Trudeau Foundation’s Entire Leadership Resigns Citing ‘Political Climate’

Trudeau Foundation’s Entire Leadership Resigns Citing ‘Political Climate’
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa in a file photo. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

The entire leadership of the Trudeau Foundation has resigned in the wake of a revelation it had received a donation from a businessman tied to the Chinese regime.

“In recent weeks, the political climate surrounding a donation received by the Foundation in 2016 has put a great deal of pressure on the Foundation’s management and volunteer Board of Directors, as well as on our staff and our community,” the Foundation wrote in an April 11 statement.

“The circumstances created by the politicization of the foundation have made it impossible to continue with the status quo, and the volunteer Board of Directors has resigned, as has the President and CEO.”

Three members of the board have agreed to remain on an interim basis to meet the foundation’s obligations, the statement said.

As part of a string of media reports on election interference by the Chinese regime stemming from national security leaks, the Globe and Mail reported on Feb. 28 that CSIS had uncovered a plan by Beijing to donate to the foundation.

CSIS reportedly captured a communication in 2014 between a commercial attaché at a Chinese consulate in Canada and billionaire Zhang Bin, a political adviser to the Chinese regime.

The attaché reportedly told Zhang to donate $1 million to the foundation, which would then be fully reimbursed.

Zhang had participated in a cash-for-access function organized for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in May 2015. A few weeks after the fundraiser, the Université de Montréal announced Zhang and another Chinese businessman would donate $1 million to honour former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, with $200,000 going to the Trudeau Foundation.

The day after the news broke, the foundation announced it would be returning the donation.

“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.
Another prominent member of the Trudeau Foundation who resigned recently is former governor general David Johnston. But his resignation took place after he was appointed by Trudeau as special rapporteur on foreign interference on March 15, a foundation spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

Opposition parties have called for a public inquiry to be held on the matter of Beijing’s interference in the past two federal elections, but Trudeau has instead created the special rapporteur position, citing the need to protect state secrets and avoid partisanship.

The Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois have criticized the appointment, saying Johnston is too close to Trudeau.

“Justin Trudeau has named a ‘family friend,’ old neighbour from the cottage, and member of the Beijing-funded Trudeau foundation, to be the ‘independent’ rapporteur on Beijing’s interference,” Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre stated.
Trudeau has defended Johnston as someone who “will always put the country first” and qualified the criticism of the appointment as “horrific, partisan attacks against a man of extraordinary integrity.”

Another link to the Trudeau Foundation in the foreign interference saga involves its former CEO and president Morris Rosenberg.

Rosenberg was recently tasked with producing a report evaluating the work of the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol, an electoral mechanism meant to alert the public if an incident threatens the integrity of the vote.

He wrote in his February report that several elements of the protocol had worked well, but he made several recommendations to improve communications.
Conservatives also criticized Rosenberg’s involvement given he was at the helm of the Trudeau Foundation when it received the donation from Zhang Bin.
Trudeau said Rosenberg, a former public servant, was chosen by the public service for the work and his government had no input into the appointment.

The Trudeau Foundation provides scholarships and mentorship to develop “future engaged leaders.” The organization says it is independent.

The foundation has 30 members, six of which can be appointed by the federal Minister of Innovation. Members elect the board of directors comprised of up to 18 people, with two seats on the board also reserved for appointments by the Minister of Innovation.

Trudeau himself is an inactive succession member who withdrew from the foundation’s affairs due to his involvement in politics. His brother Alexandre Trudeau is also a succession member.