Evidence of meeting #51 for Finance in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was youth.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Dalal Al-Waheidi  Executive Director, WE Charity
Scott Baker  Chief Operations Officer, WE Charity
Sofia Marquez  Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual
John-Frederick Cameron  Chief Executive Officer, Katimavik

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Go ahead and answer.

3:45 p.m.

Executive Director, WE Charity

Dalal Al-Waheidi

Thank you.

We pay for ancillary events for some of these speakers. It is my understanding that we need to look through our files. I'm not going to be able to provide you any of them at this point because there is privacy with these contracts.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

You can have a very quick question, Mr. Poilievre.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Was Margaret Trudeau paid in any way, shape or form in relation to the 2017 Canada 150 celebration or for any ancillary event approximately around the same date?

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

That wasn't exactly a short one—

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Yes or no?

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

—but go ahead, Ms. Al-Waheidi.

3:45 p.m.

Executive Director, WE Charity

Dalal Al-Waheidi

Yes, I am going to answer you. No, she was not.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thanks, all of you.

Ms. Dzerowicz, you're next.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.

I want to say a huge thank you to all three of you for presenting today.

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Ms. Al-Waheidi.

I want to thank all of you for all the work you do to inspire and engage youth across Canada and around the world.

The May 5th.... I just want to remind everybody on the committee that I specifically asked the Kielburgers this question. Why was work started? They have very clearly indicated that there was no agreement. There was no one who told them to start the agreement. They had taken it as a risk upon themselves because they wanted to help students. They understood that there was no agreement, but they decided to go ahead and start working on it. They were very clear with this committee. I want to make sure that is reiterated to everyone here.

My first question is about the WE Charity Foundation. There was some testimony THAT indicated that the reason there was an agreement not with WE Charity but with the WE Charity Foundation was that the government had asked the WE Charity to take on all the liability of this program. It was the lawyers of WE Charity who said that in order for WE Charity to be able to do that, they recommended that the agreement be signed with WE Charity Foundation.

My understanding is that this is a very typical thing that is done to cover liabilities, within both the public and private industry. Can you please comment? Is that what your understanding is as well?

3:45 p.m.

Executive Director, WE Charity

Dalal Al-Waheidi

Yes. This is correct in terms of how we were asked by the government to take the liability of up to 40,000 volunteers during a pandemic. In consultation with experts in the area and including our board of directors, we had discussions with our board of directors in terms of the liability that the organization would take, and it was also their recommendation and their approval that the contract be with WE Charity Foundation.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Julie, I'll just interrupt for a second on the next two people on the question list. We will have Mr. Poilievre again, and then we'll wrap up with Mr. McLeod. I'm sorry. Go ahead.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

My next question is about the board of directors. We did hear that there was a changeover, a significant one. I believe it was in March. to what extent did that impact your operations and/or your ability to deliver on the CSSG program?

August 13th, 2020 / 3:45 p.m.

Executive Director, WE Charity

Dalal Al-Waheidi

There was no negative implication, because we've always had competent, dedicated board members who govern the organization. A third of our board continued their service. Within the organization, we have eight individuals who are from a variety of backgrounds, from accounting, to legal, to education. There was no impact. Their governance was really important in the process and to the extent about the conversation with WE Charity Foundation.... I just wanted to share that. Their oversight continued, and we're very proud of our board members.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Was this mentioned, the sort of changeover in the board? Was it mentioned at any point to the bureaucrats as you were negotiating the contribution agreement?

3:45 p.m.

Executive Director, WE Charity

Dalal Al-Waheidi

We answered in a transparent way every question that was asked of us, and we provided the information.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Did you feel you had to give that information about the change in the board, or did you feel, because there was no impact on operations, that you didn't have to offer that information?

3:50 p.m.

Executive Director, WE Charity

Dalal Al-Waheidi

We had competent board members, and we're thankful to all the board members for their contributions, but there was no impact. We answered all the questions that were asked of us. All the information pertaining to our board members and their bios is on our website; it's publicly available.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

We heard from Rachel Wernick and from ESDC that the department's recommendation was that a contribution agreement be signed with WE Charity to mobilize other not-for-profit partners as the best available option, given the requirement for speed, scope and scale, and to reach a broad diversity of youth. What was the extent of your knowledge as to why the department entered into a contribution agreement with WE?

3:50 p.m.

Chief Operations Officer, WE Charity

Scott Baker

In terms of the process determining that it should be a contribution agreement, I would have to refer it to the government. We were proud to be asked. As a Canadian organization, born and raised, with experience coast to coast, engaging 7,000 schools, we wanted to be helpful in the middle of a global pandemic and support students, many of whom had participated in our programs, who were struggling to find jobs, to pay rent, to pay tuition, etc. So we said yes, we would do this.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Poilievre, for five minutes, and then Mr. McLeod to wrap it up.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

It's an incredible coincidence that your organization has suddenly registered to lobby all of these months after all the lobbying happened. We look forward to examining the dozens of meetings that you had, including with high-level political officials close to Justin Trudeau. Your organization had paid his family half a million dollars.

Specifically, I want to speak about Laura Lebel. Ms. Marquez, you said you communicated with Ms. Laura Lebel. Was it an email you sent?

3:50 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

Yes, that's correct. It was a simple email asking for a brief call. I've never met Ms. Lebel before.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Did she grant that call?

3:50 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

No, she didn't. She directed me to Rick Theis.