The revelation comes amid mounting opposition scrutiny over the Liberals’ decision to award WE Charity a contract to administer a $900-million youth grant program. A decision to halt the agreement was announced last Friday, and the ethics commissioner is investigating whether Trudeau violated conflict of interest rules in light of his family’s ties to the organization.
As reported by Canadaland on Friday, two of Bill Morneau’s daughters — Grace Acan and Clare Morneau — are connected to the group.
Acan is a contract employee for WE, a spokesperson for the minister’s office confirmed.
She started working for WE last year following an internship tied to her education in community development. Acan first worked as a co-ordinator for ME to WE trips, and since March Acan has been part of WE’s schools team, the organization said in a statement.
“She got this position on her own merits. There is absolutely no link between her employment and any work that WE does with the Government of Canada,” a statement from the minister’s office said Friday.
The minister’s office said Morneau did not recuse himself from WE discussions and noted that the recommendation to have WE Charity administer grant program was made by the public service.
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus wrote a letter to Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion on Friday asking him to investigate whether Morneau breached his duties under conflict of interest legislation.
“It would seem apparent that Minister Morneau would recognize that the fact that his family member was an employee of this organization necessitated him to recuse himself regarding this extraordinary decision to outsource nearly billion-dollar commitment of public funds in a single source contract,” Angus wrote.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he would like to know which cabinet ministers knew of Morneau and Trudeau’s family connections to the WE organization.
“Did Mr. Morneau inform anybody in the Privy Council Office, anybody in the ethics office, that he was making a decision about an organization where his daughter worked? These are the types of things that we need to get answers,” he said in an interview.
Morneau’s daughter Clare is a speaker and advocate on refugee issues. She has spoken at three WE Day events, according to the charity.
In 2016, while still in high school, she published a book called Kakuma Girls: Sharing Stories of Hardship & Hope From Kakuma Refugee Camp.
“Clare has spoken at WE events, as well as many other public events, in the context of the release of her book on young refugee girls. She has never been compensated for that work. 100% of the book proceeds went to a scholarship for Kakuma refugees to the University of Toronto,” the minister’s office said in a statement Friday.
Marc Kielburger, who co-founded the WE organization with his brother Craig, provided a blurb praising the book.
The Canada Student Service Grant program was established to help offset the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on youth employment. It will provide compensation to students and new graduates for completing volunteer work, up to $5,000 for 500 hours.
After the WE arrangement was halted last week, the Liberals announced that the federal government would oversee the initiative.
Critics of the deal had highlighted the Trudeau family’s strong ties with WE.
The prime minister has spoken at WE organization events and his wife also hosts a podcast for the organization. According to WE, neither have received compensation for the appearances, aside from expenses for Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and an honorarium of $1,400 she received for an event in 2012.
On Thursday, reports surfaced that Trudeau’s mother and brother had received compensation from speaking engagements.
In the last four years, Margaret Trudeau received about $250,000 after speaking agency fees were deducted, according to WE Charity’s statement.
Alexandre Trudeau earned about $32,000 during in the 2017-2018 school year after commission was deducted.
The news drew sharp criticism from opposition MPs. On Friday, the Conservatives said they want police to investigate the Liberal government’s decision to award the contract to WE Charity.
During a news conference, Conservative MPs Pierre Poilievre and Michael Barrett — the party’s finance and ethics critics — said they believe the payment of those fees raises the issue to a potentially criminal level and represents “sufficient grounds to be investigated by police.”
In a statement, the RCMP said it generally does not comment on whether a criminal investigation is occurring unless charges are laid.
“We therefore cannot provide further information on this matter,” a spokesperson said.
Trudeau has also stressed that the recommendation to proceed with the WE Charity deal was made by the non-partisan public service, though he later admitted that cabinet signed off on the final decision and he did not recuse himself.
Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains cited cabinet confidentiality in declining to comment on whether cabinet discussed the ties between WE and the Trudeau family.
“The non-partisan advice that we received from the public service was to recommend this particular project. We decided to go with that project. But in light of the current circumstances, we are now going in a different direction and we are absolutely committed to supporting young people and students in particular,” he said Friday.
Prior to the cancellation of the partnership, Trudeau said that WE Charity was the “best and only” organization that could oversee the grant program.
–With files from Beatrice Britneff, Global News