Canada's Trudeau to testify in parliament amid ethics investigation involving charity

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will testify before a parliamentary committee on Thursday about his government’s decision to ask a charity with ties to his family to administer a C$900 million ($674 million) student grant program.

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference at Rideau Cottage, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo

Trudeau will appear before the House of Commons Finance Committee at 3 p.m. (1900 GMT), while his chief of staff, Katie Telford, will follow him at 4:15 p.m., the committee said on Monday.

It is rare for prime ministers to testify before parliamentary committees. It last happened in 2006 when then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared at one to speak about Senate reform.

Trudeau’s testimony comes after he was put under investigation for possible conflict-of-interest violations. It is the third ethics probe he has faced in three years.

The prime minister has already apologized publicly for participating in the Cabinet decision to pick WE Charity Canada to manage the grant program. The charity backed out shortly after the program was announced.

Canada’s ethics commissioner launched the investigation after WE Charity disclosed that it had paid Trudeau’s mother, Margaret, C$250,000 in speaking fees in recent years, while his brother Alexandre received about C$32,000.

Both the prime minister and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, have regularly participated in WE Charity events. Gregoire Trudeau also hosts a podcast on the organization’s website for which she is not paid.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has apologized for taking part in the same Cabinet vote because one of his daughters works at WE Charity.

In his own testimony before the committee last week, Morneau said he had repaid more than C$40,000 in travel expenses for private trips he and his family took to Kenya and Ecuador to visit WE Charity-run projects in 2017, sparking calls from the main opposition Conservative Party for him to resign.

($1 = 1.3357 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Cooney