The Toronto Star reported this weekend that WE Charity laid off 450 of 465 contract workers hired to administer the Canada Student Service Grant program.
This came as two high-profile Canadians have revealed that they weren't paid to appear at WE Days, unlike Justin Trudeau's mother and brother.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau has also been ensnared in this issue because his daughter works for WE Charity and neither he nor Trudeau recused themselves from cabinet discussions about the contract.
The Conservatives have called for a criminal investigation, whereas NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has demanded that all documents from the cabinet deliberations be made public.
Earlier this month month, WE Charity backed out of the $19.5-million contract to administer the $900-million volunteer program after opposition politicians complained about its close ties to members of the Trudeau family.
Canadaland broke the story of WE's for-profit social enterprise, Me to WE, paying Justin Trudeau's mother Margaret $280,000 and his brother Alexandre $32,000 hundreds to appear at speaking events.
Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion is investigating whether Trudeau violated any sections of the Conflict of Interest Act.
Meanwhile, former pro hockey player Theo Fleury wonders why he wasn't paid when he was invited to speak at a WE event.
Canadian singer Jully Black has also pointed out on her Instagram feed that she wasn't paid for her appearance.
WE Charity was registered with the Canada Revenue Agency in 1997.
Its latest financial statement to tax officials on August 31, 2019 shows that WE Charity had five employees earning between $120,000 to $159,999 in the previous year.
Another five were paid between $80,000 to $119,999.
Charities' public statements to the Canada Revenue Agency do not reveal the names of those collecting the highest salaries.
WE Charity reported $62.5 million in assets in 2019, including $43.7 million in the category of "land and buildings in Canada".
It listed $44.4 million in liabilities, mostly "deferred revenue" and "accounts payable and accrued liabilities".
In its last fiscal year, We Charity generated $65.9 million in revenue—including $680,050 from the federal government and $900,000 from provincial and territorial governments.
It spent $68.2 million, including $19.9 million on compensation.
On January 1, 2019, the WE Charity Foundation was registered.
It's common for charities to have separate foundations that flow money to the operating entity. That's because this can protect donations in case the operating entity runs into financial trouble.
WE Charity Foundation has not yet filed any public financial statements to the Canada Revenue Agency.
B.C educators sang WE Charity's praises
In a WE transparency report on its website, there are testimonials from officials around the world, including some B.C. educators.
Jennifer McCrea, assistant deputy minister overseeing the learning division in the B.C. Ministry of Education, wrote that 300 students, Ministry of Education staff, and Education Minister Rob Fleming re-created the journey that girls must take in developing countries to bring fresh water to their families.
"Through the work WE has done, girls now have access to fresh water and an education as they are not spending their days walking back and forth to a fresh water source," McCrea wrote. "Participating in that walk in British Columbia and then doing the actual water walk this summer in Kenya on my personal holidays solidified our responsibility to continue to support developing countries in a sustainable way.
"I was able to meet local girls completing high school and ones currently enrolled in college," McCrea continued, "the excitement for their future was so empowering and to recognize BC students have helped support through WE Schools partnership was extremely gratifying."
In another testimonial, Vancouver Community Schools Team youth and family worker Patti McVey declared that the We Schools program has been "the best way for me to facilitate leadership skills to my grade 7 students".
"One teacher is also using the novel 'Iqbal' who was the child who first
inspired Marc and Craig Keilburger [sic] to start 'Free the Children'," McVey noted. "I find that throughout the year, the many activities we undertake truly create an intrinsic motivation in each of the students that they will continue with throughout their lives.
"We belong to an inner city school in east Vancouver so the parents don’t have a lot of money," she continued. "We already have a hot lunch program and send home food packages to the students, so there are a few standard WE fund raisers that we can’t do, such as the We Scare Hunger canned food collecting project. However, we find innovative ways to increase awareness and through assembly presentations throughout the year, and we still raise money for local causes and one global WE Village."
Like McCrea, McVey also travelled abroad to learn more about the charity.
"My trip with the WE Educators Program to Ecuador/Amazon this summer was the most inspiring experience," she wrote. "One of the highlights was meeting the Cichwa indigenous people and learning about the natural ways of living and farming. We also learned how they have suffered under Spanish colonization."
There, she was able to witness the effects of a school built by previous WE Students. She joined in building a community kitchen.
"I truly witnessed first hand how the WE program operates globally and I respect their model of Equal Partnership agreements that precipitate any global village projects," McVey stated in the testimonial. "I am busy this year passing on all that I learned to my students here at my school. And meeting all those fabulous
dedicated teachers, and the WE facilitators! They are all amazing and I will never forget them."
Coast Mountains School District trustee Margaret Warcup stated that she's gone on three B.C. Educator trips with the B.C. team to witness WE Charity initiatives in Ecuador, Tanzania, and Nicaragua.
"I came to being involved with WE later in my career because of the strong values and commitment of WE to empower us all to give and foster learning and the ability to have healthy lives," she stated.
Cathy van der Mark, then a district principal in Smithers, wrote in her testimonial that she had gone on four trips with either WE Charity's social-enterprise affiliate, Me to WE, or with the B.C. Educators Group.
"Me to We does an amazing job organizing the trips, which is greatly appreciated, but the impact of the work in the communities and thee commitment to working alongside community members with dignity and respect has had a great impact in both my professional and personal life," van der Mark wrote.More