Eight board members, four senior executives and six mentors resigned en masse Tuesday from the Trudeau Foundation over major “ethical” issues raised by the “Chinese donation” to the foundation. in 2016 and 2017.

The reason given by the Foundation in the official press release issued on Tuesday, the “politicization” of this donation from China, “is a bunch of lies,” one of the resigning board members told La Presse. administration, which we will call A. B.

In total, La Presse was able to interview five people who left their positions at the Trudeau Foundation. All requested anonymity, because of the “difficult” climate that reigned in recent weeks within the organization.

“I have seen intimidating and even threatening behavior at the Foundation. It is not an easy climate. I don’t remember seeing that in my career,” says another board member who resigned on Tuesday, who we’ll call C.D.

The Trudeau Foundation presents itself as a non-partisan organization, and it offers scholarship, mentoring and fellowship programs. It was founded in 2002, after the death of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Chinese authorities allegedly ordered the contractor to donate $200,000 to the Trudeau Foundation, The Globe and Mail revealed in February, based on a national security source reporting information intercepted by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The Foundation then undertook to repay this donation. “In light of these recent allegations, the Foundation has proceeded to refund the full amount of the donation received directly to the donor,” said the organization’s Executive Director, Pascale Fournier, on March 1.

Except that this reimbursement could never materialize. “Until recently, my understanding was that the donation had been refunded. But last I heard, he wasn’t,” said another resigning board member, who we’ll call E.F.

An internal Foundation document, obtained by La Presse, shows that the crisis erupted at the end of March. The board of directors was then alerted to the fact that the name on the famous “Chinese donation” check would not be the name of the real donor.

The Foundation could therefore not reimburse the amount to this “true donor”, since his name did not appear anywhere in the Foundation’s books. Such reimbursement would therefore have been “unlawful”, the document states.

Eight members of the board of directors, who were not on it at the time the donation was made to the Foundation, then called for an independent investigation to be carried out. They also asked the board members who were on the Foundation at the time to recuse themselves from any discussion on the subject, since they were “in a clear conflict of interest”, points out A.B. management really wanted all the light to be shed on this,” confirms a fourth resigner from the Foundation, whom we will call G. H.

“Anyone who was on the finance committee or the audit committee at the time of the donation has a conflict of interest because they accepted those checks,” A.B. continues. “They should not, therefore, be part of an investigation. on this subject. They should have recused themselves. And they refused. »

“This donation is a stink bomb”, summarizes G. H. “What we experienced was an internal crisis of governance in relation to the management of this file, adds C. D. We We have lost confidence in the organization’s ability to handle this file with transparency, integrity and accountability. »

The “rebellious” board members even thought of asking the Office of the Auditor General to look into the whole matter. At the Office of the VG, spokesperson Vincent Frigon says he has not received an audit request from the Foundation.

We contacted the three members of the Foundation who are still in office, in order to gather their comments. One of them declined our interview offer, the other two did not respond to our requests. The foundation’s executive director, Pascale Fournier, who also resigned on Tuesday, also declined our interview request.

Morris Rosenberg, who served as the Foundation’s president at the time of the donations, told us he had “no information” about the resignations. The Foundation would never have received the full $200,000, Rosenberg claims. The donation was to be made in two instalments.

The former mayor of Quebec Régis Labeaume is one of the six mentors of the foundation who also chose to resign on Tuesday. “I was uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. If eight members of the board of directors resign, if the general manager, for whom I have enormous admiration, resigns, then something must be happening,” said Mr. Labeaume. Christiane Germain, CEO of the Germain group, and Mélanie Vincent, an entrepreneur who was an advisor to the presidency on Indigenous relations, have also chosen to leave the ship.

Justin Trudeau was a member of the foundation bearing his father’s name, which was created in 2002, but he withdrew after his election as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2013. His brother, Alexandre Trudeau, is still a member.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said on Tuesday that the many resignations at the Trudeau Foundation warrant the opening of an investigation. “We need to investigate the Beijing-funded Trudeau Foundation. We need to know who got rich, who got paid, and who Justin Trudeau gave privilege and power to through funding from the Trudeau Foundation. »