Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre holds up redacted documents during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. The documents were tabled by the Government at the House of Commons Finance Committee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre holds up redacted documents during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. The documents were tabled by the Government at the House of Commons Finance Committee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Opposition parties decry black ink in WE documents, allege continuing coverup

Many of the pages have been blacked out, either in part or in their entirety

Opposition parties are taking issue with the black ink applied to many of the thousands of pages of newly released documents about the WE Charity controversy, suggesting the redactions are part of a continuing coverup by the federal Liberals.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered the 5,000-plus pages released to MPs on the House of Commons finance committee Tuesday as he announced the prorogation of Parliament until Sept. 23.

The documents contain numerous exchanges between federal civil servants, ministerial staff and WE Charity officials about the plan to have the Toronto-based organization run a multimillion-dollar program encouraging students to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canada Student Service Grant program gradually took shape over a period of weeks, initially including the possibility of a scholarship or bursary, and eventually fixed sums linked to the number of hours spent volunteering.

By proroguing Parliament, Trudeau put a temporary end to the four committees that have spent the summer probing the decision to enlist WE Charity, which has close connections to the families of the prime minister and Bill Morneau, who resigned as finance minister this week.

Trudeau announced the launch of the program on June 25. But there was immediate controversy over his perceived conflict of interest and WE Charity pulled out of the agreement, which was to have paid the organization $43.5 million, on July 3.

The newly released documents seem to back up the Trudeau government’s assertion it was federal public servants who recommended the student service grant program be administered by WE Charity.

They also suggest bureaucrats may have been encouraged to pursue that course by their political masters.

Yet many of the pages have been blacked out, either in part or in their entirety.

READ MORE: Docs suggest bureaucrats were nudged to look to WE Charity for student program

In a letter to the clerk of the finance committee that was released with the documents, the clerk of the Privy Council said the redactions were made in accordance with the committee’s own decision to protect cabinet secrets and personal information.

“The committee’s motion stipulates that cabinet confidence and national security information are to be excluded from the package,” Ian Shugart wrote to committee clerk David Gagnon on Aug. 7.

“A principled approach was adopted to this information to ensure a non-selective application of the protection afforded by cabinet confidentiality. As a result, considerable information on the Canada Student Service Grant that would otherwise constitute cabinet confidences is being released.”

Shugart went on to say that information on the pages was withheld if deemed not relevant to the grant program.

Still, the redactions emerged as a focal point for opposition anger and frustration on Wednesday, with Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre waving several partially and completely blacked-out pages during a news conference on Parliament Hill.

Among the documents that Poilievre focused on was an email that WE co-founder Craig Kielburger sent to Morneau on April 26 with two attached documents, the contents of which are withheld.

“We’d love to learn about the attached documents in it, but unfortunately, in what is to become a trend throughout this package, all the relevant information in the two documents are completely blacked out,” Poilievre said.

Poilievre held up several other redacted documents before tossing them aside.

“This page blacked out,” he said. “This page blacked out. This page, blacked out. Why don’t we ask what’s in those pages at a parliamentary committee? Well, I’ll tell you why: Justin Trudeau shut down those parliamentary committees.”

The New Democrats also complained about the documents Wednesday, with NDP finance critic Peter Julian writing a letter to finance committee chair and Liberal MP Wayne Easter arguing it wasn’t up to the government to make redactions.

Rather, he said the committee’s motion had called for the government to provide unredacted documents for the parliamentary law clerk to vet, with the understanding members would then be able to challenge redactions they thought were excessive.

“Nearly a quarter of the documents provided to committee members were redacted in whole or in part,” Julian wrote. “It is over 1,000 pages that we as parliamentarians do not have full access to shed light on this scandal.”

MPs on the finance committee actually received late Tuesday a second version of the same documents, which had been undergoing vetting by the parliamentary law clerk since they were submitted to the committee Aug. 9.

That version redacted all the names and email addresses of bureaucrats so that it is impossible to tell who wrote what or who was talking to whom, which rendered them far less informative than the set Trudeau ordered released.

Easter said he does not fault the law clerk for being cautious, but the end result rendered the documents essentially useless.

“Our intent as a committee in terms of the motion was (to find out) who’s talking to who and what time did they talk to who and what did they say. So without the names they’re not going to be very effective for you, if at all,” Easter said.

If not for Trudeau ordering release of the documents as originally submitted to the committee, Easter said, there would have been far less information available.

“I think what the prime minister’s documents show is the prime minister’s trying to be transparent.”

Lee Berthiaume, Jim Bronskill and Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of CanadaJustin TrudeauLiberals

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

Just Posted

Staff at Acropolis Manor, a Prince Rupert long-term health care facility in April 2020 where no cases of COVID-19 were reported until an outbreak on Jan. 19, 2021. As of Jan. 25th, 32 people associated with the residence have tested positive for the virus. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Staff at Acropolis Manor a Prince Rupert long term health care facility, take pride in their work place that no COVID-19 cases have been reported in the facility during the pandemic.This photo taken, April 20, from outside, looking through a window shows staff adhering to strict protocols and best practices to keep residents happy and healthy. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
COVID-19 numbers increase at Acropolis Manor – 32 infected

Prince Rupert man concerned about temp. staff from out of region working at long-term care facility

Ken Veldman vice president, public affairs and sustainability, at Prince Port Port Authority on Jan. 21 addressed local employers in an online presentation about a new community recruitment program to attract employees to Prince Rupert. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
New recruitment campaign to be launched in Prince Rupert

Web platform will use community collaboration to attract new employees to Prince Rupert

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read