Stu­dents frus­trated over de­lay to aid

Vancouver Sun - - CANADA - LEE BERTHIAUME

OTTAWA • Anx­ious stu­dents and non-profit groups say they’re frus­trated over a lack of an­swers from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment as they wait to hear what will hap­pen to the $900-mil­lion vol­un­teer­ing pro­gram pre­vi­ously ad­min­is­tered by the WE Char­ity.

The gov­ern­ment says it is work­ing on what to do with the Canada Stu­dent Ser­vices Grant pro­gram af­ter its agree­ment with WE was can­celled last week amid con­tro­versy over Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s con­nec­tions to the Toronto-based char­ity and its for-profit arm, ME to WE So­cial Enterprise.

The WE or­ga­ni­za­tion said Thurs­day that it had paid Trudeau’s mother Mar­garet about $250,000 for 28 speak­ing ap­pear­ances at WE-re­lated events be­tween 2016 and 2020. His brother Alexan­dre has been paid $32,000 for eight events, ac­cord­ing to WE. The or­ga­ni­za­tion that rep­re­sents them as speak­ers was paid ad­di­tional com­mis­sions, WE said. And Trudeau’s wife So­phie Gré­goire Trudeau re­ceived $1,400 in 2012 for a sin­gle ap­pear­ance.

“Justin Trudeau has never been paid by WE Char­ity or ME to WE So­cial Enterprise for any speeches or any other mat­ters,” WE Char­ity said.

Trudeau is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the ethics commission­er over al­le­ga­tions of a po­ten­tial con­flict of in­ter­est when the gov­ern­ment awarded the con­tract to WE. Trudeau has ac­knowl­edged he didn’t re­cuse him­self when cab­i­net ap­proved the deal.

Trudeau has main­tained the non-par­ti­san pub­lic ser­vice rec­om­mended WE to ad­min­is­ter the deal, while his spokesman Alex Well­stead on Thurs­day said “the prime min­is­ter’s rel­a­tives en­gage with a va­ri­ety of or­ga­ni­za­tions and sup­port many per­sonal causes on their own ac­cord.”

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

WE’s sud­den de­par­ture from the vol­un­teer­ing pro­gram has cre­ated con­fu­sion as the days tick past for young peo­ple to put in hours for which the gov­ern­ment prom­ises to pay them up to $5,000 to­ward school­ing.

Sev­eral non-prof­its say they and their vol­un­teers are anx­iously wait­ing for an­swers from the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing whether the pro­gram is go­ing to go ahead and the stu­dents they have al­ready taken on will be com­pen­sated for their work.

The grant pro­gram prom­ises to pay stu­dents up to $5,000 for their post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tions if they vol­un­teer the max­i­mum 500 hours. WE said last week that around 35,000 ap­pli­ca­tions had been re­ceived.

Youth Min­is­ter Bardish Chag­ger’s spokes­woman Danielle Keenan said of­fi­cials were “work­ing right now to de­ter­mine the next steps” and ac­knowl­edged the like­li­hood of a de­lay.

Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of Stu­dents deputy chair Ni­cole Brayian­nis urged Ottawa to pull the plug on fur­ther po­si­tions and in­vest in­stead in di­rect aid to stu­dents, not­ing sum­mer is al­ready un­der­way.

Bardish Chag­ger

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