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Trudeau family members paid by charity hired to deliver student grants

Last Updated Jul 9, 2020 at 4:54 pm EDT

Margaret Trudeau speaks to the audience at fans at the We Day event in Toronto, on Thursday, September 20, 2018. Mental-health advocate Trudeau is bringing her autobiographical one-woman show to Montreal this summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

With controversy surrounding the Trudeau government’s hiring of the WE Charity to deliver student grants comes word that both the Prime Minister’s mother and brother were paid more than a quarter of a million dollars for speaking engagements on behalf of the charity.

In a statement WE Charity confirms that between 2016 and 2020, Margaret Trudeau received $250,000 for 28 events while Alexandre Trudeau received $32,000 for eight events.

Aside from one instance that WE Charity says was an accounting error, all payments were made by ME to WE Social Enterprises, the for profit entity of the charity.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says the Prime Minister’s relatives engage with a variety of organizations and personal causes on their own accord.

This all comes as the Ethics Commissioner investigates the Prime Minister’s involvement after his government awarded a sole sourced contract to WE to deliver the Canada Student Services Grant. While Trudeau has not been paid, the commissioner has been asked to look into whether his family connections create a conflict of interest.

The Prime Minister has said the public service made the choice to select WE, however, cabinet approved the decision.

WE has since pulled out of the $900-million agreement and will no longer be delivering the grant.

Meanwhile, anxious students and non-profit groups say they’re confused and frustrated as they wait to hear what will happen to the volunteering program.

Several non-profits seeking volunteers under the grant program say they and their volunteers are waiting for answers, including whether the program is going to go ahead and the students they have already taken on will be paid the promised honorarium for their time.

The grant program promises to pay students up to $5,000 for their post-secondary educations if they volunteer the maximum 500 hours.

Michelle Porter of the Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Halifax says the charity has put on hold plans to take on 10 more students after already employing five, none of whom know whether they will receive their promised funds.

Emily Fern of the St. Andrew’s Community Outreach and Support Program in Whitby says she has grown frustrated as students have been reaching out but she does not know whether she can take them through the program despite the organization’s dire need for help.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report