Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that despite his family’s ties with a charity, he did not place himself in a conflict of interest through his involvement in cabinet discussions on getting the group to run a now-halted C$900 million student grant program.
“I was not in a position of conflict of interest. I apologized because of the perception (over) ties with my family. I should have recused myself,” CBC News quoted Trudeau as saying to a House of Commons committee on Thursday.
The Prime Minister has been under fire since June 25 when his government granted the WE Charity group a sole-sourced contract to run the program.
The Trudeau family has a close relationship with the organization.
The Canadian leader’s wife, mother and brother were allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for their appearances at WE Charity events.
Due to public outcry, the WE Charity and the Trudeau government announced on July 3 that they were ending the contract.
Addressing the committee on Thursday, the Prime Minister said that when his government was working on the grant program, events related to the COVID-19 pandemic were moving fast and his government was sprinting to get programs out the door.
He said that haste was part of the reason why he failed to recuse himself from cabinet discussions regarding WE Charity, reports CBC News.
Trudeau also said he does not know the details of his family members’ private business interests or how much money they might have received in expenses from WE Charity.
“My mother and my brother are professionals in their own right who have engagements and have for many, many years, with many different organizations across the country, and I don’t have the details of their work experiences or expenses,” Trudeau said.
Under questioning by Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, Trudeau said that his wife Sophie works for free as a mental health advocate and that the expenses she’s collected from WE Charity for her volunteer work have been cleared by the ethics commissioner’s office.
Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford also appeared before the Committee.
The Canadian Conservative Party and other opposition parties have been pushing for more answers and have launched three separate parliamentary probes.
They have also prompted the Parliamentary ethics commissioner to launch conflict of interest investigations into both Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s dealings on granting WE Charity the contract, calling on both to resign.