WE scandal hurts youth and trust in government and charities

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Trudeau with Marc and Craig Kielburger at a WE Day event in 2017. Image: Adam Scotti/PMO

WE Charity, formerly known as Free the Children, was founded in 1995 by 12-year-old Craig and his brother Marc Kielburger after they read about the murder of a 12-year-old Pakistani carpet factory worker named Iqbal Massiah.

WE Charity is now shutting down its Canadian operations, but not WE Charity US, WE Charity UK, ME to WE social enterprise, or other WE entities. The expected financial, psychological and social impacts of WE's decision to close down in Canada can't be ignored.

Canadian teens have a very positive view of WE since they have worked in various capacities with WE in Canada and in distant lands, and earned the confidence that youth could make a positive difference in society.

In 2019, WE Charity spent $32.6 million on Canadian programs, including donated goods in-kind and volunteer time. It included the WE Days, WE School resources, WE Teachers and WE Well-being. WE Days were youth rallies that celebrated social good.

The 2019 WE Day tour included visits to Toronto, Halifax, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Ottawa. WE Days featured speakers, athletes and celebrity performers. More than 200,000 youth attend WE Days, which were free with youth "earning tickets" by doing social activities.

The alleged secret ties between WE and the government resulted in the ultimate closure of WE operations, which is a very significant loss for our children.

The Canadians of conscience are raising questions on the transparency of the grant approval by the government.

What is the spirit behind collecting charity and giving it to the deserving human beings?

Why is that kind of transparency not maintained and who doesn't know that getting favours for approving any grant is never transparent and raises questions?

Who is responsible for the losses Canadian children will suffer?

Charity is a concept that has no geographical and religious boundaries. The Jewish concept of Tzedakah (charity giving) instructs all Jews to give to charity. Christians, for instance, believe: "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." Islam says charity promotes prosperity to the donor, recipient and society.

Those who run charities also have a duty to be accountable. In Canada, the most basic transparency requirement for registered charities is that every year they must file the T3010 Registered Charity Information Return. If charities do not file the form, they can be revoked by CRA for nonfiling within just a few months.

The alleged corruption charges have destroyed both the reputation of WE and the transparency of government. When an organization can't explain its structure, working, and hidden connections to positions of authority it loses the trust easily.

WE's closure will hurt Canadian children who have lost educational help, financial support, social engagement and training. It is also a wound on governance, which may keep on bleeding until the confidence of donors and the public is completely restored in government grants.

Those who are found responsible for any crimes must be dealt with strictly according to the law.

Mehdi Rizvi is a chemist and former member of the Toronto Star community editorial board. This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

Image: Adam Scotti/PMO

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.