Sponsors, WE Charity ‘mutually’ agree to part ways, WE says amid controversy

Sponsors, WE Charity ‘mutually’ agree to part ways, WE says amid controversy

TORONTO — WE Charity says it has “mutually agreed” to suspend its partnerships after a flood of companies announced they were dropping their support for the embattled organization whose founders faced parliamentary hearings on Tuesday.

“We regret that the disruptive political conversations and inquiry have impacted our stakeholders,” WE Charity said in a statement Tuesday that did not specify which partnerships were being suspended.

“We do not want any of the individuals or organizations who participate in or support our programs to be adversely impacted by the challenges our organization is dealing with.”

WE’s remarks came after several companies, including Royal Bank of Canada, Loblaw Companies Ltd., GoodLife Fitness and KPMG said Tuesday they are ending their partnerships with the charity. WestJet and DHL said they are still deciding what to do about WE.

Companies are backing away from WE amid an ongoing controversy over a federal government deal to run a $900-million student volunteer program meant to help youths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

WE — a Toronto-based charity formed by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger in 1995 —was awarded the contract, before stepping away from administering the program.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose mother and brother received money for speaking at WE events, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who has travelled on WE’s dime and has a daughter who works for the organization, face ethics probes after failing to recuse themselves from discussions about the contract.

Morneau has since paid back the more than $41,000 his WE travels cost, while Trudeau has apologized.

Meanwhile, WE has laid off 450 contract workers and said it is eyeing a restructuring. The Kielburger brothers are testifying Tuesday at a House of Commons committee looking into the student volunteer program’s agreement with the government.

WE’s statement Tuesday also noted that the organization had also ”provided notice to all our school board partners that we are suspending formal agreements at this time.”

The charity previously worked with schools to bring students to We Days, a series of star-studded, stadium events held across Canada to drum up awareness around the charity.

RBC chief executive Dave McKay served as co-chairman of last year’s We Day, but his company has since decided to end its ties to WE.

“After reviewing our partnership, RBC and WE Charity have reached a mutual agreement to end all sponsorship and donation programming,” said spokeswoman Gillian McArdle in an email to The Canadian Press, days after WE sponsor Virgin Atlantic Airways dropped the organization.

WE’s Global Learning Centre was brought to life with fundraising from a group of well-known philanthropists, including RBC executive Jennifer Tory, who mentions the charity in her online bank bio.

Loblaw also decided to end its relationship with WE after previously involvement with WE Day and school activities focused on the subject of childhood nutrition.

“We have no plans for future activities at this time,” spokesperson Catherine Thomas said in an email.

GoodLife Fitness, a chain of exercise facilities, also edged away from WE, whose staff it had given free gym memberships and Ford Canada said it was “pausing’ all sponsored activations with WE Charity.

KPMG, which provided the charity with pro bono business advisory and financial strategy services, also confirmed on Tuesday that it decided to suspend its relationship with WE.

WestJet, which has provided free flights for kids in remote areas and staff to get to WE Day events since 2014, was taking a different approach.

“With WE Days suspended for 2020, we will work towards understanding the situation in greater detail before making any determinations,” WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell said in an email to The Canadian Press.

Delivery company DHL’s involvement with WE is also still up in the air.

“In Canada, our contract with WE ended in March and we did not immediately renew due to COVID19-related impacts on the partnership. We have not yet made a decision on any future partnerships,” a company spokesperson said in an email.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:RY, TSX:WJA, TSX:L)

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

charity

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Health Services' central zone jumped from 162 active COVID-19 cases to 178 on Friday. Five additional deaths were reported provincewide, bringing the toll to 323. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
622 new COVID-19 cases set another daily high Friday

Province confirmed 622 additional cases Friday

best
Heartland Stationer’s lands ‘Stettler’s Best Kept Secret’ award through the Stettler Board of Trade

Successful long-time business will be starting a new chapter with a name change and relocation

lights
Mark your calendars for the annual ‘Festival of Lights’ holiday events

Annual celebration raises funds in support of patient care at the Stettler Hospital

Larry
Reeve Larry Clarke reappointed for another one-year term, leading into elections in 2021

Clarke was acclaimed during council’s recent organizational meeting held Oct. 21st

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

City of Wetaskiwin Mayor presenting the AUMA Above & Beyond Award to John Maude and Susan Quinn. Ren Goode/ City of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin County residents win the AUMA Above & Beyond Award

John Maude and Susan Quinn are being recognized for their role in Wetaskiwin’s sustainability.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

Most Read