Trudeau Foundation Didn’t Return Chinese Donation as Previously Claimed: Report

Trudeau Foundation Didn’t Return Chinese Donation as Previously Claimed: Report
Canadian and Chinese flags are seen prior to the meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Dec. 5, 2017. (Fred Dufour/Pool via Reuters)
Noé Chartier

A day after the leadership of the Trudeau Foundation resigned citing the “political climate” surrounding a donation received from a Chinese regime insider, the news outlet La Presse reported that the money hadn’t been returned as previously claimed.

This caused an internal crisis among the foundation directors and is what led to their resignation, not the political climate, the French-language report said.

La Presse’s April 12 report is based on interviews with five unidentified individuals who resigned from the Trudeau Foundation the previous day.

The outlet says it also obtained an internal document indicating that the $200,000 donation from Chinese businessman and regime insider Zhang Bin in 2016 was never returned.

The Globe and Mail reported on Feb. 28 that according to a national security source, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had uncovered a 2014 plan by Beijing to donate to the Trudeau Foundation through Zhang. The day after the report was published, the foundation issued a statement saying it would return the money.
“We cannot keep any donation that may have been sponsored by a foreign government and would not knowingly do so,” CEO and president Pascale Fournier said at the time.

It turns out the foundation could not return the donation, since the name on the cheque wasn’t the name of the real donor, reported La Presse.

The foundation couldn’t reimburse the real donor since his name did not appear in the organization’s accounting books, and as such the reimbursement would have been “illegal,” the internal document reportedly says.

This led board members not with the foundation at the time of the donation to request an independent investigation. They also asked that those who were board members at the time recuse themselves. They reportedly refused.

“Anyone who was on the finance committee or the audit committee at the time of the donation has a conflict of interest because they accepted cheques,” La Presse quotes one source as saying.

“Therefore they should not be part of an investigation of the matter. They should have recused themselves. And they refused.”

The source said an independent investigation would have determined who was the true donor and if there were strings attached to the donation.

“We lost confidence in the ability of the organization to deal with this file with transparency, integrity, and accountability,” said one source.

This is what led one source to qualify the foundation’s claim of a difficult political climate as the reason for the leadership’s resignation as a “bunch of lies.”

The Trudeau Foundation announced in an April 11 statement that Fournier and the board of the directors were resigning.

“The circumstances created by the politicization of the Foundation have made it impossible to continue with the status quo,” it said.

In a statement to The Epoch Times on April 12, the foundation said it will launch an independent review of “the donation with a potential connection to the Chinese government.” The review will be conducted by an accounting firm with no previous involvement with the foundation.

“As reported recently, the Foundation received two payments of $70,000. A reimbursement cheque was issued in the name of the donor which made those payments and to which CRA charitable receipts were issued,” the statement also said.

The foundation was established in 2001 to honour the memory of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and received a $125 million endowment from the federal government in March 2002. It provides scholarships and mentorship to develop “future engaged leaders.”
The foundation says it is independent. The Minister of Innovation can appoint up to six of its 30 members, and two seats on the board of directors are also reserved for appointments by the minister. The organization’s 2021-2022 annual report shows one member and one director were ministerial appointees.

No Involvement: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a succession member of the foundation along with his brother Alexandre Trudeau, but the prime minister’s status is inactive since he became involved in politics.

Trudeau was asked at a press conference on April 12 whether the foundation should cut all links with his family and even change its name given the current turmoil. He replied that he has “no involvement at all with a foundation that carries my father’s name.”

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

The previous day, Trudeau said Conservative politicians were trying to score political points by “increasing polarization and partisanship in this country by launching completely unfounded and ungrounded attacks against charities or foundations.”

Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre called for an investigation into the foundation after news broke of its leadership resignation.

“We need to know who got rich; who got paid and who got privilege and power from Justin Trudeau as a result of funding to the Trudeau Foundation,” he said on Twitter on April 11.

Poilievre and other opposition leaders have called for a public inquiry on the issue of Chinese interference in the last two elections, after allegations such as those reported by the Globe began surfacing last November.

Trudeau has rejected calls for a public inquiry, and instead appointed former governor general David Johnston as special rapporteur to examine the situation and make recommendations, one of which could be to hold an inquiry.

Poilievre has questioned Johnston’s ability to review the matter impartially given that he is a family friend of Trudeau and was previously a member of the Trudeau Foundation.

“How will you investigate Beijing’s donation to the Trudeau Foundation when you were part of the Trudeau Foundation,” Poilievre asked Johnston in a letter addressed to him on April 12.
Johnston became a member of the Foundation in 2018 and resigned following his appointment as special rapporteur on March 15, the foundation previously told The Epoch Times.

Trudeau defended Johnston’s appointment again on April 12, saying he’s a “man of incredible integrity.”

Johnston’s office previously told The Epoch Times he is currently not commenting on matters related to his appointment.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with comments from the Trudeau Foundation.
Matthew Horwood contributed to this report.