Editorial | The media is telling the wrong WE story

publication date: Jul 13, 2020

Everyone loves a good scandal and there is plenty with the whole WE government contract situation. Conflict of interest problems that reach all the way to the Prime Minister and senior cabinet including paid Trudeau family appearances and the Finance Minister's daughter as an employee. This is on top of the existing concerns that were raised right from the beginning about an unbid $900M contract for paid "volunteer" work. The press has done a great job of covering that story. And it is an important one.

The press has done a lousy job of covering another important story - how an international aid charity working largely in countries with people who are mostly black or brown appears to have had a systemic culture of racism. For instance, while Trudeau family members were paid over $300,000, award-winning Canadian black artist Jully Black was not paid for her appearances or travel on behalf of WE. To be fair, it appears that WE was uneven in which people they paid to speak but for a charity with a long history of claiming to be working for all, it is surprising that they appear to have just discovered Diversity and Inclusion work in the last month.

The press has also skipped over the incredibly complex business structure of WE Charity and it's separately incorporated business arm ME to WE. By choosing to have a private company, the larger WE organization can pick and choose what information is public and what is private. It is worth noting that the WE Board Chair and most of it's Board resigned in March 2020 and were replaced by close confidents of WE founders the charismatic and handsome Kielburger brothers. 

Maybe the charity sector shouldn't care about this either. But we do. And that's because we want society to be better. We want our sector to be better. We want charities to both make a difference and to do so in a way that itself makes the world better. When charities, like WE, treat people badly, are part of the problem not the solution for social issues, and have poor governance it does more than diminish one charity. It diminishes both the charity sector and society.

The press is asking important questions about WE and the government. Problem is, the bigger questions, the systemic ones, are the ones they are missing. And we are all the poorer for this lack of holding WE to account.

Ann Rosenfield is the editor of Hilborn Charity eNews and has been a proud member of the charity sector for over 20 years.



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