Canadian Lawmakers Agree to Expand Scope of WE Charity Probe

Canadian lawmakers agreed on Friday to expand a conflict-of-interest investigation into the WE Charity to include the organization’s operations in Kenya.

The House of Commons ethics committee reached a deal across party lines to hold two more meetings to hear testimony from officials linked to WE Charity, including founders Marc Kielburger and Craig Kielburger and Guy Spencer Elms, the charity’s lawyer in Kenya. Sofia Marquez, WE’s former director of government relations, and Chief Financial Officer Victor Li will also be called upon to speak.

The lawmakers also agreed to summon any witnesses that ignore the invitation. The committee held a number of meetings in November and December on conflict-of-interest and lobbying issues related to pandemic spending, in which WE Charity and its operations featured prominently.

Earlier this month, committee member Charlie Angus sent the panel a letter asking them to examine allegations that pupils at some WE-operated schools in Kenya were sometimes subjected to corporal punishment by teachers. He also said it would be necessary to invite other witnesses that worked in the WE organization, or students at its overseas schools, to provide testimony.

In December, Bloomberg Businessweek reported allegations of corporal punishment from three former students and a former teacher at charitable schools operated by WE in Kenya. Students described being caned multiple times from 2012 to 2016, on the back, legs, buttocks and hands.

WE has disputed the allegations and criticisms of its Kenya operations, as well as other concerns and allegations raised in the article about oversight, corporate structure and the organization’s real estate portfolio.

“Any suggestion that some students at WE-operated schools were caned has been disputed in formal statements by four former students, three former teachers and the former principal, all of whom would have been present during the time of the alleged caning incident, as well as senior representatives from the Kenyan Narok County for Education who confirmed the same,” WE said in an email following the committee’s decision.

It declined to comment on whether the Kielburgers, Elm, Marquez or Li would appear before the Committee voluntarily.

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