Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing his third conflict of interest probe after Canada's ethics commissioner on Friday launched an inquiry into a government contract awarded to a charity which Trudeau has family ties to.
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion's office said it will look into whether in picking WE Charity Canada to administer a 900-million-Canadian-dollar (664.5 million U.S. dollars) student grant program Trudeau broke rules that prohibit politicians from making, or participating in, decisions that further their personal interests.
Trudeau, his wife and his mother were all at one time or another invited as speakers by WE Charity. Their links to the group led opposition parties to suggest preferential treatment.
Dion tweeted that he had "informed" Trudeau of the decision. His investigation is confidential and will be the subject of a report once it is completed.
"This situation unfolded in a way that is truly unfortunate," Trudeau said at a press briefing Friday. He defended his involvement and that of his family with the organization.
"All my life I have been involved in supporting young people," he said.
WE Charity is no longer managing the grant program, which will provide up to 5,000 Canadian dollars (3,683 U.S. dollars) to post-secondary students who do volunteer work. It was introduced because the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult or impossible for many students to get summer jobs.
WE Charity said in a statement on its website that the program had been "enmeshed with controversy" since it was announced, and for the good of the program it was best to let the government take over management.
The government said the charity would not profit from its involvement. Trudeau said on Monday that WE Charity was the only group in Canada with the "capacity to deliver the ambitious program."
The ethics commissioner will also investigate whether that statement showed that Trudeau had afforded preferential treatment to the charity over other national charities.
The commissioner has already released two reports concluding that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act. The first time was in 2017 for accepting a vacation on the Aga Khan's private island a year earlier, and the second was last year for trying to influence legal proceedings in the SNC-Lavalin case, in which a subsidiary of the engineering company was accused of paying bribes to secure contracts in Libya.
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