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WE Charity winding down operations in Canada

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TORONTO —
WE Charity is selling off its assets and winding down operations in Canada months after becoming embroiled in a political scandal that has triggered investigations by the federal ethics watchdog, CTV News has learned.

WE Charity is preparing to announce its plans later today, which includes selling off the organization’s assets to keep its international humanitarian programs afloat long-term while also digitizing its educational resources so they can be accessed in the future.

In an exclusive interview with CTV News’ Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme airing Wednesday night, WE Charity co-founder Craig Kielburger said COVID-19 hit the charity very hard, followed by “the political freight train that unfolded after that.”

“We saw what was happening to our organization, but also what could happen to our partners and sponsors. So we reached out to them to let them know that we didn’t feel they should be dragged through the process,” Kielburger said.

“And the simple math is now the charity is spending more than it’s bringing in.”

The sell-off is intended to pay for global projects such as WE Charity’s hospital, college and agricultural learning centre, as well as fund WE Villages projects in Latin America, Asia and Africa that have yet to be completed.

Co-founder Marc Kielburger said the sell-off will also pay off the charity’s existing debts.

“So much has been lost in this process, in this political quagmire and the politics and the pandemic, but at least something good can come of it, and that endowment is the opportunity for us to do something. And again, we can’t save everything, but this is what we do want to save, those projects, both at home and around the world,” he said.

The charity previously announced dozens of layoffs in Canada and the United Kingdom, cancelled all WE Day activities for the foreseeable future and has been looking to sell some of its real estate holdings in Toronto.

The wind-down comes after WE Charity found itself in the centre of a political scandal over a now-cancelled deal for up to $43.5 million with the Liberal government to deliver the Canada Student Service Grant.

The decision to grant WE Charity the contract came under fire after the charity’s ties to Trudeau and former finance minister Bill Morneau’s families were revealed.

Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, spoke at approximately 28 WE Charity events and was paid $250,000 in speaking honorariums between 2016 and 2020. The prime minister’s brother, Alexandre Trudeau, also spoke at eight WE Charity events from 2017 to 2018 and was paid a total of approximately $32,000.

In addition, Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, received a “one-time speaking honorarium” of $1,400 for participating in a youth event in 2012, before Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party.

Meanwhile, WE Charity paid, in part, for two trips that members of Morneau’s family took in 2017 — one of which Morneau himself took part in.

Morneau apologized for the “error” and said it was his full intention to cover the full cost of the trips — though it wasn’t until July that he repaid the $41,000 the charity had initially covered related to the trips to Kenya and Ecuador. The former finance minister’s daughter Clare has also spoken at WE events, and his daughter Grace is currently employed by WE Charity.

Morneau has since resigned as both finance minister and as a member of Parliament, though he would not directly attribute the decision to the WE controversy.

Both Trudeau and Morneau have apologized for not recusing themselves from the discussions. Trudeau has insisted that he was not in an actual position of conflict during the conversations about the Canada Student Service Grant — but rather, that he was subject to a perception of conflict.

The prime minister has also said he expressed concern about the choice of WE Charity when he first learned of it. He said he was worried about a perception of conflict, and as a result asked the public service to “put the brakes on” to ensure the organization really was the only one that could have delivered the program.

WE Charity’s decision to wind down operations in Canada comes the same year as its 25th anniversary. The organization was founded by human rights activist Craig Kielburger, who got the idea to start the charity in hopes of lifting children out of poverty when he was 12 years old.

With files from CTVNews.ca’s Rachel Gilmore in Ottawa

Source:- CTV News

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Trudeau says he discussed border with Biden, but no deal

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he has spoken with U.S. President Joe Biden about how to lift pandemic-related border restrictions between the two countries but made clear no breakthrough has been achieved.

U.S. and Canadian business leaders have voiced increasing concern about the ban on non-essential travel in light of COVID-19 that was first imposed in March 2020 and renewed on a monthly basis since then. The border measures do not affect trade flows.

The border restrictions have choked off tourism between the two countries. Canadian businesses, especially airlines and those that depend on tourism, have been lobbying the Liberal government to relax the restrictions.

Canada last week took a cautious first step, saying it was prepared to relax quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated citizens returning home starting in early July.

Trudeau, speaking after a Group of Seven summit in Britain, said he had talked to Biden “about coordinating measures at our borders as both our countries move ahead with mass vaccination.” Canada is resisting calls for the border measures to be relaxed, citing the need for more people to be vaccinated.

The United States is ahead of Canada in terms of vaccination totals.

“We will continue to work closely together on moving forward in the right way but each of us always will put at the forefront the interests and the safety of our own citizens,” Trudeau told a televised news conference when asked the Biden conversation.

“Many countries, like Canada, continue to say that now is not the time to travel,” Trudeau added, though he said it is important to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Man with 39 wive dies in India

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A 76-year-old man who had 39 wives and 94 children and was said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in north east India, the chief minister of his home state said.

Ziona Chana, the head of a local Christian sect that allows polygamy, died on Sunday, Zoramthanga, the chief minister of Mizoram and who goes by one name, said in a tweet.

With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count the grandchildren, of whom Ziona has 33.

Winston Blackmore, the head of a polygamous Mormon sect in Canada, has around 150 children from 27 wives – 178 people in total.

Ziona lived with his family in a vast, four-story pink structure with around 100 rooms in Baktawng, a remote village in Mizoram that became a tourist attraction as a result, according to Zoramthanga.

The sect, named “Chana”, was founded by Ziona’s father in 1942 and has a membership of hundreds of families. Ziona married his first wife when he was 17, and claimed he once married ten wives in a single year.

They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom, and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.

Despite his family’s huge size, Ziona told Reuters in a 2011 interview he wanted to grow it even further.

“I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry,” he said.

“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”

 

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Adnan Abidi in New Delhi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Huawei CFO seeks publication ban on HSBC documents in U.S. extradition case

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Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Monday will seek to bar publication of documents her legal team received from HSBC, a request opposed by Canadian prosecutors in her U.S. extradition case who say it violates the principles of open court.

Meng’s legal team will present arguments in support of the ban in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States, where she faces charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran and potentially causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions on business in Iran.

She has been under house arrest in Vancouver for more than two years and fighting her extradition to the United States. Meng has said she is innocent.

Lawyers for Huawei and HSBC in Hong Kong agreed to a release of the documents in April to Meng’s legal team on the condition that they “use reasonable effort” to keep confidential information concealed from the public, according to submissions filed by the defense on Friday.

Prosecutors representing the Canadian government argued against the ban, saying in submissions filed the same day that “to be consistent with the open court principle, a ban must be tailored” and details should be selectively redacted from the public, rather than the whole documents.

A consortium of media outlets, including Reuters News, also opposes the ban.

The open court principle requires that court proceedings be open and accessible to the public and to the media.

It is unclear what documents Huawei obtained from HSBC, but defense lawyers argue they are relevant to Meng’s case.

Meng’s hearing was initially set to wrap up in May but Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes granted an extension to allow the defense to read through the new documents.

Hearings in the extradition case are scheduled to finish in late August.

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Howard Goller)

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