Saturday, January 14, 2017
Justin Trudeau spent vacation on Aga Khan's private island in Bahamas
CBC News Posted: Jan 06, 2017
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent part of his holiday vacation on the private island of the Aga Khan in the Bahamas, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed.
The PMO said Trudeau, his family and a few friends were invited to join the Aga Khan on Bell Island for the holidays.
"As you are aware, his Highness and the Prime Minister have been close family friends for many years," the statement said.
The PMO said Trudeau will repay the cost of flights to and from Nassau for himself and his family. The statement said no family friends flew on the government plane.
Trudeau marked the Aga Khan's birthday with an official statement on Dec. 13, 2016.
"Canada has come to share a close relationship with the Aga Khan and bestowed honorary citizenship on him in 2009," the statement said.
"I am proud to call His Highness both a mentor and friend. He has shown time and time again that no matter our faith, where we were born, what colour is our skin, or what language we speak, we are equal members of this world."
Prince Karim Aga Khan IV is the hereditary spiritual leader of the world's 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims and a multimillionaire philanthropist.
He is head of the Aga Khan Development Network, which receives some of its funding from the Canadian government, to support social development, education and charity projects.
The Global Affairs Canada website lists 16 partnerships with the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada since 2004.
The most recent one is a five-year, $55-million project to improve health services in Afghanistan that was announced in December 2015 under the Trudeau government.
The foundation is registered to lobby the federal government, including the prime minister.
OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER OF CANADAIn this handout photo, Prime Minister Trudeau meets with the Aga Khan in Trudeau's Centre Block office in Ottawa. May 17, 2016.
OTTAWA – Conservative MP Andrew Scheer filed a formal complaint Monday with Parliament’s Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner alleging that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated federal law when he and his family accepted a vacation from the Aga Khan at the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas.
It is the latest incident in which Trudeau’s political opponents are arguing that he is failing to uphold his very own edict on “Open and Accountable Government”, delivered to his cabinet and parliamentary secretarys as they were sworn in in late 2015, in which he exhorted them to “arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny.”
“By accepting the gift, I would argue … that’s a violation of the (Conflict of Interest) Act,” Scheer said in a telephone interview from his home in Regina.
The PMO maintains that the Aga Khan is a close friend of the Trudeau family — His Highness was a pallbearer at Pierre Trudeau’s funeral — a suggestion that that personal relationship supercedes the professional relationship betwee the two men. The Conflict of Interest Act allows public office holders to receive gifts from friends and relatives.
Scheer said that even if Trudeau is technically on the right side of the law, Trudeau’s own rules provide guidance in such an eventuality.
”His cabinet is expected to go beyond that and to avoid anything that even gives the appearance of a conflict of interest. So he’s falling short there, in my view, for sure,” Scheer said.
MP Alexandre Boulerice, the NDP’s ethics critic, said the vacation does not pass the smell test. “It’s not appropriate for the prime minister to be hosted for an expensive vacation by someone who receives millions of dollars in funding from his government. It’s disappointing and falls far short of the accountability he promised Canadians.”
In addition to being a family friend, Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, as he is formally known, is one of the world’s wealthiest royals — worth an estimated $1 billion or more — and is the founder and chairman of Aga Khan Development Network, which works to improve the welfare of people in the developing world. The network’s agency in Canada is the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, a registered charity, which competes with other charities for Canadian foreign aid money. The Aga Khan is a member of the board of directors of Aga Khan Foundation Canada.
Since 2004, the Aga Khan Development Network has received about $310 million from the Canadian government for 16 foreign aid projects . Most recently, the Trudeau government granted the Aga Khan Development Network $55 million over five years to improve maternal and child health in Afghanistan.
The federal government also contributed $30 million to the construction of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s headquarters in Ottawa.
That professional and financial connection between the Government of Canada and the Aga Khan’s foundation and network should be enough, in Scheer’s views, to raise some red flags.
“The Prime Minister of Canada must be held to the highest standard which is why I have called for this investigation,” Scheer said in a statement. “As a former Speaker of the House of Commons, I take the rules that MPs must follow very seriously. We need to know if it is appropriate for Trudeau to accept gifts from someone whose foundation receives funds from the Government of Canada.”
“The prime minister could have easily pre-cleared this [vacation] with the ethics commissioner if he’s so confident that it’s not a violation [of the law] as many MPs do from time to time.” While Scheer is the first to file a formal complaint, his fellow caucus colleagues, Lisa Raitt and Kellie Leitch, have also called out Trudeau on the trip. All three are rivals in the Conservative leadership race.
“There are clear rules on lobbying and ethics. Is the PM so arrogant that he thinks he’s ‘above’ them?” Raitt said on Twitter.
“Canadians deserve a prompt investigation into apparent breach of the Conflict of Interest Act,” Leitch said, also on Twitter. “He clearly tried to hide his whereabouts.”
Trudeau and his family flew to Nassau, The Bahamas on Dec. 26 in an RCAF Challenger jet. There, the Trudeaus and a few yet-to-be identified friends of the Trudeaus travelled to Bell Island, a 349-acre island in an archipelago described as the “Hamptons of the Bahamas” that the Aga Khan purchased in 2009 for a price of about US$100-million.
The Trudeaus celebrated the New Year there and returned to Ottawa sometime last week.
While the PMO was asked by the National Post repeatedly since before the New Year about Trudeau’s itinerary, it did not confirm that he was a guest of the Aga Khan’s until Friday.
The Aga Khan Foundation’s status as a lobbying organization that has received federal funds could also draw some scrutiny of Trudeau’s vacation arrangements from Parliament’s lobbying commissioner, a separate independent watchdog.
“The commissioner takes all allegations seriously,” a spokesman for commissioner Karen Shepherd said. “The Lobbying Act requires the commissioner to conduct all investigations and reviews in private. She has no further comment.”
Registered lobbyists are forbidden to give gifts, including the use of property, to public office holders such as a prime minister.