Trudeau Foundation president, board resign, citing 'politicization' of China-linked donation
Charity's leadership cites controversy over Beijing-linked donor to explain the move
The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation's president and board of directors have resigned en masse, citing the charity's entanglement in the ongoing foreign interference controversy.
In a statement, the foundation said that a $200,000 donation in 2016 from a businessman linked to the Chinese government "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 charity announced last month that it would return the donation. The Conservatives criticized the government over the matter, saying the donation compromised a government report on the integrity of the 2021 federal election.
"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," the statement said.
The foundation is independent and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no involvement with it.
"The Trudeau Foundation is a foundation with which I have absolutely no intersection," Trudeau told a news conference Tuesday.
"It is a shame to see the level of toxicity and political polarization that is going on in our country these days, but I am certain that the Trudeau Foundation will be able to continue to ensure that research into the social studies and humanities at the highest levels across Canadian academic institutions continues for many years to come."
The charity, established in 2001 to honour former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, funds scholarships, mentorships and fellowships.
Statement from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation - Resignation of the Board of Directors and the President and CEO<a href="https://t.co/q3iT3KwpUQ">https://t.co/q3iT3KwpUQ</a> <a href="https://t.co/e3O9xn4SY4">pic.twitter.com/e3O9xn4SY4</a>—@fdnPETF
Last month, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed former governor general David Johnston as a special rapporteur to investigate foreign interference in Canadian elections and institutions, including alleged meddling by the Chinese government.
The Conservatives have questioned Johnston's impartiality, in part by pointing to Johnston's former role as a member of the Trudeau Foundation. Foundation members are responsible for appointing the board of directors.
Johnston resigned from the foundation following his appointment as special rapporteur. Trudeau has defended the choice, citing Johnston's long career in public service.
The statement said three directors will remain on an interim basis to continue the charity's work while a new board is appointed. The foundation's website currently lists six members of the board of directors.
Its president and CEO, Pascale Fournier, had been in the position for almost five years.
Poilievre calls for investigation
Reacting to news of the resignations Tuesday morning, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called for an investigation into the charity.
"We need to investigate the Beijing-funded Trudeau Foundation," Poilievre tweeted.
"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."
We need to investigate the Beijing-funded Trudeau Foundation.<br><br>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.<a href="https://t.co/chIDQ8lh0j">https://t.co/chIDQ8lh0j</a>—@PierrePoilievre
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said the resignations make the 2016 donation look more suspicious. He called on Johnston to step down as special rapporteur and for the government to call a public inquiry into foreign interference.
"Nothing else will do," Blanchet said in a French statement.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he won't comment on the Trudeau Foundation specifically. He repeated his calls for a public inquiry.
"What we've seen from both the Liberals and the Conservatives, they're more interested in scoring political points, pointing fingers at each other," Singh told a news conference.
"When it comes to something as serious as our democracy, the goal shouldn't be to score points … We've been saying we need a public inquiry to get to the truth, to give Canadians confidence."