WE Charity Frequently Asked Questions
What happened to WE Charity in Canada?
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fallout from the Canada Student Service Grant, WE Charity Canada made the difficult decision to wind down its operations in Canada.
The end of WE Charity in Canada is very much the result of a pattern of behaviours by politicians and the media that has become all too frequent. Politicians make up and spread false information and narratives for their own personal gain, or in the name of the party they serve. The media pushes false, incomplete or misleading information to drive clicks to their website: the more clicks they get, the more ads they can sell.
These hyper-partisan actions and their amplification in the media create a situation where the truth is lost and real people suffer. Too often, those impacted by this reckless behaviour are the people who are never shown in the media or cannot speak in Parliament.
In the case of WE Charity, the ones who suffered most were the teachers and students across Canada who were supported by the charity, and the children, women and workers in the developing world who were set to gain access to clean water, healthcare, education and economic empowerment.
It is too late for WE Charity in Canada, but there are hopeful signs that there will be consequences for those who fabricate and spread lies and innuendo. Just recently, Fox News was forced to pay almost $800 million to an electronic voting company (Dominion) over the repeated lies Fox News aired about the 2020 US Presidential Election.
Hopefully, that settlement will help turn the tide and make politicians and media think twice before making reckless accusations and carrying out sustained attacks that are unsubstantiated by fact.
What did WE Charity achieve?
Over 25 years, WE Charity Canada generated incredible impact both at home and around the world. In Canada, the charity developed innovative programs designed to inspire generations of youth to take action for causes that resonated with them, leading many to volunteer for the first time in their lives. Through WE Schools and WE Day, the organization helped students turn the tide on declining civic engagement by inspiring the next generation to support more than 5,000 causes and log 40 million hours of volunteer service. The accomplishments were celebrated at over 130 stadium-sized WE Day events, which featured appearances by famous leaders, actors, singers and politicians who honoured and inspired students and teachers. Internationally, what began as a fight against child labour grew into a global movement that worked in partnership to empower communities with the tools to free themselves from poverty. The pillars of WE Charity's international development model, WE Villages, engineered over 25 years to work in five key areas—education, water, health, food and opportunity—that together created transformative and lasting impact. WE Charity provided over 200,000 children with education through 1,500 schools and schoolhouses partnered with 30,000 women in its alternative income programs; and helped one million people gain improved access to health care and clean water.
Today, because of WE Charity Canada’s work, girls in rural Kenya can attend school from first grade all the way through WE College. Mothers can safely deliver at WE Charity’s Baraka Hospital in Narok County, Kenya. Famers in Ecuador’s Amazon can learn valuable, sustainable skills at the WE Agricultural Learning Center.
As Friends of WE, we are proud to have supported the charity in delivering positive impacts to so many in Canada and around the world.
Were all of WE Charity’s programs and operations in developing countries shut down?
No. When the winding-down of WE Charity Canada was announced, it was also announced that all WE Village communities would be supported to complete outstanding development projects. In many communities, these projects represent the final stages of the WE Villages five-pillar development model, which is designed to ensure long-term sustainability. Since then, the organization has worked closely with community partners to fulfil this commitment.
These projects will be fully run and managed by these communities, which now have the local capacity to plan for future needs, such as population growth, and to lead continued change. In addition to the core WE Village programs, there are a number of enhanced projects in Kenya that require ongoing financial support. The WE Charity Foundation is continuing this important work, while WE Charity in the United States continues to deliver programs domestically and around the world. The Foundation is an independent organization with a mandate to ensure the continued support of impactful regional flagship projects in Kenya, those that will ensure transformational change for generations.
What was the Canada Student Service Grant program?
The Canada Student Service Grant, or CSSG, was a program established by the Government of Canada during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020.
At the time, it was clear that due to public health restrictions, post-secondary students would not be able to obtain summer employment as they normally would have prior to the pandemic, placing them at a huge economic disadvantage in which many would be unable to continue their studies in the fall of 2020.
The CSSG was created to give students virtual work opportunities at non-profit organizations – which were also struggling as their usual volunteer cohort disappeared during the pandemic – and earn a federal grant of up to $5,000 at the end of the summer.
WE Charity’s role was to administer the program by matching students with employment opportunities at the non-profits, track their hours over the summer, and deliver the grant to the students commensurate with the hours they logged.
Was WE Charity given a billion dollars for the CSSG as has been alleged by politicians and the media?
No. The total value of the contribution agreement with the government for the CSSG program was $543.5M, not the $900M to $1 billion number that was widely, and incorrectly, reported. Similarly, WE Charity would have only been reimbursed for its expenses (to a maximum of $34.8M, not the $43M number routinely cited by the media). There was no profit element in the agreement whatsoever.
Did WE Charity's connections to Prime Minister Trudeau and former Finance Minister Bill Morneau lead to them getting the CSSG contract?
No, WE Charity was recommended by the civil service and chosen for this project because of its 25-year record of engaging students and youth in meaningful service learning. This was verified by the Federal Ethics Commissioner, whose review found no wrongdoing on the part of WE Charity.
Was WE Charity going bankrupt before it got the CSSG contract?
No, as stated in an independent review by forensic accountants. “WE was financially viable at the time of the signing of the CSSG Funding Agreement with the Federal Government and not in any financial peril in the Spring of 2020.” Please see here for more details.
How much profit would WE Charity have made from the CSSG contract?
WE Charity would not have made any profit from the CSSG program. The contribution agreement with the Government of Canada allowed only for the reimbursement of expenses incurred while administrating the program.
Did WE Charity get most/all of its funding from the government?
No, in fact in the fiscal year prior to the CSSG (2019), WE Charity received approximately 1% of its operating budget from the Canadian government.
Is it true that WE Charity is suing the CBC?
Yes, in February 2022 WE Charity commenced legal action against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in response to false and misleading reporting by journalists Mark Kelley and Harvey Cashore in a series of stories alleging that WE Charity deceived its donors about its projects in Kenya.
As long-time donors, we know that WE Charity was always transparent about the use of donors' funds and how they contributed to achieving their intended impacts of helping children in Kenya and around the world.
Conversely, The Fifth Estate was consistently wrong in its reporting about WE Charity. Eight donors featured in one Fifth Estate broadcast wrote an open letter criticizing the CBC for publishing false information about their experiences donating to WE Charity.
A later episode contained similar allegations about donors being misled. In response, over 100 prominent donors, including a former Prime Minister, CEOs, and heads of community fundraising efforts representing thousands of Canadian donors, wrote to the CBC to raise serious questions about their reporting.
For these reasons and other errors in their reporting, WE Charity chose to pursue legal action against the corporation. The detailed statement of claim is publicly available, here.
The case is now before the courts.
Is it true that Jesse Brown and Canadaland are also being sued due to their coverage?
Yes, in November 2021, a defamation lawsuit was filed against Canadaland and its Publisher, Jesse Brown.
Brown has a lengthy record of attacking WE Charity, Marc and Craig Kielburger, and even their elderly parents. His long vendetta has been chronicled over the years by Mark Bourrie (an award winning lawyer, journalist and author) on his website Fair Press.
In 2021, Brown went so low as to attack Marc and Craig’s 80 year old mother by repeating a lie from decades earlier. In 2000, Saturday Night magazine was sued for printing false claims about Mrs. Kielburger. The magazine later consented to a judgement against them and paid $309,000. In an effort to rewrite history, Brown repeated the same libel Saturday Night printed and is now being sued by Mrs. Kielburger.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, Canadaland and Brown refused to retract or correct the libels about her.
This case is also now before the courts.
Andy Stillman and other WE Charity supporters and donors conceptualized and funded the Friends of WE campaign and website to set the record straight. WE Charity, among others, has contributed to this site with materials and information. We welcome anyone else who would like to contribute relevant and accurate information.This site seeks to inform Canadians on what really happened and what was lost.