Kielburger brothers blame COVID-19 and backlash from Liberal government scandal
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
After the public scandal regarding WE charity and the student grant contract, Marc and Craig Kielburger announced on September 9 that they are officially stepping down from their co-founder positions, selling off assets, eliminating around 450 staff, and closing their operations in Canada.
The move comes as a surprise to many as the charity has been in operation since Craig Kielburger founded it at age 12 in 1995 as a way for youths to help less fortunate children around the world. Reasons cited for the close are the consequences of the scandal and the current pandemic. “COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of our work. The fallout from the Canada Student Service Grant has placed us as a charity in the middle of political battles and misinformation that we are ill-equipped to fight,” the brothers wrote in a letter. “Without decisive action, WE charity’s ongoing costs to operate in Canada would exceed revenue and consume savings that are essential to establish the endowment fund. We calculate that this action preserves as many humanitarian and educational programs as possible, for as long as possible. Putting children first means prioritizing them above the charity. This is a heartbreaking decision,” the Kielburgers wrote in the letter. WE charity operations will not be affected in Britain or the US and neither will their for-profit organization, ME to WE.
The scandal triggered a federal ethics watchdog investigation. News of the student grant deal prompted suspicions regarding Trudeau’s ties to WE as well as former BC finance minister Bill Morneau. Both men now face ethics investigations to decide if they violated the conflict of interest act, and both have apologized for not disqualifying themselves from the deal.
On September 23, the House of Commons will open again (after Trudeau prorogued it last month) to find out how and why the contract was given to WE given the ties it has with the Trudeau family. According to Global News, Liberals insist the charity was recommended a non-partisan public service. However, thousands of documents recently released by the government suggests bureaucrats were pushed in that direction by their higher ups.
The student grant contract was worth $900-million dollars and was intended to connect thousands of students to volunteer and giving the grants based on their volunteer work. In the midst of the controversy, the student grant program has been abandoned by the federal government.
Last week, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said the decision shows “Just how much WE needed a bailout from their Liberal friends.” He also claims the charity has been in an economic free fall for months. “Why didn’t the government see this before giving them a contract worth millions,” he said—also adding the move will not make the scandal go away.