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WE Charity saw resignations, departures from senior ranks before landing government contract – CBC.ca

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A charity under scrutiny after receiving a contract to administer a $900 million government program has gone through an organizational upheaval over the past few months, CBC News has learned.

The chairs of both the Canadian and U.S. boards of directors for the WE Charity resigned in the spring. The vast majority of the other board members in the two countries have been replaced as well, and staff have been laid off in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flurry of changes began about two months before the federal government announced WE was the only organization in Canada able to administer the multi-million dollar Canada Student Service Grant initiative.

Changes at the top

The reasons for the resignations in WE’s upper ranks remain unclear. The former Canadian chair of the board of directors, Michelle Douglas, tweeted that she resigned on March 27 and that “almost all” of those on the Canadian and American boards resigned or were replaced around the same time. She declined to explain why when approached by CBC News.

An earlier tweet from Douglas does hint at a push for more transparency from the organization.

In April, a tweet from Douglas directed at WE co- founders Marc and Craig Kielburger raised questions about work done in Kenya. WE said it had provided “life-saving #COVID19 prevention information” to more than 84,274 people in Narok County.

“Great work @WEMovement. But what are the details? How is it possible to have managed to reach so many? Such a specific number. Wow! How did you do it? Share info on your efforts so they can be replicated by others!”

Many board members approached by CBC News did not respond to a request for comment. A few indicated that their terms on the board had simply come to an end. But filings with the Canada Revenue Agency show all the board members’ terms were slated to run until Aug. 31.

The WE Charity’s new board chairs say the organization simply sped up planned changes “in order to best position the organization to respond to a predicted multi-year global pandemic.”

That statement comes from a letter from the two new chairs — Canadian Greg Rogers and American Jacqueline L. Sanderlin — which WE shared in response to questions from CBC News.

Most board members have been replaced

The letter states that, as WE was approaching its 25th anniversary, many board members had been in place for more than five or 10 years. The letter says the organization decided to undertake a strategic review to focus on future priorities and to “address issues such as diversity, inclusion and range of competencies.”

WE maintains separate boards of directors for Canada and the United States, but the two boards meet jointly as a “North American Board of Directors.” The letter says that WE reduced the number of spots on its board and replaced the majority of its members. Of the 14 people who made up the North American board, only three remain.

Most of the new board spots “are now filled by persons of colour, including the U.S. Chair,” says the letter.

“Any transformation of this kind naturally invites some challenge. Overall, we believe the renewal process has strengthened the two Boards and will help to guide the organization moving forward.”

First layoffs, now ‘short term’ hires

Around the time board members were departing, WE also began to lay off staff.

Two sources with knowledge of the organization describe the number of layoffs as significant. WE did not answer CBC’s question about the number of staff who have lost jobs.

WE’s operations would have been particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. One of its most prominent activities is “WE Day” — a series of events that bring together thousands of students to celebrate youth leadership. COVID-19 has made such gatherings impossible.

Charities everywhere have seen donations dry up as individuals and businesses focus on their own financial woes.

ME to WE, the charity’s for-profit sister company, sells international travel packages that promise cultural immersion or volunteer experiences — things like helping to build schools abroad. Most of that company’s profits are donated to the charity.

“Due to the impact of COVID-19, like many others, we were forced to lay off employees, especially from our global service travel and live events division,” WE said in a media statement.

Now that WE is administering the Canada Student Service Grant program, the organization has “invited former staff to apply for open short-term contract positions.”

Hundreds of people will be needed to run the grant program and hiring is still underway, the organization says.

The federal government has said it has “currently allocated” $19.5 million to WE to run the Student Service Grant program; $5 million of that sum is intended for other not-for-profits involved in the program.

The precise amount WE receives, however, will depend on how many students participate. The initial goal was to offer 20,000 placements; as of Tuesday the government said it already had received 28,500 applications.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended the decision to give the contract to WE. He said WE’s networks across the country made it the right choice and the organization itself won’t make any profit from the contract.

“Quite frankly, when our public servants looked at the potential partners, only the WE organization had the capacity to deliver the ambitious program that young people need for this summer that is so deeply impacted by COVID,” he told reporters Monday.

‘Insulting to our members’

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents some 140,000 public servants, pushed back against that claim.

“Mr. Trudeau’s claim that WE Charity is the ‘only one’ that can administer the new grant program is not only factually wrong, it’s also insulting to our members,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward. “PSAC members have worked hard to support the government’s rapidly evolving response to the pandemic and remain committed to continuing doing so.”

The Conservatives are now asking Canada’s procurement ombudsman to review the $912 million program. They made a similar request of the auditor general.

“Outsourcing a $900 million-dollar program designed to pay students and recent graduates for volunteer work to a third party raises justifiable concerns and a number of questions,” said three Conservative MPs in a letter to the ombudsman.

They also pointed to five other sole-source government contracts handed out to WE and asked that those contracts be reviewed.

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau on stage during WE Day UK 2020 on March 04, 2020 in London. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

The Conservatives note that Trudeau and his family have numerous personal connections with WE. The prime minister has appeared at many WE events, while his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is an “ambassador and ally” of WE and hosts a podcast with the group focused on mental health. Trudeau’s mother has also done work with the charity.

WE insists no member of the Trudeau family receives an honorarium for work with the charity, though Grégoire Trudeau has had her travel expenses covered.

Trudeau has not shied away from his connections to WE.

“I have worked with WE in the past,” he told reporters Friday, “because I believe strongly in promoting opportunities for young people.”

Trudeau said he and his family will continue that work in the future.

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Canada reports 195 new coronavirus cases, 5 more deaths – Global News

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Canada reported 195 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, as well as five more deaths.

The new cases bring Canada’s total COVID-19 infections to 119,382 and its death toll to 8,981. Over 5.17 million tests have also been administered across the country while 103,726 patients, or over 86 per cent of all confirmed cases, have since recovered from the virus.

Read more:
How many Canadians have the new coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

Sunday’s numbers, which were tallied from both provincial and federal health authorities across the country, do not reflect all regions due to several provinces like Alberta, B.C., P.E.I. and the territories not releasing data over the weekend.

A statement Sunday from Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam praised “the continuing efforts and sacrifices of Canadians” that helped flatten and control the curve of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak.

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“This has allowed us to protect our healthcare system, while at the same time we have increased capacity in hospitals and across our public health and laboratory systems to maintain epidemic control going forward,” read Tam’s statement.

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“Our efforts have also bought us time as research and science accelerate at an unprecedented pace towards finding safe and effective vaccines.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Quebec, the country’s hardest-hit province, reported 104 new coronavirus cases on Sunday as well as three new deaths — one of which had occurred before Aug. 1. As of Aug. 1, there have been 60,471 confirmed cases of the virus within the province — 50,866 of which have now recovered — and 5,695 deaths.

Ontario added 79 new cases on Sunday, raising its provincial total 40,046. The province also reported two new deaths related to COVID-19, raising its death toll to 2,786. A total of 36,279 patients — over 90 per cent of the province’s cases — have since recovered from the virus.

Read more:
Temperature checks and ‘deep cleaning’ aren’t good at stopping coronavirus. So why do we bother?

Saskatchewan added 15 new cases of the virus on Aug. 9. Total cases of the virus in the province only grew by 12 on Sunday, however, as some cases previously counted were removed from the total because the patients did not live in Saskatchewan.

The province’s total cases now stand at 1,445 confirmed cases, with a death toll of 20. A further 1,257 patients have since recovered from the virus.

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Manitoba added 35 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, raising its total lab-confirmed and “probable” cases of the virus to 542. Sunday’s numbers from the province are not reflected in Global News’ totals however as only lab-confirmed cases are counted. A total of eight people have died from the virus in the province.

Nova Scotia reported zero cases of the virus on Aug. 9. Its provincial total stands at 1,071 confirmed cases of the virus, as well as 64 fatalities.

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New Brunswick also reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, with its total cases standing at 176. Provincial health authorities announced that there are only six active cases of the virus as of Aug. 9, as well as two deaths.

Newfoundland and Labrador also reported zero cases of the virus on Aug. 9 during its daily statement. The province currently has one active case of COVID-19.

Cases of the new coronavirus continue to surge worldwide, with a global total of over 19.7 million cases, according to a running tally kept by John Hopkins University. More than 728,000 people have since succumbed to the virus, while over 12 million patients have recovered globally.

The United States continues to lead with both the highest number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities worldwide, followed by Brazil.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Sunday Scrum: Canada's response to the Beirut explosion – CBC.ca

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CBC News Network’s Sunday Scrum panel is your destination for frank discussion and analysis of the week’s big political stories.

This week, we talk to our panellists about Canada’s response to the devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanon.

Ottawa says it will provide up to $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon following the deadly Aug. 4 blast in Beirut and will also match donations made by Canadians up to $2 million. But nothing will go directly to the Lebanese government, due to fears over corruption.

The panellists also discuss the race for a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Also on the program: pricey privacy demands from Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, Canada’s latest tariff tiff with the U.S. and new concerns over WE Charity from the federal charity watchdog. 

WATCH | Canada’s response to Beirut explosion:

Ottawa says it will provide up to $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon following the deadly blast in Beirut and will also match donations made by Canadians up to $2 million. But nothing will go directly to the Lebanese government, due to fear of corruption. 7:55

WATCH | Canada’s latest tariff tiff with U.S.:

Ottawa announced this week it will impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to restore a 10 per cent tariff on Canadian aluminum imports. 6:52

WATCH | Payette’s pricey privacy demands:

This week, a CBC exclusive revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to satisfy Gov. Gen. Julie Payette’s need for privacy at Rideau Hall, but she still hasn’t moved into her official residence almost three years into her five-year mandate. 4:59

WATCH | Charity watchdog raised red flags over WE:

Federal charity watchdog officials sounded the alarm during a Commons committee hearing on the WE controversy this week, raising concerns about the organization’s structure and how WE breached a financial contract on millions of dollars in bank debt. 7:59

WATCH | The race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine:

A co-chair of Canada’s new COVID-19 vaccine task force says it will be critical to have a number of vaccine candidates on hand to halt the spread of the coronavirus, as Canada’s chief public health officer warns not to expect any vaccine to be a ‘silver bullet.’ 8:33

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Today’s coronavirus news: U.S. hits 5 million coronavirus cases while Brazil tops 3 million; Germany sends children back to school – Toronto Star

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

12:49: Italy’s tally of daily new COVID-19 cases leaped higher on Sunday, with 463 cases, according to Health Ministry figures.

Many of the latest cases have been found in young people returning from vacations abroad.

Italy’s day-to-day new caseload had previously soared far above 500 confirmed infections, but the number had dropped to 347 on Saturday, more in line with numbers of the past few weeks.

For months, the region with by far the most daily new coronavirus infections had been Lombardy, the northern region where Italy’s outbreak erupted in February. On Sunday, Lombardy had 71 new cases, barely outstripping several other regions, including Emilia-Romagna with 69, Tuscany with 61 and Veneto with 58.

While in the first weeks of the outbreak in Italy, only one of every 83 infections occurred in persons 18 years old or younger, now one of every eight confirmed cases occurs in that age bracket. With two deaths registered on Sunday, Italy’s known death toll stood at 35,205. Italy’s overall count of known infections in the pandemic stands at 250,566.

12:06: In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement Sunday:

“There have been 119,221 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 8,976 deaths. 87 per cent of people have now recovered. Labs across Canada have tested 4,404,038 people for COVID-19 to date. Over the past week, an average of 48,360 people were tested daily, with 1 per cent testing positive and an average of approximately 400 cases were reported daily from across the country.

The continuing efforts and sacrifices of Canadians have enabled us to flatten the curve of COVID-19, bringing the spread of the novel coronavirus under manageable control in Canada. This has allowed us to protect our healthcare system, while at the same time we have increased capacity in hospitals and across our public health and laboratory systems to maintain epidemic control going forward. Our efforts have also bought us time as research and science accelerate at an unprecedented pace towards finding safe and effective vaccines.

Informed by mathematical modelling, a recommended approach to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic involved an initial phase of strong public health measures — including closures — to interrupt exponential growth of the epidemic that threatened to overwhelm the health system. Following this, is a longer phase of less restrictive public health measures aimed at keeping COVID-19 under manageable control, while we cautiously reopen social and economic spaces. This overall approach has been popularly described as the “Hammer and the Dance.” In Canada, we’ve controlled the epidemic with the “hammer” and now it’s time for the dance to keep the infection rate down, until a safe and effective vaccine or treatment is available to bring COVID-19 under widespread and lasting control….

Don’t lose hope, keep on dancing and being part of the solution.”

10:55: Ontario has now recorded fewer than 100 new COVID-19 cases for seven days in a row.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province has 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths related to the virus.

The total number of cases is now 40,046, with 36,279 marked as resolved and 2,786 deaths.

Hospitalizations and ICU admissions remain on the decline, while the number of patients on ventilators remains stable.

The minister also says 30 out of 34 of the province’s public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, while 18 are reporting no new cases.

The province says it has processed 28,000 tests over the last 24 hours.

10:49: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada:

There are 119,300 confirmed cases in Canada.

  • Quebec: 60,367 confirmed (including 5,692 deaths, 50,886 resolved)

  • Ontario: 40,046 confirmed (including 2,786 deaths, 36,279 resolved)
  • Alberta: 11,430 confirmed (including 208 deaths, 10,097 resolved)
  • British Columbia: 3,934 confirmed (including 195 deaths, 3,353 resolved)
  • Saskatchewan: 1,433 confirmed (including 20 deaths, 1,245 resolved)
  • Nova Scotia: 1,071 confirmed (including 64 deaths, 1,005 resolved)
  • Manitoba: 492 confirmed (including 8 deaths, 351 resolved), 15 presumptive
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 267 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 263 resolved)
  • New Brunswick: 176 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 168 resolved)
  • Prince Edward Island: 36 confirmed (including 36 resolved)
  • Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
  • Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)
  • Nunavut: No confirmed cases
  • Total: 119,300 (15 presumptive, 119,285 confirmed including 8,978 deaths, 103,714 resolved)

10:22: The confirmed number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. reached 5 million Sunday, by far the highest in the world, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

However, health officials believe that for every reported case, there are roughly 10 times as many people infected, given the limits on testing and the large number of mild infections that have unreported or unrecognized.

The bleak milestone was reached as new cases in the U.S. run at about 54,000 a day. While that’s down from a peak of well over 70,000 in the second half of July, cases are rising in nearly 20 states, and deaths are climbing in most. Many Americans have resisted wearing masks and social distancing.

8:51 a.m.: U.S. President Donald Trump has bypassed the nation’s lawmakers as he claimed the authority to defer payroll taxes and replace an expired unemployment benefit with a lower amount after negotiations with Congress on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.

Trump’s orders on Saturday encroached on Congress’ control of federal spending and seemed likely to be met with legal challenges. The president cast his actions as necessary given that lawmakers have been unable to reach an agreement to plunge more money into the stumbling economy, which has imperiled his November reelection.

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8:39 a.m.: The U.S.’s confirmed cases rose by 56,070, a daily increase of 1.1 per cent as the nation approached the milestone of 5 million infections.

8:18 a.m.: The Ohio governor’s positive, then negative, tests for COVID-19 have provided fuel for skeptics of government pandemic mandates and critics of his often-aggressive polices.

“I’m sure the Internet is lighting up with ‘Well, you can’t believe any test,’ ” Mike DeWine said in a WCOL radio interview Friday, after a whirlwind of events the day before when the initial positive showing forced the Republican to scrub a planned meeting with President Donald Trump.

The conflicting results come as Americans have grown frustrated about access to testing and by slow results.

8:12 a.m.: As Germany’s 16 states start sending millions of children back to school in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic, the country’s famous sense of “Ordnung,” or order, has given way to uncertainty, with a hodgepodge of regional regulations that officials acknowledge may or may not work.

“There can’t, and never will be 100% certainty,” said Torsten Kuehne, the official in charge of schools in Pankow, Berlin’s most populous district where 45,000 students go back to school Monday. “We are trying to minimize the risk as much as possible.”

Germany has won plaudits for managing to slow the spread of the coronavirus quickly, efficiently and early, but the opening of schools is proving a new challenge as the country struggles to balance the concerns of anxious parents and children, skeptical scientists, worried teachers and overtaxed administrators.

6:16 a.m.: The prospect of starvation looms for carriage horses and other animals normally used in Morocco’s tourist mecca. Visitors have vanished during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad, or SPANA, says hundreds of Morocco’s carriage horses and donkeys are threatened amid the collapsing tourism industry. They are among the estimated 200 million horses, donkeys, camels and elephants worldwide providing various livelihoods for over a half-billion people.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. on Aug. 9, 2020:

There are 119,221 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 60,367 confirmed (including 5,692 deaths, 50,886 resolved)

_ Ontario: 39,967 confirmed (including 2,784 deaths, 36,131 resolved)

_ Alberta: 11,430 confirmed (including 208 deaths, 10,097 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 3,934 confirmed (including 195 deaths, 3,353 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,433 confirmed (including 20 deaths, 1,245 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,071 confirmed (including 64 deaths, 1,005 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 492 confirmed (including 8 deaths, 351 resolved), 15 presumptive

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 267 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 263 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 176 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 168 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 36 confirmed (including 36 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 119,221 (15 presumptive, 119,206 confirmed including 8,976 deaths, 103,566 resolved)

8:14 p.m.: Brazil topped 3 million coronavirus infections as the disease flares up in parts of the country it had spared, spreading misery from the beaches of Bahia to the soybean fields of the vast interior.

The milestone comes less than a month after Brazil hit the 2 million-case mark and as the disease sweeps into more remote regions were access to health care was precarious even before the pandemic. So even as the virus recedes in some of the locations where it first hit —richer, densely populated urban centers like Sao Paulo —the country’s curve has yet to flatten.

The country reported 49,970 new cases Saturday and added 905 new deaths, bringing with the total fatality count to more than 100,000.

Read Satruday’s rolling file

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