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The charity at the heart of an ethics investigation targeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid members of his family for speaking engagements, Canadian media reported Thursday.

WE Charity paid Margaret Trudeau, the prime minister’s mother, Can$250,000 (US$184,000) for speeches at 28 events between 2016 and 2020, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

The revelation seemed “to contradict WE Charity’s earlier claim that it had ‘never paid an honorarium’ to Margaret Trudeau,” the public broadcaster said in a report on its website.

WE Charity paid Justin Trudeau’s brother Alexandre $32,000 for his participation in eight events, the CBC reported.

It also said the prime minister’s office had confirmed that his wife Sophie “received $1,500” for participating in a WE event in 2012, before Trudeau took over the leadership of the Liberal Party.

Canada’s ethics watchdog said on July 3 that he has launched an investigation into the prime minister, after a controversial contract to manage a major government program was awarded to WE Charity in June.

That same day the charity said it was withdrawing from the $900 million federal program, which provides grants of up to $5,000 to eligible students for volunteer work with non-profit organizations during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Prime Minister’s relatives engage with a variety of organizations and support many personal causes on their own accord,” Trudeau’s office said in a press release Thursday.

“What is important to remember here is that this is about a charity supporting students,” it continued.

The Conservative opposition blasted Trudeau for the “scandalous” revelations, accusing him of handing “almost a billion-dollar contract to a charity that not only had close ties to the Liberal Party, but which paid his family almost $300,000.”

The ethics commissioner has already released two reports concluding that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act: in 2017, for taking a vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island, and last year for trying to influence legal proceedings in the SNC-Lavalin case, in which a subsidiary of the engineering company was accused of paying bribes to secure contracts in Libya.

Agence France-Presse

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