One of the experts with the task of reviewing WE Charity’s workplace says she will no longer take part in the investigation but isn’t ruling out helping the organization rebuild once the probe is complete.
The charity announced on July 15 that Avis Glaze would conduct a workplace review along with law firm McCarthy Tétreault LLP. But Ms. Glaze told The Globe and Mail that the details of her role had not been finalized when WE Charity announced that she would be part of a wholesale review and restructuring. She said the law firm is best suited to conduct the review of workplace complaints.
“I felt that as lawyers it’s best that they do the investigation,” she said, adding that her skills would be better placed in “proposing what’s next” and recommending how the organization can move forward.
Ms. Glaze is an education consultant and a former director of education in Ontario. She was a commissioner on the province’s Royal Commission on Learning in the 1990s and in 2018 advised the Nova Scotia government on a major overhaul to its education system.
In a statement Wednesday, WE said Ms. Glaze’s departure from the review was mutually agreed. Ms. Glaze told the charity that “the existing review team has the skill set and the diversity to proceed” WE said in a statement.
The board has “engaged an independent team of talented BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of colour] professionals with strong credentials in labour and employment, the education sector, and in anti-racism work to conduct a workplace review,” the charity said. The charity said the review team includes McCarthy Tétreault’s Sunil Kapur, Shane D’Souza, Atrisha Lewis, and Madeleine Brown; and equity, diversity and inclusion adviser Amorell Saunders N’Daw.
Ms. Glaze said she believes the charity has had a “positive impact” and that the organization helped ensure students meet their volunteering requirements in order to graduate. But she said she thinks funding for the type of work that WE does should be spread out.
“I think we have to decentralize this work, make sure that the ethnic and cultural groups are able to participate. We cannot create a monopoly,” Ms. Glaze said. “If we only fund one major group, then that’s what we’re doing.”
WE has already said that it will refocus its efforts on its international work, shift its North American educational programming online, and cancel its popular WE Day events for the “foreseeable future.”
WE Charity is affiliated with several related charities and the for-profit ME to WE company. It has been embroiled in controversy since striking a deal with the federal government for a contract to run a $543.5-million program to pay students for volunteer work. The deal with the charity was cancelled on July 3 amid conflict-of-interest allegations with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Since then the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has announced investigations into both Mr. Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
A Nanos Research poll conducted in the days leading up to Mr. Trudeau’s testimony at the Commons finance committee last week found that more than half of Canadians ranked the controversy as “high in importance” when judging the government’s performance.
The survey found 55 per cent of respondents said it was important, 21 per cent said they were neutral on it, 22 per cent said it wasn’t important, and two per cent were unsure.
The poll surveyed 1,094 Canadians between July 26 and July 30. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The controversy with the government program also sparked questions about WE’s workplace culture, organization and governance. And in the past two weeks, Royal Bank of Canada, Telus Corp., KPMG and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. ended their sponsorships with the charity. WE has said it proactively paused some partnerships.
Last week, Ontario ended a $250,000 contract with WE and on Tuesday, Saskatchewan said it wouldn’t move ahead with its own plans to work with the charity.
The Saskatchewan Party government had planned to partner with the organization on a $260,000 deal to promote mental well-being in schools.
The provincial opposition had raised concerns about that decision, pointing out that Premier Scott Moe and his wife had travelled to Kenya last year as guests of one of the charity’s founders.
“We don’t have confidence in their ability to deliver the program given some of the controversies,” Saskatchewan’s Deputy Premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant said.
In a statement, WE Charity said it “proactively paused all of our school-board partnerships across Canada last month due to the unfortunate controversy surrounding the Canada Student Service Grant program.”
“Under the circumstances, WE Charity respects the decision by the minister.”
With reports from Paul Waldie and The Canadian Press.
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