Trudeau Foundation leadership resigns over China-linked donation

This picture taken in 2017, shows Canadian and Chinese flags taken prior to a meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and China's President Xi Jinping

The leadership of charitable foundation named after former Canadian prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau has abruptly resigned over scrutiny of a donation with alleged ties to Beijing.

The Trudeau Foundation said on Tuesday the “political climate” surrounding the 2016 donation “made it impossible to continue with the status quo”. It returned the donation last month.

The sudden resignation comes as Canada grapples with allegations of election meddling by Beijing.

The charity, a scholarship organisation created to fund doctoral researchers, was founded over two decades ago in memory of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin Trudeau’s father.

Justin Trudeau, who became Canada’s prime minister in 2015, has no involvement in the organisation.

In February, the Globe and Mail newspaper, based on anonymous sources, reported that two wealthy Chinese businessmen gave C$200,000 ($148,000) to the foundation, a payment allegedly orchestrated by Beijing.

While the money was recently refunded, politics around the donation and wider concern over Chinese interference put “a great deal of pressure” on the foundation’s volunteer borad and CEO Pascale Fournier, said the organisation in a statement announcing their resignation.

Mr Trudeau has faced calls to launch a national inquiry after leaked intelligence reports suggested that China attempted to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 general elections. The alleged interference is not believed to have changed the election outcomes.

In March, Mr Trudeau launched a series of probes to investigate the claims and named a special rapporteur to look into foreign interference in the last two general elections. China has denied the claims, calling them “purely baseless and defamatory”.

The news also comes ahead of a scheduled appearance on Friday by Mr Trudeau’s chief of staff before a parlimentary committee looking into suspected foreign election interference.


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