Ethics Commissioner reports on investigation involving Prime Minister

Ottawa, December 20, 2017 

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson today reported on her inquiry under the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons and her examination under the Conflict of Interest Act into the conduct of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in relation to vacations on a private island owned by the Aga Khan.

She found that Mr. Trudeau did contravene sections 5, 11, 12 and 21 of the Act but that he did not contravene subsection 14(1) of the Members' Code, or subsection 6(1) or section 7 of the Act.

Mr. Trudeau and his family vacationed on the Aga Khan's island from December 26, 2016 to January 4, 2017. Mr. Trudeau also accepted a vacation on the island for himself and his family in December 2014, and members of his family and their guests had accepted one in March 2016. The vacations are gifts under the conflict of interest regimes that Commissioner Dawson administers.

"I considered one provision of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, to which Mr. Trudeau is subject in his role as an MP, and a number of provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act, which applies to Mr. Trudeau in his capacity as Prime Minister," Commissioner Dawson said.

"Subsection 14(1) of the Members' Code prohibits Members from accepting gifts or other benefits that might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence them in the exercise of an official power, duty or function," Commissioner Dawson said. "I found that Mr. Trudeau did not contravene this provision because he has not discussed any House of Commons business with the Aga Khan or his representatives, and there was no evidence that Mr. Trudeau participated in any debate or vote in the House of Commons related to the Aga Khan or his institutions."

She found, however, that Mr. Trudeau did contravene the rule on gifts or other advantages set out in section 11 of the Act. "When Mr. Trudeau, as Prime Minister, accepted the gifts of hospitality from the Aga Khan and the use of his private island in March and December 2016, there were ongoing official dealings with the Aga Khan, and the Aga Khan Foundation Canada was registered to lobby his office. Therefore, the vacations accepted by Mr. Trudeau or his family could reasonably be seen to have been given to influence Mr. Trudeau in his capacity as Prime Minister," she said.

There is an exception in the Act for gifts or other advantages from relatives and friends, but it did not apply in this case, as the Commissioner determined that Mr. Trudeau and the Aga Khan cannot be characterized as friends within the meaning of the Act.

Commissioner Dawson found that Mr. Trudeau also contravened section 21 of the Act when he did not recuse himself from discussions that provided an opportunity to further private interests associated with institutions of the Aga Khan, and section 5 for failing to arrange his private affairs to avoid such an opportunity. She found that Mr. Trudeau did not contravene subsection 6(1), as he did not participate in, or make any decisions relating to, the Aga Khan and his institutions, nor did he contravene section 7, because he did not give them preferential treatment.

Commissioner Dawson also found that Mr. Trudeau contravened section 12 of the Act when his family travelled on non-commercial aircraft chartered by the Aga Khan in March 2016 and when he and his family travelled in the Aga Khan's private helicopter in December 2016. Section 12 prohibits ministers and their family members from accepting travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft for any purpose unless required in their capacity as public office holders, in exceptional circumstances or with the prior approval of the Commissioner.

A Summary of Conclusions at the end of the report lists the Commissioner's findings under each of the two regimes in respect of which a contravention has been alleged.  

The Trudeau Report is available here.

The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner was created under the Federal Accountability Act. The Commissioner applies the Conflict of Interest Act for public office holders and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons.

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