12 things to know about WE Charity and the scandal surrounding Justin Trudeau
The WE Charity scandal has been the biggest upset in Canada since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau purchased doughnuts from a Winnipeg bakery in January.
But unlike a $10 doughnut, there was a $900-million contract at stake this time — and allegations against WE Charity keep piling up.
Considering that WE Charity was expected to receive $19.5 million for administration costs in the contract, it was worth asking a few questions about how the organization runs.
And those questions have turned up a lot of unsavoury details.
Last week, it was learned that WE Charity paid Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's brother and mother speaking fees.
Although the charity initially denied paying speaking fees to Margaret and Alexandre Trudeau, they later walked their statement back after Canadaland obtained invoices showing payments ranging from $32,000 to $250,000.
"As with some of our speakers, honorariums were provided for individuals who committed to speaking at multiple WE Day cities and many additional events while in the city," WE Charity said in a statement.
The charity attributed the mistake to a mix-up with costs sponsored by ME to WE, a profitable company attached to WE Charity.
"Once we learned that the charity did pay for some of their speeches, the error was identified, and the charity was reimbursed."
Today, WE Charity went a step further and took out a full page newspaper ad attempting to explain the mistakes they've made.
As the founders of the WE Charity take out a full page ad in a national newspaper, a poll finds anger over the scandal is growing among some Canadians. We have details on new research from the @angusreidorg this morning on @NEWS1130. pic.twitter.com/t1r8miRkjk— Amanda Wawryk (@AmandaWawryk) July 13, 2020
But it's not just the speaking fees and the connection to Justin Trudeau's family that has the Prime Minister apologizing and critics calling for an investigation.
Here's what else you need to know about the allegations swirling around WE Charity and its co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger.
Despite paying the Trudeaus for speaking at charity events, WE Charity didn't offer other prominent figures the same courtesy.
When WE asked me to speak at the WE Day in Montreal (2018) they told me that as a charity, they do not pay speakers. Oh well. I guess as a charity, they put the emphasis on giving their speaker money to those who need it the less, while asking black folks for free labour. 🤷🏽♀️ https://t.co/cVN0gMq6TL— Emilie Nicolas (@Emilie_Ni) July 9, 2020
Former professional hockey player Theo Flurry was among the speakers that weren't offered financial compensation.
"Wow!!!" Flurry wrote on Thursday. "I was asked to speak at a We Day and they said we don't pay our speakers."
Canadian singer Jully Black shared an emotional Instagram post outlining how she performed at a WE Charity event for free despite the fact that her mother was ill at the time.
"I've NEVER shared some of the BS I've experienced at the hands of many white founded and ran organizations," the singer wrote. "I was just happy to be apart of such prestigious organization."
She said that her "heart breaks" over the news that WE Charity paid the Trudeaus for their appearances.
My heart breaks about what I heard today about @metowe ____ My Mother was sick and dying and I still did my duties at @metowe ... The rest is in the video. ____ I’ve NEVER shared some of the BS I’ve experienced at the hands of many white founded and ran organizations. I was just happy to be apart of such prestigious organization. ____ I was born with a servants heart but when you hear that others were paid and you weren’t when you were at the lowest point of your life it does sting. ____ This isn’t a #Bunn We post. This is a WOW moment for me that I’m choosing to share with my friend, fans and followers. ____ Know one is exempt from being manipulated, used and abused under the guise of charity. ____ What I know for sure is to have resentment is to drink poison expecting your enemy to die. ____ I forgive them and I forgive myself for the thoughts that ran through my mind and the F-Words I cussed when I heard that while I was suffering financially Margaret Trudeaus 4-6 minutes on stage 28 Times earned her a quarter of a million dollars... ____ What a time to be alive.... Happy my Moms death rendered me fearless. ____ I pray for @metowe many children globally rely on them for their only meal of the day. For their education. For good sanitation. I signed up to serve. I was asked to do more as my talents were made aware to them. It would have been nice to get a slice of Margaret’s 💰 bag especially knowing the quality of keynote I gave offsite. _____ The bible says your gift will make room for you and mine sure has for the last 22 years with and without Money I never lost my passion for commUNITY, music, speech, acting, fitness and all the talents God has blessed me with. _____ #TheTruthShallSetYouFree
Almost two weeks ago, Amanda Maitland, a Black employee at WE Charity, spoke out about how executives at the charity re-wrote an anti-racism speech that she was due to deliver in Calgary.
"I don't know if they understood how oppressive that is to take the personal stories of a Black woman who experiences a different kind of discrimination, who has experienced racism on a different level," she said in the video.
I don’t want to be called courageous or brave for making this statement. Because this isn’t about bravery. It’s adding my voice to the fight for Black women to have the space and respect we deserve. While working @wemovement as a speaker and leadership facilitator, I was asked to give an anti-racism speech in which I shared my lived experiences. Without my consent and input, a panel of white men and women within the organization decided to rewrite my speech, stripping it of the truths I chose to share and repackaging the subject of anti-racism in a way they found palatable. Shortly after, in a meeting where staff was asked to offer feedback on the organization, I was belittled by WE’s founder @marckielburger for speaking up on the incident. Not only my voice as a Black woman silenced, I was punished for trying to reclaim it. this is just a snippet of the many experiences I endured. But I will not be silent anymore. I’m sharing this to encourage WE to pursue real change and address the anti-Blackness within the organization. #WeAreStrongerTogether #endingthesilence #blm
A petition calling for a formal public apology from WE Charity co-founders and change to how the organization supports BIPOC employees has been signed by 150 former employees and 50 current employees.
In a recording said to be made by WE co-founder Marc Kielburger and obtained by Canadaland, Kielburger listens as a senior employee, Peter Ruhiu, describes how he paid off Kenyan government officials who were investigating WE's charitable organization in Kenya.
"They have already taken of course a huge chunk of cash," Ruhiu explains in the call. "It took us eight hours to give him the first load of cash. Because he did not trust us. Obviously, because you know, he’d probably been burned in the past."
Kielburger told Canadaland, through his lawyer, that he was actually working with the Kenyan police at the time to collect incriminating information on Ruhiu.
Kielburger did not provide documentation to substantiate this claim.
In the same recording obtained by Canadaland, senior employee Peter Ruhiu threatens another employee's life while speaking to WE co-founder Marc Kielburger.
"Right now, honestly, if I had a gun, I would shoot the motherf*cker dead, right now," Ruhiu says.
He later emphasizes how serious he is.
"Honestly, I could call my guys tonight and take care of this guy," Ruhiu says on the tape. "I'm not even joking. He's not going to jeopardize my life, your life, a lot of people’s lives."
As mentioned above, Kielburger told Canadaland that he was actually working with the Kenyan police at the time to collect incriminating information on Ruhiu.
3. During the call, Ruhiu makes death threats about one of Kielburger's employees, talks about paying-off government investigators, and mentions their organization's "criminal offences." Marc listens calmly and agrees that the situation is "mission critical." He offers his help. pic.twitter.com/2NPgfxrJ1F— Jesse Brown (@JesseBrown) July 3, 2020
According to a Canadaland report, WE Charity expects young employees and volunteers to work 16 hour days on minimum wage without receiving any additional pay for their overtime.
"The way they treat young people," a former WE director told Canadaland, "is incredibly toxic and inappropriate."
Former employee Mira Lyonblum reiterated this sentiment in an open letter calling out issues within WE Charity.
"When a task needed doing, like stuffing WE Day tickets into envelopes or making gift bags, every staff from every department was told to sign up for extra shifts," Lyonblum wrote, adding that "it was tracked when we didn't."
On top of addressing the charity's towering expectations and low pay, former employee Mira Lyonblum also addressed instances of intimidation from senior management.
"We had to learn key messaging verbatim, and were literally drilled and tested on it," Lyonblum wrote.
She alleges that Marc Keilburger, one of the WE Charity co-founders, would pace back and forth while he called on random staff members to define various phrases.
"If they didn't do it exactly right, he got visibly upset," Lyonblum wrote. "After each biannual retreat, we'd hear from our Directors that Marc didn't think we knew the key messaging enough so we had to learn it again, and sometimes we’d even then have re-tests with Marc or other Executives. "
A former WE director told Canadaland that "Marc is a bully, one hundred per cent."
Multiple Canadian media outlets have reported receiving intimidating letters from WE Charity lawyers in response to their coverage.
The Toronto Sun reported recieving a letter from the charity's defamation lawyer in response to a series of standard questions, while Canadaland reported that WE Charity has been intimidating the press since 2014.
Most recently, Canadaland has reported receiving two notices of libel from WE Charity in the last eight and a half months, as well as an intention to commence litigation against Canadaland.
The charity released a campaign-style advertisement in 2017 that appears to promote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government.
The advertisement shows silhouettes of Trudeau across backdrops of mountains, Canadian cities and fields, while Trudeau speaks about supporting young people.
Conservative MP Candice Bergen shared the video to social media on Friday with the caption, "WE works for Trudeau and Trudeau for them."
According to the Globe and Mail, WE Charity co-founder Craig Kielburger donated $1,200 to Trudeau's leadership bid in 2012. According to Elections Canada filings, Kielburger hasn't donated to any other federal political party.
Trudeau has not commented to confirm whether he was aware of Kielburger's donation.
Despite the Conservative party calling for an investigation into Trudeau's relationship with WE Charity, Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay also allegedly has ties to the organization.
MacKay recently deleted a tweet in which he called the WE Charity co-founders "a remarkable Canadian force for good."
A spokesperson for MacKay told the Post Millennial that his wife, Nazanin Afshin Jam MacKay, was not paid for her appearance at a WE Charity event.
KIELBURGER COVERUP: Peter MacKay deletes tweet that links his wife to WE Day, unclear how much she was paid to speak for WE. MacKay applauds the "remarkable" organization (remarkably corrupt) and the Kielburger Brothers (Trudeau donors).— Keean Bexte 🇭🇰🇨🇦 (@TheRealKeean) July 10, 2020
If this was above-board, why the cover-up? pic.twitter.com/wP3JIQLGPZ
Bill Morneau didn't recuse himself from the vote on the WE Charity contract despite the fact that his daughter, Clare Morneau, works for the company.
Clare has also spoken at multiple WE events after publishing a book on young refugee girls.
Conspicuously, since this was reported, a post about Clare has been scrubbed from the WE Charity website.
This certainly isn't a good look for the charity, who appears to be erasing connections to the Liberal party in light of the scandal.
So now breaking- Bill Morneau’s daughter works for WE. Try clink the link. The story’s been taken down....#TrudeauResignNOW https://t.co/lD8aFT841m— Kevin Pac 15 🇨🇦🇮🇹🇬🇧 (@kpac_15) July 10, 2020
Speaking of erasing things, it is alleged that WE Charity has been busy scrubbing their website in the wake of the scandal, according to Canadaland reporter Jesse Brown.
The @WEMovement "celebrity ambassadors" page has vanished from their site. https://t.co/gb5AkJIDAW— Jesse Brown (@JesseBrown) July 11, 2020
Starting this thread to keep track of celebrities/artists who have cut ties with WE. I'm aware of @KardinalO & @JullyBlack.
Who am I missing?
The charity has supposedly removed their celebrity ambassador section, which included Kardinal Offishall and Jully Black, as well as scrubbing at least two blog posts and information about the charity's media partners from their website.
The charity laid off 450 contract workers across the country that were initially signed on to help deliver the Canada Student Service Grant.
The Toronto Star alleges that WE Charity also slapped all of the laid off employees with a gag order, asking them not to speak to the media about their work with the charity in the termination agreement.
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