Justin Trudeau, PM

Prime Minister of Canada

Justin Trudeau’s costly and misguided decision not to recuse himself from the CSSG approval process, and how he completely abandoned WE Charity during the controversy that followed.

If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had simply recused himself from involvement during the cabinet vote for the program, the entire WE Charity “scandal” would have been avoided.

Before the pandemic, both Trudeau’s wife and mother had appropriate, working relationships with WE Charity. To avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest, a reasonable politician would recuse himself from Cabinet discussions on selecting WE Charity as the administrator of the program. Trudeau chose otherwise.  

When the controversy broke, instead of stepping up to protect the charity and the millions of young Canadians it served, he stepped back, deflected, shut down parliament and even went on holidays after his committee testimony. He left WE Charity to fend for itself, unfairly making it for the lightning rod for all opposition attacks against the program and Trudeau himself.

After WE Charity was attacked by the opposition parties and forced to remove itself from delivering the program, Trudeau falsely stated that the government would find ways to deliver the program. That never happened and the 30,000 students who had signed up in the first two days after launch, young people wanting to step up and help and earn much needed summer income, got nothing. The government shelved the program and established nothing to replace it. 

Kate Bahen from Charity Intelligence uses questionable tactics while operating a non-profit

What you should know

If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had simply recused himself from involvement during the cabinet vote for the program, the entire WE Charity “scandal” would have been avoided. Justin Trudeau later apologized for not recusing himself. Nine months later, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion cleared Justin Trudeau of any wrongdoing, but it was too little too late. It is not WE Charity's responsibility to manage the Government of Canada's perceived conflicts of interest.

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Justin Trudeau's comment that WE Charity was “the only organization in Canada” capable of delivering the program harmed, rather than helped, the situation from WE’s perspective. His statement shifted the spotlight from the government procurement process—which opposition politicians and the media had every right to scrutinize—to the charity. Justin Trudeau only appeared for ninety minutes of questioning before leaving for a vacation. Conversely, WE Charity representatives spent over 9 hours answering questions from Members of Parliament. 

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Even though he formerly served as Minister of Youth, Justin Trudeau did not protect Canada’s largest youth organization, taking no personal responsibility for the organization’s downfall and showing no moral courage to speak up. He left tens of thousands of students without summer income thanks to his mishandling of the CSSG. Although he promised an alternative solution once WE Charity proactively removed itself from the program, he broke that promise as well, letting students down because it was more politically convenient to do so.

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What you should know

Viciously attacked WE Charity and the Kielburgers in a proxy war against Justin Trudeau.

Hid behind his Parliamentary Privilege (legal immunity) to voice false statements attacking the charity.

Bullied and insulted witnesses in a manner unbecoming of a Member of Parliament.

What you should know

Made over 100 false statements about WE Charity in a matter of weeks.

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What you should know

Charity Intelligence’s board and staff have direct and indirect ties to the Conservative Party of Canada, making significant donations to the party and its candidates.

Has a history of making false claims about charities, including statements about the Winnipeg Jets’ charitable foundation (True North Foundation).

In 2019, just before the CSSG, she and Charity Intelligence gave WE Charity an overall grade of “A” and then it was quickly downgraded to suit her political narrative.

Suggested reading

Rhetoric and Vitriol

Exacerbated the situation with mishandling or inaction

Profanity and unprofessional language in public communications

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Ironically, Charlie Angus claims that Pierre Poilievre would do anything for short-term gain, showing great disdain towards him and his policies. Charlie Angus and Pierre Poilievre later teamed up as two prominent political figures alongside journalists to destroy WE Charity in Canada with political grandstanding and dishonest conduct.

This Tweet is demonstrative of the language and approach Charlie Angus uses as an elected official. He is prone to using profanity and demonstrating emotional instability in public communications, often on his official Twitter page.

Hiding behind “parliamentary privilege” to spread misinformation

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Charlie Angus was regularly called out for sharing false information about WE Charity Canada. In this particular case, he quietly deleted a Tweet that shared false information but didn’t acknowledge or apologize for posting it. As an elected member of parliament, Charlie Angus and others enjoy "parliamentary privilege", a legal immunity in which legislators are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made within in the course of their legislative duties. This means that under Canadian law, MPs can spread false information under the guise of democracy without being held accountable.

Attacking a well-researched work that sets the record straight for personal reasons

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Tawfiq Rangwala is the #1 bestselling author of What WE Lost. Here, Charlie Angus reduces Rangwala's well-researched work, including nearly 500 footnotes, to a "tantrum". This is presumably because Charlie Angus did not like the factual contents of the book. Charlie Angus's false statements and dishonest conduct were meticulously documented by Rangwala, especially in1 andof What WE Lost.

Crass approach as an elected official

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Charlie Angus refers to a “**** ton of money” in relation to advertising for the What WE Lost book. The advertising was done by the publisher, Optimum Publishing International. This tweet once again shows Charlie Angus's crass approach, use of profanity, and emotionally volatile demeanor that he often directed at WE Charity.

Spreading misinformation and refusing to correct himself

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Another example of Charlie Angus spreading false information and refusing to correct himself, even though the accurate information was already on the public record. The total value of the CSSG contribution agreement was up to $543.5M, not “nearly a billion dollars” as Charlie Angus consistently shared. Charlie Angus was aware of the correct information yet falsely stated the inflated number dozens of times because it served as a better soundbite.

Regularly teaming up Pierre Poilievre and the opposition for political purposes

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Charlie Angus and Pierre Poilievre occupy polar opposite ends of the political spectrum and often attacked each other under normal circumstances, however, the unlikely duo then teamed up to attack and destroy WE Charity in Canada for their own political purposes. Both have had leadership ambitions - Pierre Poilievre became the leader official opposition shortly after the WE Charity saga. Charlie Angus had previously come second in the NDP leadership race.

Rhetoric and Vitriol

Exacerbated the situation with mishandling or inaction

Used his position as an MP to harass charity staff

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Pierre Poilievre would regularly use his status as an elected official to bully and harass WE Charity Canada cofounders and staff. In this case, he threatened to have the cofounders arrested by a ceremonial figure in parliament called "The Sergeant-at-Arms" if they did not show up to answer his questions. WE Charity representatives spent over 9 hours answering parliamentary questions, whereas the Prime Minister only appeared for 90 minutes of questioning before leaving for a vacation.

Regularly teaming up with Charlie Angus and the opposition for political purposes

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Pierre Poilievre and Charlie Angus sit at polar opposite ends of the political spectrum and often disparaged each other, until they teamed up to attack WE Charity in Canada for political purposes. Both have had leadership ambitions - Pierre Poilievre became leader of the official opposition shortly after his attacks on WE Charity in Canada (Charlie Angus had previously come second in the NDP leadership race).

Rhetoric and Vitriol

Exacerbated the situation with mishandling or inaction

Charity Intelligence’s Board Chair a major donor to the Conservative Party of Canada

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Charity Intelligence board chair Graeme Hepburn is a major donor to the Conservative Party, making 56 separate donations to the Conservative Party/candidates totaling over $44,000 and actively hosting fundraisers for Conservative Party members at his home, including former provincial leader Tim Hudak. Charity Intelligence did not disclose this information during the parliamentary testimony or as part of their attacks on WE Charity in Canada. The following image, publicly available from Elections Canada, confirms Graeme Hepburn's significant financial support of and direct ties to the Conservative Party.

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Indirect ties to the Conservative Party of Canada through the Board Chair’s wife

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Graeme Hepburn’s wife Claudia Hepburn is also a financial supporter of the Conservative Party of Canada, donating $24,000 to the party over the years. Claudia Hepburn is the CEO of a charity called Windmill Microlending, which has $5M a year in revenue. It is worth noting that Charity Intelligence has not conducted an analysis of that charity. Claudia Hepburn is also the former Director of right-wing think tank Fraser Institute. The following image illustrates once again Charity Intelligence’s direct and indirect financial ties to the Conservative Party of Canada through Board Chair Graeme Hepburn and his wife Claudia.

Kate Bahen’s undisclosed financial ties to the Conservative Party of Canada

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Kate Bahen and Charity Intelligence actively supported and amplified the rhetoric of the Conservative Party of Canada to take down WE Charity in Canada. At the request of members of the Finance Committee, including members of the Conservative Party, Kate Bahen testified in front of a parliamentary committee on the issue, but failed to disclose her direct affiliation with the Conservative Party as a active donor. The following image, publicly available from Elections Canada, confirms Kate Bahen's financial support of the Conservative Party.

Using media attention to raise Charity Intelligence’s profile

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Kate Bahen's attacks on WE Charity Canada and its cofounders were unrelenting, motivated by the opportunity to exploit the issue to garner media attention for herself and her organization, Charity Intelligence. Kate Bahen and Charity Intelligence appeared in hundreds of news stories over the summer of 2020. This tweet is just one example of her personalizing her attacks against WE Charity cofounders, Marc and Craig Kielburger. In this case, it was before Marc and Craig Kielburger appeared in front of a parliamentary hearing. Kate Bahen mockingly referred to this moment as "burger time".

Kate Bahen’s dishonest, self-serving actions and WE Charity’s response

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Starting in 2014, Charity Intelligence rated WE Charity with their highest four-star rating based on transparency, reporting, and overhead spending, receiving better marks than groups such as the Red Cross. After the CSSG saga, Kate Bahen quickly downgraded the charity without warning or reason to suit her own political agenda and her own narrative she was sharing in the press. The organization was called out for this questionable conduct in the parliamentary hearings when Charity Intelligence testified. WE Charity has documented Kate Bahen's relentless attacks on the charity in the comments section of its Charity Intelligence profile. Readers can scroll all the way down for a detailed analysis of Bahen's dishonest and self-serving actions.

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See what Canadians are saying

What WE Lost goes into detail on Justin Trudeau’s costly and misguided decision not to recuse himself from the CSSG approval process, and how he completely abandoned WE Charity during the controversy that followed.

Listen to Martin Luther King III relay behind-the-scenes details of Justin Trudeau’s pivotal decision not to recuse himself from discussions about the CSSG, and his abandonment of WE Charity once the controversy broke.

Select a chapter below to read excerpts from What WE Lost

The Attack on Canada’s Largest Children's Charity

House of Cards

Chapter 12: Political Roadkill

Chapter 13: Closing Doors

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