Minister's wife or Bill Morneau's daughter, or fly Bill Morneau....

The image that you're giving off here is that you're getting influence because of the kind of power you have, so that when you call, they call you back. That is—

2:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, all of those people—

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

—lobbying. You have an obligation and you are not meeting that obligation.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will go to the answer and that will be it.

Please give an answer, gentlemen.

2:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I will happily stand corrected by our counsel, but based on my understanding, I don't believe those things you identified, including hiring the adopted Ugandan daughter of an individual and hiring the mother of an elected official, not in an elected-official capacity but as a speaker on mental health, are actually defined as lobbying.

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Well, they're defined under the Conflict of Interest Act as family of the public office holders that you're lobbying.

Bill Morneau never read the Conflict of Interest Act. I think you guys should, and maybe the Lobbying Act as well.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus, we're going to allow an answer, and then we're going to Ms. May.

I'd like an answer, please, gentlemen.

2:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Thanks, sir.

Prior to the conversation with the government, when Ms. Wernick approached us with this opportunity, we received approximately, give or take, $5 million from the federal government to the best of our knowledge. It was over many, many years, going back to 2013 [Inaudible—Editor] based on the information provided to me. But that's a relatively small, a very minuscule portion of our budget. It's under 3%. As a result—

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

It's not the size of the budget; it's your obligation when you negotiate.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus, we want an answer.

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Well, I know, but he's already said that, Chair. We need an answer on the lobbying.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Angus, they need time to give an answer on the lobbying. Your question round is over, so I'm giving the gentlemen time to answer the question. Then we'll go to Ms. May.

2:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Thank you, Chair. We really appreciate it.

Mr. Angus, we hear your question. We understand your concern. The answer is that up to this point we've had virtually very limited engagement with the federal government in seeking funds. At this point, they approached us for this program.

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

But you're hanging with their family. Come on.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay. You have a little further answer there, gentlemen.

We'll go to Ms. May.

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Chair, point of order.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay, on a point of order, Mr. Fortin.

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Chair, I was interrupted earlier because the device was no longer working. I had to talk to the IT people and they got everything up and running again. About half of my six minutes had gone by.

Can I get that time back? If so, when can I do it?

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

You have about two minutes coming back to you, Mr. Fortin. I'll bring you in right after Mr. Cumming, before I go to Ms. Koutrakis. So we'll have two more questioners and then we'll go to your two questions.

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Sorry, where are we?

Gentlemen, did you want to give a further answer?

2:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Mr. Chair, I apologize. The clerk had agreed that at every hour we would be provided a five- to 10-minute pause. We understand that spending four hours is quite unprecedented. I haven't had a chance to spend even four hours with my two little girls in the last month—

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

2:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

We're spending a lot of quality time together, sir. We haven't had a chance to—

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Yes. I said we'd take a five-minute break at the end of the two hours, but if you really need a washroom break or such, we'll take a five-minute break.

2:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

We love spending time with you, sir, but at some point that would be lovely.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay, we're going to do it in about 25 more minutes.

Ms. May, you have two and a half minutes, and then Mr. Cumming.

2:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I really appreciate this.

To correct the record, I've known both Marc and Craig Kielburger for years. I don't say this because I'm angry with you over it, but I do need to correct that you've never asked the Green Party to anything. You've never asked me to be a speaker. At this point I don't know whether I really want to thank you for that, but....

2:25 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

2:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

I do want to get to a serious question, though. I was very impressed, of course, with Michelle Douglas. I know her as well. I'm a huge fan of hers. I do get concerned with board governance issues. In the future I think you may want to look at your role as founders, which I think Mr. Barrett raised earlier. When you look on the website, you have founders, staff, the board of directors. It's a bit murky as a governance question.

Ms. Douglas told us she gave three reasons for her resignation. One of them was that she couldn't get answers from you, Marc, as to why you went to Kenya twice in a period of time when the organization was in considerable difficulties.

Can you explain it to the committee? Only because she thinks it's highly significant, I need to ask you, why did you go to Kenya twice and why didn't you give her the information as to why you went?

2:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Of course, Ms. May, thank you. Out of all of this, we appreciate your kind compliments at the beginning as well.

Very quickly, of course going back three months ago, the world was topsy-turvy. I had a prescheduled trip to go to Kenya to help work with the organization. Then a handful of days later, when the pandemic really started to begin in earnest very significantly, we saw governments closing borders and shutting things down.

We literally had dozens of young people on international volunteer trips overseas. We had Canadian and American staff who were literally stuck, who could have been stuck overseas. Some ended up being in a very difficult position. We had to get them out.

As a leader of the organization, I said I needed to continue to give assistance. Even though I'd just come back, the situation began to rapidly unfold. I was only back in Kenya for 24 more hours, at the request of the team, to be of assistance where possible and to help ensure that the organization would be fine, but most importantly that our people would be fine. I was doing my very best.

I may not have articulated that under the circumstances, a very stressful time, but I was there for our people.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Ms. May, this is your last question.

2:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Were you able to get Canadians home as a result of your trip there? By staying home, I got a lot of people home to Canada on Zoom and calling all the right people and embassies and high commissions in the middle of the night. Did you physically have to go there to get people home?

2:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Ms. May, as a member of Parliament you probably have much more influence than we do in these cases. We had dozens of young people there on the team—a very complicated situation. I was there for less than 24 hours. Yes, we were able to get people home.

2:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

If I may clarify, some of the senior team in Kenya were themselves refusing to leave because they were arranging the medical response. We have a hospital there that treats over 800,000 people in a region. We have a medical college. Marc went in to also make the medical arrangements on the ground so that our local leaders, who are expats, would have the confidence to return home as part of this evacuation.

It was a very difficult choice. We respect Michelle Douglas's transition. The other directors transitioned in a different way—let me just keep stressing that—but we respect Michelle Douglas's choice in the matter. We understand why she made the choice.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay.

We'll go to Mr. Cumming, and back to five-minute rounds.

James, the floor is yours, and you'll be followed with two minutes by Mr. Fortin and then Ms. Koutrakis.

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the two witnesses for appearing on this very important issue.

You began with incurring “eligible expenses” on May 5, more than two months before signing the contribution agreement. Who in the government told you before May that those expenses would be eligible for reimbursement?

2:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, it's a very good question.

We put our hand up to be of assistance, because the date initially on which this program would be launching would be early June. This was done in coordination with ESDC. We had many phone calls with them and their team, and specifically Rachel Wernick, who was very much aware that we were working very significantly on this project throughout the entire month.

2:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

However, I know I said it, but allow me to say it again, that although we started working on May 5, we were aware that despite our building a network in support, if the contract were not signed, we would not be reimbursed. We took that risk on in full knowledge ourselves.

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Specifically, when did you receive that from Wernick? What day?

2:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

That was a conversation we started to have. It was close to the 4th or 5th. It was in that ballpark.

2:30 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

If I could, we were often having daily conversations with ESDC at that time—many conversations a week—in coordination with negotiating the contract with the organization and the organization's teams together. It was very much a coordinated effort, sir.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Was there an email that told you which expenses were eligible?

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

The eligible expenses are deeply outlined in the contract through an extraordinary amount of detail.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Which came out two months later.

Which ministers did either of you or your intermediaries communicate with in March? Who were they, and what was the date?

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

No minister, to our knowledge, were we in touch with in March at all, sir.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Neither of you, or your intermediaries in March?

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

To my knowledge, looking at the timeline provided to me by my team and staff, the only touchpoint was with ESDC civil servants on March 6 when there was a comprehensive service learning white paper presented as per their request. That was with civil servants.

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

That's to the best of our knowledge, of course, under the circumstances.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Okay. Among the minister's staff members, whom did you communicate with in March and at what date, or can you provide that at a later date?

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I can say with confidence, sir, that we did not, and the senior-most leadership was not in touch with anyone in the government in March. That being said, sir, we will check more broadly in the organization if there were any touchpoints that took place.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Okay, and in April did either of you or intermediaries communicate with any ministers?

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Yes, sir. I'm happy to speak to that.

On April 7 there was a conversation with Minister Ng. It was a first-time, introductory phone call. It was the first time ever I spoke to her.

On April 9, as per that conversation, I sent her a proposal that we had previously created on youth entrepreneurship. That proposal was also forwarded to Minister Chagger, given that she has the portfolio for youth, and Minister Morneau, given that he is the Minister of Finance and our local MP.

I was in touch also, sir, with Minister Chagger in a phone conversation that took place.... I will get you that date, but it was sometime in the middle of April. It was to brief her on the conversation we had with Minister Ng on social entrepreneurship, not the CSSG, to be clear.

There was one conversation that also took place in April, a phone call from Minister Morneau, on the Sunday, the 25th or 26th. He called me asking a question about.... He said he was doing a series of phone calls checking in with businesses and non-profits on the impact.... And that call took place.... I will happily put this into writing for you, sir.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

In that conversation, you mean to tell me that there was no discussion around the student grant program? There was no discussion about the potential of your being involved with the student grant program?

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Correct. However, sir, I will tell you that I did, during the conversation....

He called me to ask questions about, generally, our view of the non-profit sector and youth. I did raise with him the fact that we had spoken to Minister Ng and submitted a proposal to her on social entrepreneurship, helping youth create small businesses. To be very candid, it was a totally different thing.

Sir, to be very candid, at that point, we weren't very interested in the service proposal. At that point, we were trying to advance our own proposal. That was the one I did raise with him. We did not discuss the CSSG at all.

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This will be the last question, Mr. Cumming.

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

But you did raise that you put a proposal in front of another department, so you did raise that with Minister Morneau. This wasn't just a conversation about what's going on in the industry; there was a specific conversation about a proposal from WE.

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Correct, sir. I would say that of the length of it, it was maybe two minutes; I mentioned it very quickly. But, yes, sir, I proactively did raise with him that we had submitted this to Minister Ng on April 9.

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you.

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

A different proposal, again, I have to underscore. Not an iterative...nothing to do with youth service; purely helping youth create businesses.

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay, that's clear.

Mr. Fortin, I'm giving you back a couple of minutes due to technical difficulties.

Go ahead.

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Kielburger, you said earlier that you hired Margaret Trudeau as a speaker because you considered her to be a mental health expert.

Am I to understand that no other mental health experts were available to take part in your conferences?

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, we have an entire foundation dedicated to mental health. We've created K-to-12 curricular resources on well-being—

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Yes, but Margaret Trudeau—

2:35 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

She is one of the most famous people [Technical difficulty—Editor] who first broke through the issue of mental health in the public domain in Canada.

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Would it be accurate to say that you hired Margaret Trudeau simply because she is Justin Trudeau's mother and former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau's ex-wife?

2:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I would say that those factors may have increased her brand recognition to the general public. But, sir, we hired her as one of the most known mental health advocates, if not the most well-known mental health advocate.

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

What is Mrs. Trudeau's educational background?

Academically speaking, what qualifies her to be a mental health speaker?

2:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, we have a number of individuals with Ph.D.s we contract with, and on our staff, in the mental health—

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I am talking about Margaret Trudeau.

2:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We were looking to her to be a spokesperson to raise awareness on the subject. We have others who build the curriculum and can—

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

What studies qualify her?

2:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

What experience, Mr. Kielburger?

2:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Honestly, with great respect, sir, she has lived a life....

I have lost a sister-in-law from mental health issues. It's a lived experience issue; it's not an academic training issue. She has lived experience. One in five Canadians face this issue. To say that you have to have academic experience to speak on it, sir, with great respect—

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Would you agree that many people in Quebec and Canada have experienced mental health issues or have loved ones who have experienced them?

You invited Margaret Trudeau, however. If her name had been Margaret Fortin, would you have invited her to speak? Would you have given her more than a quarter of a million dollars over the past few years to be a speaker?

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay, we'll let you on in a minute, Craig.

Mr. Fortin, your system is breaking up again.

We did get the question. Gentlemen, you can answer that question and then we will go on to Mr. Morantz.

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Come on. Is your system breaking up every time I have a question to ask?

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Kielburger, go ahead.

2:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, she is more than someone's mother or someone's wife. She is someone who, in her own right, has spoken extensively on mental health and is a hero to many. We invited her because she speaks on mental health.

We invite individuals, from Gord Downie to Chantal Petitclerc, from Roméo Dallaire to James Orbinski, to inspire a variety of causes.

I understand what you're saying here, sir. Mental health is a cornerstone of our organization, and that is why she was invited.

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you.

We'll go to Mr. Morantz, followed by Mr. McLeod, and then we'll have a couple of short rounds—

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, if I may, I believe I'm the next speaker after Mr. Fortin.

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Sorry about that. You are, Annie. My mistake.

We have Ms. Koutrakis, then Mr. Morantz, and we'll close with Mr. McLeod before our break.

Ms. Koutrakis.

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, both, for being here today. Thank you for all the good you both have done to help children in Canada and around the world. I think it's amazing that you both started at such a young age to be engaged in such important issues, and I commend you for that.

I know that many of my colleagues have asked about this, but I think I need to ask it one more time to fully understand it myself. Do you remember how many contracts previous federal governments might have awarded to your organization, and what they were for?

2:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We're happy to seek that information. We have received support from PSPC, from Heritage and from environmental...for our work we've done with youth. There's been a variety, dating back between the current government and previous governments. We have specific dollar amounts, if you'd like, that we're prepared to...or percentages of our budget.

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you for that.

To your knowledge, have federal Conservative MPs, ministers, prime ministers or individuals who are affiliated with the Conservative Party or any other opposition party appeared at WE events and/or hosted WE events?

2:40 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Absolutely. To be very candid, we're grateful for their support.

Brian Pallister, a deep supporter of ours in Manitoba, its leader, frequently cheered on young people. We appreciate that Nazanin, Peter MacKay's spouse, has gotten on the stage on some empowerment things with us. We appreciate that, truly. Probably one of the best speeches I ever heard was actually from Mike Lake with his son on autism, as a member of Parliament raising awareness on this incredible issue.

If I may, I would also add the NDP. Rachel Notley, when she was premier, brought a call to action. Wab Kinew, the leader of the NDP in Manitoba, made multiple appearances talking about indigenous issues.

Every time we hold WE Day in a region, the local mayors and the local premiers would be invited to come out, and the local education ministers. Yes, the Prime Minister was invited. As the Prime Minister, he was invited. We also invite the Governor General. We also invite other individuals to join us at these celebrations.

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Do you recall if, during the Harper government time, you were ever hosted at the Prime Minister's residence? Specifically, do you recall being hosted at 24 Sussex back in April 2013 after WE Day in Ottawa? Do you recall who else was there who may currently still be a Conservative MP?

2:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Oh, wow, you're going back a little bit here. Yes, obviously, we appreciate Mrs. Harper hosting at 24 Sussex, where the WE Day after reception took place. We appreciate that we were joined by a number of government leaders at that time who were Conservative. Forgive me, I wouldn't know off the top of my head who was present.

We appreciate that over the years we've had support from all ranks. Truly, we appreciate that the issue of service isn't a political issue, and we hope, since it shouldn't be a political issue in this country, that every party believes in getting youth to volunteer and serve.

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Finally, and I will give you lots of time....

With your permission, Mr. Chair, I will split my time with the Kielburger brothers, because I think it's very important to make sure that we clarify misconceptions, and the best people to clarify misconceptions are Marc and Craig Kielburger.

What are the worst misconceptions that you would like to perhaps clarify right now? Why would WE agree to take on the risk and lose $5 million in this exercise?

2:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I'll start, if it's all right with you, and then I'll hand it over to Marc.

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

You have about a minute and 15 seconds, guys.

2:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Okay. I'll answer it this way.

WE Charity made absolutely no money, and could never have made any money in any way on this, with the contribution agreement. This was the ask from the government. We did not submit a proactive proposal. Rachel Wernick asked us, and we fulfilled the request that came in. The WE Charity Foundation was to solve a need the government asked us to solve. We were not in financial dire straits, because we made difficult choices.

ME to WE Social Enterprises has been incredibly misrepresented in this process. It exists solely to support the charity with 100% of its profits, every penny going to the charity. The main reason it exists is creating jobs for at-risk women around the world.

The real estate, surprisingly, has exploded as an issue. We use real estate like a science centre or a school. We host young people. We have our own global learning centre. We were retrofitting a series of buildings to create a shared space for youth to launch their own social enterprises and their own youth-led charities. Somehow that's being attacked in the press now, when a few months ago it was being praised.

The list continues, but fundamentally I would say this: We did this to be of service to the government, not for the government to help us. It is incredibly unfortunate, the fallout that has occurred.

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will go to Mr. Morantz and we'll do that five-minute round. Then we'll take a seven-minute break and we'll start with Mr. McLeod.

Mr. Morantz, you have five minutes.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Fellows, which ministers' staff members did either you or your intermediaries communicate with in April? Who, and on what dates?

2:45 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I'm happy to speak to that. We'll send you a full list in writing, if that's all right, but I will give you an overview here.

On the seventh, there was a conversation with Amitpal Singh, who is a policy advisor in Finance. Correction: that was actually on the eighth, I believe. We'll need to check that for you, sir. Sofia was contacted, as were 11 other non-profits, asking for the impact information of what was taking place on COVID in the sector. There was a conversation that took place with Michelle Kovacevic on April 9, along with Rachel Wernick.

Sorry, forgive me, the 19th with Rachel Wernick....

We'll put this in writing.

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

If we can get that in writing, Marty....

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

That would be fine. I have limited time, but I appreciate all your information.

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We'll send that to you in writing, sir.

July 28th, 2020 / 2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

That would be great, as soon as you possibly can.

Have you or your intermediaries communicated with the Prime Minister's Office since the contribution agreement was cancelled?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We certainly haven't. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no formal communications.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

You are discussing the repayment of the funds, though, so there must be some communications with government.

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

That's physically done with ESDC and the civil service at ESDC, sir.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Okay.

Have you deleted any emails, text messages or other written communications regarding all this since March?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Any in April?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

In May?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

June? Ever? Have you ever deleted any communications?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Notes from my wife, sir, occasionally when she's—

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

All right.

Since March 1, have you dialed into the government's conference call line?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Yes, of course, as part of ESDC contract initiatives, absolutely.

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Could you provide details of when that call took place?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Not on the spot, but we're happy to do that.

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

We had many conversations with ESDC during that time, dozens of phone calls, sir, with ESDC on the government's—

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

That's great. Any Zoom calls? Did you use any other conferencing technology with any MP, minister or ministerial staff member since March 1?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I can speak with relative certainty that the only thing we could have used was a Teams bridge or a phone call bridge. But to the best of my knowledge, no Zoom or other...BlueJeans, etc.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Did you keep recordings of either of those phone calls or those video calls?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

No, we didn't. That's not standard practice with us.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Do you have direct email, cell, instant communication contact with Prime Minister Trudeau or Finance Minister Morneau?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We do not have an email or phone number for the Prime Minister, and never have. We do have a cellphone for.... We must, because we had the trip information, so we have to have all the information for Morneau in our database: email, phone, emergency phone, as part of hosting.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

On Sunday, July 12, you started to lay off 450 people whom you'd hire to deliver the Canada student service grant. On what date did you begin the process to hire these people?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, that information is actually not correct, in terms of the number of layoffs. At that point, from our understanding, the charity laid off 283 people, of whom we still had [Inaudible—Editor] on the team. We'll get you that exact information, but that's not a correct statement, sir.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Did you hire those 450 people before the—

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Actually, I have it; I apologize. Just to be very clear, we had 390 employees and, just with the difficult decisions we had to make with the pandemic—

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sorry, I think it was—

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

No, I'm talking about hirings related to the agreement.

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

My apologies—

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We will give you the numbers of who—

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

But when did you start to hire those people in order to execute on the yet-unsigned contribution agreement?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We started reaching out, prior to its being signed, to ask if people were available pretty quickly because we had to know if we had enough staff.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Did you hire anyone, though, before it was signed?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We probably did, yes. Then we would have—

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This is your last question, Mr. Morantz.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Could you let us know how many people you hired before the agreement was signed?

2:50 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

We can get that to you.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Thank you.

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, all.

I'll just give you the lineup.

Marc and Craig, you can take a break while I go through the list here. We'll come back at 4:01.

The lineup for questions will be this: Mr. McLeod first, Mr. Fortin next, only for two and a half minutes.... Can somebody check his technology to make sure it's going to work? I believe Mr. Julian is on for the final two and a half minutes. Then we have five-minute rounds: Mr. Poilievre, Mr. Sorbara, Mr. Barrett and Ms. Dzerowicz.

That's the lineup when we come back. We'll be back at 4:01.

2:50 p.m.

The Clerk

No, it's 3:01.

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

It's 3:01 Ottawa time.

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Yes, I'm looking at my clock. I'm ahead of you guys by an hour. It's 3:01 Ottawa time. We'll suspend until then.

Thank you.

The meeting is suspended.

3:02 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will reconvene. I'll recall the meeting to order, and hopefully Marc and Craig will appear there shortly.

While we're waiting for them, I'll just give people an update: Mr. McLeod will be up first for five minutes, then Mr. Fortin for two and a half, Mr. Julian for two and a half, Mr. Poilievre for five, Mr. Sorbara for five.

Do you have a way of contacting the Kielburgers there? Maybe they took my time, 4:01. Oh, there they are.

Good, gentlemen. Just to give you a heads-up, the interpreters are still having a little difficulty with your mike, especially for Craig, so maybe keep it a little closer, if you could. It's coming through a little soft.

Mr. McLeod, you're in an earlier part of the country. You and Mr. Julian are in a different, earlier time zone. We'll go with you for five minutes.

3:02 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to say thank you to the presenters. Four hours is a long time to be sitting and answering questions, and we appreciate your coming forward. We're hearing a lot of information, so I appreciate that.

As an MP, I represent the Northwest Territories, and I have to admit that we have a limited presence in the north with WE Charity. It's certainly a complex organization, and it has become very apparent that it's supported by all parties, and all parties have people who have participated with WE. There's been a lot of media attention on your organization paying for high-profile individuals to travel on WE trips to other countries, such as in Africa, to see the impact of WE's global projects.

You said in a statement a few days ago that WE has invited several people—ambassadors and other people—to participate in these trips, and this is something that many international charities and humanitarian agencies do. They operate in a similar manner.

Could you tell us if WE Charity has taken Conservative or other parties, whether it be Conservative or NDP politicians, in the past to go on some of these trips? That's my first question.

3:05 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Yes, sir, we appreciate that service is not a political issue—hopefully it's not a political issue—and that many politicians have joined us in service. Scott Moe—and I say this not to get him into any trouble, in fact the exact opposite, but I know he's getting some flak for this, which is unfortunate—came and worked like crazy over the winter break, helped to build, to teach, to serve with his wife, and that's how he chose to help build at our college. He chose to teach at our college in Kenya. He was helping out at our medical projects that we have there.

People like Charlie Angus, for example, his own children have joined us in the past, in Nicaragua. We appreciate, sir, that their commitment has been.... It's not a political issue when someone's children join us, and they've helped to build and teach and serve. We welcome people from all walks of life, who benefit through doing this type of service projects that we're able to provide.

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

I was quite impressed when I looked at your organization, and it's very complex. It has many parts to it, many different subsidiaries. It also has many partnerships. The one that came to the forefront for me, as an indigenous person, was the aboriginal education initiative and the We Stand Together campaign, promoting indigenous history in the classrooms and creating awareness of first nations, Inuit and Métis realities facing our communities. It's something I talk about on a non-stop basis. It is very important to me.

I was very impressed with the number of people who come to your organization and speak on these initiatives. Could you maybe clarify it for me, when people come and do a cross-Canada speaking tour—I'm taking that not to be a WE Day but an auxiliary event that you spoke about—and they do get compensated, or their expenses get compensated? I think it's important that we separate the WE Day engagements from the auxiliary events, so people can understand that.

3:05 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Absolutely, sir, and thank you for raising that.

Our global work has been well documented: 1,500 schools and classrooms around the world, clean water, medical for about a million people that we've been able to establish around the world.

Not as well known sometimes is our domestic work. I think that's sometimes misunderstood. For example, Sacred Circle is a program that we've now run for over a decade. It was actually Shawn Atleo who was the person who helped us to frame it. It's a leadership training program for indigenous youth, most often in fly-in communities in Canada, to help young people be social entrepreneurs, to identify a problem in their own communities and then to be the heroes of their problem and help to solve that issue.

Likewise, WE Stand Together, sir, which you identified, is an educational program run in Canadian schools to teach non-indigenous students to better understand the past, present and future of indigenous students in Canada. In fact, part of what we have been doing in Canada has been trying to build these various systems to help young entrepreneurs in Canada.

It's something that has been, unfortunately, misunderstood. In Toronto, we've established a series of buildings to retrofit to create free space to welcome young entrepreneurs to set up their own charities with their own social enterprises. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, it's on pause. These are the types of innovative projects that, in Canada, we try to do to serve youth.

You're right, sir, that our operation is complex, because, in our hearts, we're entrepreneurs. We create new systems. We want to build to create.

3:05 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Yes, and we also started when we were kids. Craig was 12. I was 17. It's kind of like building a house. You have a small little house and you add a wing, then you add a skylight and then you add a little makeshift swimming pool for your kids.

Yes, we recognize that we do have a complex organization. That's why we're bringing in Korn Ferry to help us. This wasn't done out of malice or anything like that. It was just done as—

3:05 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

I think five years—

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Okay, I'll stop you there because I want to get clarification on a couple of things.

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

You have one quick question there, Michael.

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Okay.

Michelle Douglas appeared just before you. She's a former chair of the board, as you know. She stated that she didn't know speakers received fees for speaking at WE events. Why would she not know that?

3:05 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Thank you for asking, sir.

So, we actually.... Again, allow me to reiterate this very important point.

We believe that, in speaking on the WE Day stage, it is an honour and a privilege to address 10,000 or 20,000 young people at a time to share your story. It's typically two, three, four or five minutes max on the stage, and it's not a hard thing to get people who want to speak in front of 20,000. The challenge or difficulty is having someone come into a city to do multiple educator events, multiple breakfasts, fundraisers, cocktail parties, evening events and gala events.

Just like other charities, we engage through a speaking bureau with the proper processes in place, someone to help us find the talent to engage in those types of activities. We don't do telemarketing. We don't do street canvassing. We don't do mass mailing. We don't do fundraising of that nature, but bringing in these type of educational speakers to events allows us to bring partners and sponsors to the table. This is part of our model, and it works really well.

To clarify, again, this is not just to get up on the stage on WE Day, as per Ms. Douglas's comments. This is for a different purpose; it supports the organization's mission.

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay. Thank you for that.

I'm just going to ask for a point of clarification, if I could.

What you're saying, then, is that the individual is not really paid for the WE Day event. They're paid for the other events auxiliary to that. Is that correct?

3:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Yes, sir.

The contract is, of course, with WE Day. It's the easiest way to make the contract, but the purpose of their compensation is for them to come and help us with the auxiliary events, because that's less exciting, and lots of days. That's the understanding that we had with these individuals, sir.

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you.

Mr. Fortin, hopefully your Internet is working this time. The floor is yours for two and a half minutes. We're into those rounds again.

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Kielburger, I apologize to you too for the inconveniences of technology. I will pick up where I left off.

Mr. Chair, you are signalling to me. Can you hear me?

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

No, you're coming through in both languages at the same time.

Are you on the French?

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Oh, no, I'm not. Okay.

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay, start over.

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I am sorry, Mr. Chair. From now on I will be on the French channel.

Mr. Kielburger, you hired Margaret Sinclair Trudeau because she is former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau's ex-wife and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's mother. You hired the current Prime Minister's brother, Alexandre Trudeau, and the Prime Minister's wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, all for speaking engagements.

Mr. Morneau and his wife went on vacation with you. Their daughters work for you. There are all these connections. As a matter of fact, you yourself said earlier that, while delivering a speech, you mistakenly mentioned that you had spoken with the Prime Minister's Office.

I sense that you have a very close relationship with the Trudeau family and the Morneau family. Do you acknowledge that you have very close ties with the Trudeau family and the Morneau family?

3:10 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Sir, I will answer the question this way. I've never seen the Prime Minister or Sophie Grégoire Trudeau in a social setting. Neither of us have. We have never had a meal with them. We've never socialized with them, ever. So it depends what your definition of “close” is.

We have welcomed Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to be the ambassador for our mental health programs, and she has been extraordinary in raising awareness. We have welcomed Margaret Trudeau, because she is a mental health advocate.

In the case of the Morneau family, the McCain-Morneau family are a very generous philanthropists. We've hosted them on humanitarian trips. All of this is in furtherance to the cause.

Sir, again, what we're doing here is fulfilling the purpose of our charity, and that is different from a personal relationship.

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I am not criticizing that, Mr. Kielburger.

I understand that very well and, if I had been in your position, I might have done the same. On one point, though, we probably would not have done the same.

Now that we have said all that, how can you explain that neither yourself nor the person responsible for government relations at WE Charity ever registered in the Registry of Lobbyists, although you have these connections? We are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts you receive from the government. The latest contract we are talking about these days was to allow you to manage a total of close to $900 million or more. You were paid about $43 million to do it.

Considering that the relationship was that close, why didn't you ever think of registering as a lobbyist?

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Fortin, I don't know what is wrong with your Internet system, but it is down again. It isn't your mike. I understand that it's the Internet system.

Did you pick up enough of that question, either Marc or Craig, to answer? Perhaps you could answer that, and then we'll go to Mr. Julian.

3:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Yes. Allow us to answer your question, sir.

First, and I say this with great respect, Margaret Trudeau is more than someone's mother. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is more than someone's wife. We live and we engage with individuals on the merit that they also bring themselves, as individuals, to these important causes. I feel that I need to correct the record on that, sir.

To the heart of your question, why we didn't register, it's because, based on our understanding of the time definition involved, in the vast majority of these cases—what we're describing, in fact everything until last month, or two months ago I should say—this was a minimal amount of time to fill out a government application for a grant. We recognize that when we were approached by ESDC in the month of April the amount of time increased. Frankly, we're working with our team to determine whether that should have triggered us to register.

We're happy to look into that question, sir, for the month of April, when the government proactively approached us. Honestly, sir, we didn't think at that point that something was necessary, because they were calling us to be helpful to them. We're looking into the matter. We're happy to look further into the matter.

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

You thought—

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you.

I'm sorry, Mr. Fortin. We're well over time.

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

[Inaudible]

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Fortin, you are breaking up. We can't hear you, and you're over time.

Mr. Julian—

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Point of order, Mr. Chair.

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Julian, the floor is yours.

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Chair, point of order.

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

What's your point of order?

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Chair, point of order.

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I'm listening. What's your point of order?

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I am raising a point of order for the following reason.

I am using the device that Parliament provided to me. I have the microphone, the device and all of Parliament's equipment. The IT service called me to try to help and I was not successful.

Mr. Chair, if I cannot do my job as a member of Parliament because Parliament's devices are out of order, my privileges as a member of Parliament are being curtailed. I call upon your wisdom to make a decision and resolve this matter so that, once and for all, members who participate in committee meetings are provided with all the equipment they need to be heard properly. Otherwise, our job as parliamentarians is at stake. This is a very critical period; being unable to question the Kielburger brothers properly is unacceptable to me.

It will be Mr. Trudeau's turn on Thursday and I have a feeling that the same thing will happen. It is my privilege, the privilege of all my colleagues, the other 337 members of the House of Commons, to be heard. We have the right to be heard on this committee and the witnesses must answer our questions.

Mr. Chair, I would therefore ask that you step in to ensure that we are provided with adequate equipment.

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, Mr. Fortin.

We will have IT look into that. I understand that it isn't the mike or the equipment. It may be the Internet. You are right; you need to be able to participate fully in the hearings, and we will have somebody look into it.

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Julian, the floor is yours.

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to both of you for being available for four hours. We have a lot of questions, and we're seeking answers.

My first question is just to clarify previous answers. Is it true that no payments on expenses and no speaker fees were paid to any member of the Trudeau family prior to the Prime Minister's election in November 2015?

3:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, there was one payment, and we disclosed this, prior to Mr. Trudeau being in public life, to Sophie Trudeau, who came to speak at one of our WE Days in Montreal, I believe. The payments range, from our understanding, between $1,400 and $1,500. Let's go with $1,500, just to be safe. But that was many years ago, sir.

3:15 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

There have been no subsequent payments to Ms. Grégoire Trudeau.

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Thank you for that. You'll be providing full information, so we look forward to comparing the period prior to the Prime Minister's election with the period after the Prime Minister's election.

I want to come back to the important point you made about the WE Charity Foundation and limited liability. Of course, in a program like this, there are considerable liability issues, as you've mentioned. In the event of a significant lawsuit, if the foundation were basically invested with the liability and didn't have assets, that would substantially increase the risk to the federal government.

Did you clearly communicate to ESDC, through the process of signing the contract on June 23, that the WE Charity Foundation had no assets and would not be able to sustain any significant liability issues?

3:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Here's the good news, sir. We were very clear, and it was also in the contract, if I'm not mistaken, that we had tens of millions of dollars of insurance, which we added as [Inaudible—Editor] to the foundation to ensure that this whole initiative was protected. Of course, in the case of liability, the government, specifically the program, and the taxpayers were well protected. We took that issue very seriously, sir.

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

That wasn't my question. My question was this: Were you very clear in communicating to ESDC that the contract was being signed with the WE Charity Foundation, a foundation that had no assets?

3:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, we didn't have a specific conversation about the amount of assets, but ESDC was clear that this was with the WE Charity Foundation specifically to help limit liability.

3:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

On the first page in the contract—I'm sure you've seen it—it is in big, bold letters, sir. It was a thoughtful conversation that we had multiple times with ESDC on this matter.

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

But at no point did ESDC or any ministers raise the fact that the assets of the other associated companies and the charity were actually elsewhere, and that the WE Charity Foundation had no assets. Is that a fair indication of what was discussed with the federal civil servants and the ministers?

3:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

As discussed with the federal civil service and as written into the contract in section 22, there was insurance to mitigate the very concern you've expressed.

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

On the issue of liability and the teachers' incentive, you did mention you got a lot of liability advice. We have, of course, heard from witnesses that the teachers' incentive could also provoke liability issues around other issues, such as privacy. What advice did you get on the issue of liability and the teachers' incentive that was part of the overall offer?

3:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, can you clarify the teachers' incentive? We are unclear about your statement.

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

There were potential payments made to teachers who recruited students to the program.

3:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

We're very glad you asked that question, because that's another misconception.

3:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Yes, sir, I appreciate that. There were no payments for recruiting students. That was an inaccuracy reported in the press and shared, unfortunately, by certain individuals.

The program structure was such that.... During the pandemic, non-profits were reeling, and many of them didn't have the in-house staff to manage and supervise the volunteers. ESDC asked WE Charity to personally ensure that it would hire staff—these teachers you referred to—to directly supervise up to 20,000 young people for their service work with various non-profits. These teachers were not.... They could make it available, of course, to their students, but they were specifically hired, just like summer teachers over the course of the summer months, to work directly with a cohort of students to support them, match them, coach them, check in and verify their service. It was a very active, involved role that they played, because we didn't want this to be a burdensome program on the non-profits to have to accept these young volunteers.

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We've got to go back to Mr. Julian.

We're considerably over time, Mr. Julian, but we'll go with one more question.

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

I'm concerned that you're not answering our questions. You're answering other questions, but not answering this one.

3:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Craig Kielburger

Please ask it again.

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

What would the issue of liability mean to this overall program? The risk to the federal government obviously was considerable. It doesn't appear there was real discussion beyond the issue of some insurance, but that doesn't cover overall liability. Was there any discussion with ESDC around the liability contained within the overall program, whether you call it a teachers' incentive or teachers' supervisory grant or whatever, and what advice did you get from your lawyers on setting up this program?

3:20 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Absolutely, sir. The conversation with ESDC was about liability. ESDC was asking us to take on the liability. That was the concern with ESDC and the Government of Canada, that the liability for the first 40,000 young people would rest solely with WE Charity. Under those circumstances we explained that we were very concerned about the circumstances of having 40,000 young people volunteering during a pandemic, and our assuming full liability for that. We explained that we had a different structure and that we needed to have the liability and, of course, the corresponding insurance in that structure in case something went wrong. That was the conversation we had.

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Then that's why you chose the shell company structure?

3:25 p.m.

Founder, WE Charity

Marc Kielburger

Sir, it's not a shell company. I want to stress again that that is an inaccurate statement. The foundation is a registered charity, so characterizing it, sir, with great respect, as a shell company is not right.

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We are going to end it there, considerably over time, but that was Mr. Julian's first time.

Because people asked me this, again, the lineup will be, first Mr. Poilievre for five minutes, then Mr. Sorbara, then Mr. Barrett and then Ms. Dzerowicz.

Mr. Poilievre.

3:25 p.m.

Conservative