Canadian PM Broke Conflict Interest Rules: Ethics Commissioner

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Mary Dawson, the federal ethics commissioner of Canada reported that Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, broke a number of rules related to conflict of interest in 2016 when he vacationed the 2016 Christmas at a Bahamian island owned by Aga Khan. The island is private property. Canadian laws prohibit any government minister from accepting any advantages or gifts which could be surmised as being done to influence decisions which are scheduled to be done by the government.  Sole exception to this rule is when the gift or advantage is provided by the concerned minister's friend.

Claimed family friend

The last clause cannot be applied to Justin Trudeau. According to Dawson, Aga Khan, the host, in this case, was a close friend of Pierre Trudeau, the present Prime Minister's father. Pierre Trudeau was also a Canadian PM. Khan is a millionaire and is hereditary spiritual leader to 15 million Ismaili Muslims scattered all over the world. The present PM terms his relationship with Aga Khan as a longtime friend of the Trudeau family. He said that Khan was one of the pallbearers at his late father's funeral. It is common knowledge Aga Khan and Pierre Trudeau were fast friends.

As per the Canadian ethics commissioner, both Aga Khan and the Aga Khan foundation was found to be registered as lobbying entities. She also said that Justin Trudeau did not follow proper procedure in recusing himself on about two occasions during May 2016 from applicable government meetings. The sum paid in this case was approximately C$15 million grant to endowment fund run by Global Center for Pluralism. The chairman of this board is the present Aga Khan. When notified of this transgression, the Canadian PM expressed regret and said he was at fault with not clearing the vacation with the ethics committee. He said that he will surely do that in the future.

PM response

Prime Minister Trudeau accepted that he is at fault and accept the commissioner's report. He said that Dawson fulfilled her responsibility to uphold the integrity of political office. He added that Aga Khan is a family friend even if the head of the ethics committee does not think of him that way. Dawson said the late Trudeau was a good friend of Aga Khan whom he met during the latter years of the 1960s. The present PM, however, she insisted, had no private or personal interactions with the millionaire.

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