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EDITORIAL: More questions about WE Charity

Co-founders Craig, left, and Marc Kielburger introduce Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau at a WE Charity event in Ottawa in 2015. POSTMEDIA
Co-founders Craig (left) and Marc Kielburger introduce Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau at a WE Charity event in Ottawa in 2015. — Postmedia file photo

If nothing else, it is a truly remarkable fall from grace.

From being what the federal government called the only charitable agency in Canada able to handle a $912-million contract to help university students through the COVID-19 pandemic, to closing its Canadian doors last week, the WE Charity managed to melt down in just 77 days.

On June 25, the federal government announced that WE would be administering the federal student volunteering program — it was later revealed that the charity could receive over $43.5 million in fees for the work.

By July 3, the contract was off. After that, as details about honoraria paid to family members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau surfaced, investigations were begun by the federal ethics commissioner and members of parliamentary committees. The federal Conservatives said they wanted the RCMP to investigate the circumstances surrounding the contract.

There are still questions about what will happen with WE’s other operations, like its for-profit and charitable operations in the U.S. and Britain.

By July 15, WE had cancelled its WE Day events in Canada, and said it was going to focus instead on international work. Revelations began to pile up, including the charity’s $43.7 million in property holdings. By the end of July, major sponsors were suspending or cancelling support.

Last Wednesday, the 25-year-old charity announced it was ending all of its charitable operations in Canada, liquidating its assets (including property holdings) and setting up an endowment fund for its international operations. Its founders, Craig and Mark Kielburger, announced they would be leaving the charity after the asset liquidation was completed.

WE Charity, they said, had foundered as a result of the fallout from COVID-19, and from intense media scrutiny that the charity was not equipped to address.

Even as that was happening, federal Conservatives were demanding that the charity release documents about the student aid deal, and questions were being raised about how the liquidation would occur, especially given the fact that the charity lost virtually all of its board of directors, both at its Canadian and U.S. operations, earlier this year.

There are still questions about what will happen with WE’s other operations, like its for-profit and charitable operations in the U.S. and Britain.

Over all of this looms a more serious question: more than 100 people are losing their jobs at the charity in a move that has a distinct feeling about it, a feeling like that old police saying: “Move along, people, there’s nothing to see here.”

The problem is that the speed of the collapse, the intertwined tangle of WE affiliates, the contradictory information from the federal Liberal government about how the original contract with the charity came about, and the payments to members of Trudeau’s family all suggest very much that there is something we haven’t seen yet.

At this point, the whole story clearly hasn’t been told.

And it should be.

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