(OTTAWA) The donation to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation by Chinese billionaires was not a foreign contribution, and it was not part of an interference scheme orchestrated by Beijing, the former leader of the organization, Morris Rosenberg.

The version of the facts delivered Tuesday before a House of Commons committee by the man who was president and chief executive officer of the organization from 2014 to 2018 differed in several aspects from that provided a few days earlier by his successor to the helm of the Foundation, Pascale Fournier.

“The tax receipts were issued to International Millennium Golden Eagle, as this was the entity that made the donation. A search shows that it is a Canadian company whose head office is located in Dorval, Quebec. Therefore, it is not a foreign donation,” he said from the outset.

This company is owned by Zhang Bin, a Chinese billionaire who is also the president of the China Cultural Industry Association (CCIA). This organization is “approved by the Beijing State Council” and “supervised by the Chinese Ministry of Culture”, according to its website.

And if, in the 2016-2017 annual report of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, he is named personally as a donor, as well as Niu Gensheng, a Chinese businessman and philanthropist who also contributed, it was to signify to them a form more personalized recognition, argued Morris Rosenberg.

At the same access to information, privacy and ethics committee table last Friday, the Foundation’s resigning leader, Pascale Fournier, argued that this was “inducing Misguided Canadians”.

Especially since “this association was asking Foundation employees to put information on their tax receipts and said, ‘Please don’t put names of donors. Please put an address in China,'” she said.

Witness Rosenberg saw nothing “malicious” about these “administrative” requests, so the instructions were followed by the Foundation. “It’s like making a donation, retiring to the south of France and asking for receipts to be sent to this address,” he compared.

“The presumption that we were trying to hide the true identity of the donor […] justifies, in my opinion, the need for an independent investigation,” also defended the former deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, who was roughed up by Tory MPs, including Michael Cooper.

“Either you are totally incompetent or you have done willful blindness,” the chosen one told him.

It seemed to him unlikely that Morris Rosenberg would deny that there could have been an attempt at interference on the part of Beijing. “If CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service] had concerns about donors, at no time was I told,” the witness argued in his opening statement.

The committee is continuing its work on Chinese interference on Wednesday with the appearance of Alexandre Trudeau, the Prime Minister’s brother, who signed the contract on behalf of the Foundation formalizing the promised donation of $200,000, of which only $140,000 was received. been received before being reimbursed with pain and misery.

If it was the youngest son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau who initialed the contract, it was for the symbolic significance of his signature, according to what Morris Rosenberg told members of the Commons committee.