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WE Charity shutting down operations in Canada after multiple scandals

After a long, lucrative run at the helm of a multimillion-dollar youth activism network — followed by years of dodging accusations about unethical and illegal business practices — WE Charity founders Craig and Marc Kielburger are finally stepping down from the organization they started as teens some 25 years ago.

The Toronto-based brothers announced their resignation from WE to the organization's staff members late Wednesday, according to the Canadian Press.

They also confirmed in an open letter on their website that the WE Charity is selling off its (quite ample) real estate portfolio and closing down operations in Canada.

Money from the sell-off will go into an endowment fund overseen by a new board of governors and used to continue work on several international humanitarian projects, according to the letter.

The net profits from the sale of WE's properties will also reportedly "cover the operating costs of several large-scale infrastructure projects, such as a hospital and college in Kenya and an agricultural centre in Ecuador." No new projects or programs will be launched by the charity after that.

"While no new school, health or water projects will be possible, the endowment will ensure the continued operation of WE Charity global projects currently in place," reads the letter from Craig and Marc.

"It will also ensure that a quarter century of curriculum, service campaigns, and youth mental health materials will remain available for Canadian educators and students at WE.org."

In other words, WE (formerly known as "Free The Children") is on its death bed — and some might say it's about time after months of increasingly scandalous revelations.

The Kielburger brothers, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and the entire Liberal government has come under fire in recent months over a now-cancelled $43.5 million deal involving the WE Charity.

WE had been selected by the Canadian government to administer roughly $912 million in student grants through a new volunteer program meant to offset the impacts of COVID-19.

Questions about the organization's suitability to run the program, and the need for an external organization to run the program at all, were raised almost immediately after the deal was announced in early July.

WE pulled out fast, but the damage had already been done to the reputations of both the Kielburgers and the Liberals, given the former's very public financial ties to the Trudeau family.

What started with critics highlighting how much money Trudeau's mother, brother and wife had been paid in the past to appear at WE events devolved into a series of serious allegations of everything from employee abuse and muzzling staff to outright fraud.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau stepped down last month after admitting that he wrote the WE Charity a cheque for $41,366 as reimbursement for two family holidays the organization paid for in 2017.

Both Morneau and Trudeau are currently under investigation by the federal ethics watchdog as a result of the scandal. They have each apologized for not recusing themselves from discussions concerning the Canada Student Service Act, but it has yet to be determined if they violated the Criminal Code of Canada's Conflict of Interest Act.

Despite all of this, the Kielburgers are blaming the COVID-19 pandemic — at least in part — for their decision to wind down WE's operations in Canada.

"COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of our work," reads the joint letter from the brothers.

"The fallout from the Canada Student Service Grant has placed us as a charity in the middle of political battles and misinformation that we are ill-equipped to fight... The financial math for the charity's future is clear."

If only the whole "conflict of interest thing" had been clear to them back in July, the organization might still be staging concerts with CTV talent at elementary schools.

Lead photo by

WE Charity


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