Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized for not recusing himself from his government’s decision to tap WE Charity to administer a $912-million student-grant program, conceding he should have known better because of his family’s connections to the organization.
“I made a mistake in not recusing myself immediately from the discussions, given our family’s history,” Trudeau said at a press briefing in Ottawa Monday. “And I’m sincerely sorry about not having done that.”
The mea culpa is a reversal for the prime minister, who last week defended taking part in discussions to award WE Charity a sole-sourced contract to run the program on the grounds that he has championed supporting young people throughout his political career. The government and WE Charity have scrapped the deal for the organization to manage the Canada Student Service Grant, which will pay post-secondary students and recent graduates for COVID-19-related volunteer work.
Trudeau’s apology comes days after revelations that his mother, Margaret, and brother, Alexandre, have each been paid tens of thousands of dollars over the past few years to speak at WE Charity events. Trudeau had already been facing questions about the abandoned partnership, given his past participation in WE events and the fact that his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, is an “ambassador” for the charity and hosts a WE-Well Being podcast.
“When it came to this organization and this program, the involvement that I had in the past and that my family has should have had me remove myself from those discussions. And I’m sorry that I didn’t,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau told reporters that his mistake has not only “created unnecessary controversy and issues” that delayed a program meant to help young people, but dragged his mother, who has long been a public speaker and mental health advocate, into a political controversy.
“What I also deeply regret is the fact that I have brought my mother into this situation in...