Poilievre Calls for Canada Revenue Agency to Audit Trudeau Foundation

Poilievre Calls for Canada Revenue Agency to Audit Trudeau Foundation
Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to reporters in Calgary on Feb. 17, 2023. (Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press)
Matthew Horwood
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre wrote a letter to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on Friday, asking it to conduct an audit of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, with a “particular focus” on a $140,000 donation it received from the Chinese regime.

“Allegations suggest that the donation was directed by a state-backed group in Beijing with the stated goal of expanding the communist regime’s influence around the globe,” Poilievre said in the letter written to CRA Commissioner Bob Hamilton.

“These facts raise serious questions around foreign influence peddling, attempts to hide the true source of the funds, and potentially, fraud.”

Poilievre’s request comes after the Trudeau Foundation’s volunteer board of directors and CEO abruptly resigned on Tuesday, citing the “political climate” surrounding a $140,000 donation from two businessmen connected to the Chinese Communist Party.

Last month, The Globe and Mail reported that Chinese businessmen Zhang Bin and Niu Gensheng pledged in 2016 to donate $200,000 to the Trudeau Foundation. The foundation later said it only received $140,000 in the form of two $70,000 payments that came in the name of a Canada-based holding company called Millennium Gold Eagle International.

Shortly after the reports on the two men’s link with China, Trudeau Foundation President and CEO Pascale Fournier said the charity had reimbursed the full amount of the donation. But according to a report by La Presse, the foundation could not return the donation because the real donor’s name did not appear in the accounting books. The foundation said this would have made such a reimbursement illegal.

A Radio-Canada source with knowledge of the situation confirmed on Friday that $140,000 had now been deposited into the bank account of one of the two businessmen.

When the foundation’s leadership resigned, it said in a statement that the “circumstances created by the politicization of the foundation have made it impossible to continue with the status quo.” But according to sources cited by La Presse, the leadership resigned because they wanted the foundation to do more to verify details surrounding the donation.

Foundation Asks AG for Separate Investigation

On Wednesday, the Trudeau Foundation said it would be launching its own independent review of the donation. The foundation also wrote a letter to Auditor General of Canada Karen Hogan on Friday, asking her to investigate “all aspects concerning the receipt and handling of these donations by the foundation,” with a promise that it would “eagerly cooperate fully with such an investigation.”

The foundation said an accounting firm overseen by a law firm would conduct the review, and that the firms would have no prior involvement with the organization.

Poilievre said the news reports suggested that the Trudeau Foundation is not meeting its legal and fiduciary responsibilities as required under the Income Tax Act and reported to the Canada Revenue Agency.

“They suggest that the foundation was actively complicit in hiding the true source of the donation, and in doing this, possibly producing fraudulent records,” he said.

The Conservative leader also said the foundation had failed to maintain proper records that may be critical to a future public inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian democracy.

“Additionally, the information uncovered and leaked from the foundation suggests that those at the highest ranks of the organization—both past and present—were directly involved in arranging, approving and managing the donation and related controversies,” he said.

Poilievre also asked that any evidence discovered in the audit that potentially relates to attempted interference by foreign governments is forwarded to Canada’s security and intelligence services.

“Finally, I would also request that such evidence be preserved in a manner so that a future public enquiry with the legal mandate to do so would be able to access it as part of an investigation,” he wrote.

The Trudeau Foundation was established in 2001 to honour the memory of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the father of Justin Trudeau. It received a $125 million endowment from the federal government in March 2002. The foundation provides scholarships and mentorship to develop “future engaged leaders.”
Trudeau has repeatedly said he has no involvement with the foundation. “It has been 10 years that I have had no involvement at all with the foundation that carries my father’s name,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday.

“I think it’s important that the foundation itself answer these questions and reflects on how it can continue doing the important work that it does.”

The previous day, the prime minister accused Conservative politicians of trying to get “short-term political gain by increasing polarization and partisanship in this country by launching completely unfounded and ungrounded attacks against charities or foundations.”