Ethics watchdog 'considering' investigation into Trudeau's vacation with the Aga Khan

The federal ethics commissioner is considering launching an investigation into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's vacation in the Bahamas after receiving a complaint from Conservative leadership candidate Andrew Scheer.

Prime minister, friends and family vacationed on private island in the Bahamas

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson prepares to appear at Commons committee, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday June 10, 2014. Dawson is considering whether to launch an investigation into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Christmas vacation on the Aga Khan's private island in the Bahamas. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The federal ethics commissioner is considering an investigation into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent vacation in the Bahamas after receiving a complaint from Conservative leadership candidate Andrew Scheer.

The Saskatchewan MP wrote a letter to Mary Dawson Monday asking her to rule on whether Trudeau's stay on the Aga Khan's private island is a gift that violates the Conflict of Interest Act.

"As a former speaker of the House of Commons, I take the rules that MPs must follow very seriously. We need to know if it is appropriate for Trudeau to accept gifts from someone whose foundation receives funds from the government of Canada."

Prince Karim Aga Khan IV is the hereditary spiritual leader of the world's 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims and a multimillionaire philanthropist.

The federal government has contributed millions to the Aga Khan Foundation to help fund its international development projects. The most recent grant was a five-year, $55-million project to improve health services in Afghanistan that was announced in December 2015 under the Trudeau government.

Scheer pointed to Section 14.1 of the act which stipulates an MP should not accept "directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit ... that might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the [MP] in the exercise of a duty or function of his or her office."

The Conservative Party had considered filing a complaint of its own but decided not to after Scheer submitted his letter, which raises many of the party's same concerns.

A spokesman for interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said the parliamentary caucus could revisit that decision.

"I can confirm that the commissioner this morning received a request from Mr. Scheer for an investigation in connection with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's vacation stay ... and is considering the request," a spokesperson for the commissioner said in an e-mail to CBC News. "That is all we can say on the matter at this time."

​The Prime Minister's Office had been tight-lipped about Trudeau's vacation until the National Post reported last week that he was in the Bahamas and staying with the Aga Khan.

The Aga Khan's privately owned Bell Island is located in the Bahamas. (Google Maps)

The PMO confirmed Friday that Trudeau, his family and a few friends were invited to join the Aga Khan on Bell Island for the holidays.

"As you are aware, his Highness and the Prime Minister have been close family friends for many years," a statement sent to media said, while noting Trudeau would repay the cost of flights to and from Nassau for himself and his family.

The prime minister travels on a government-owned Challenger jet for security purposes, and, as per a longstanding policy, repays the cost of an economy class ticket when travelling on personal business.

An Image of Justin Trudeau and the Aga Khan
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with the Aga Khan on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Trudeau family has close ties to Aga Khan

He has had close ties to the Trudeau family since former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau spearheaded the resettlement of thousands of Ugandan Asians displaced by Idi Amin's expulsion. Some 7,000 refugees, many of them Ismaili, were resettled throughout Canada, one of the first major waves of non-European immigration to Canada.

"Pierre and I were friends and there was an informal understanding that if there was a racial crisis, Canada would intervene. So when Uganda's Idi Amin decided in 1972 to expel Asians, I picked up the phone, and Trudeau affirmed then and there that Canada would wish to help. His response was magnificent," the Aga Khan told the Toronto Star in 2000.

The Aga Khan also served as honorary pallbearer at Pierre Trudeau's funeral in 2000, alongside former Cuban president Fidel Castro, who died in November.