RBC cuts ties with Canadian charity at center of Trudeau ethics probe

FILE PHOTO: The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) logo is seen outside of a branch in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

(Reuters) - Royal Bank of Canada said on Tuesday it reached a mutual agreement to end all sponsorships with and donations to Canada’s WE Charity, which has been drawn into controversy surrounding an ethics inquiry into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canada’s ethics commissioner launched an inquiry into Trudeau’s participation in a Cabinet decision to use the charity, with which his family has ties, to administer a multi-million-dollar student grant program.

RBC said it had conducted a review of the partnership. The charity said it had mutually decided with its Canadian partners to suspend partnerships out of concern for their reputation and investment commitments, and had also suspended formal agreements with its school board partners.

WE Charity disclosed earlier this month that it paid speaking fees of C$250,000 to Trudeau’s mother, Margaret, in recent years, and about C$32,000 to his brother, Alexandre.

But WE Charity founders Craig and Marc Kielburger defended their efforts to set up the grant program before a parliamentary committee. The charity said it would no longer manage the program about a week after it had been announced.

“WE Charity agreed to implement the Canada Student Service Grant not to be helped by government, but to help government – and to help young people across Canada,” Craig Kielburger said, adding that “there was no financial benefit for the charity.”

Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, have also participated in the charity’s events.

“We regret that we didn’t recognize how this decision would be perceived,” Craig Kielburger said. “As we see the organization today, the fallout now from this political process has resulted in serious challenges that risk the entire organization and 25 years of work.”

Reporting by Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Leslie Adler