Jul 13, 2020
Justin Trudeau Canada Press Conference Transcript July 13: Apologizes for WE Charity Scandal
Full transcript of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s July 13 press briefing. He apologized for his role in the WE Charity decision & scandal. Read the full speech transcript here.
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Justin Trudeau: (00:08)
Good morning, everyone. [foreign language 00:00:09].
Justin Trudeau: (00:16)
Over the last three months, you’ve seen me come out to talk with Canadians about what we’re doing to help you and your family, your employer, your local businesses deal with this pandemic. We’re going to continue to do that vital work. This week, we’ll be announcing an extension to the wage subsidy program until December to give greater certainty and support to businesses as we restart the economy. We’ve also been working very hard, the Deputy Prime Minister Freeland and I, on the safe restart program with the provinces, and we will have an update on that later this week. This morning, I spoke with President Trump about the new NAFTA, about aluminum tariffs, about Black Lives Matter, and also about the issue of China and the two detained Canadians.
Justin Trudeau: (01:38)
This morning, I know people want to hear more about the Canada Student Service Grant program in particular. I know there are many questions and problems with the way this program is run out, run about, and I know people have concerns about it. I get that. I made a mistake in not recusing myself immediately from the discussions, given our family’s history, and I’m sincerely sorry about not having done that. I got into politics to help people shape their country for the better. I’ve been youth critic and youth minister for our government. Every step of the way, I’ve tried to create opportunities for young people to serve.
Justin Trudeau: (02:21)
During this unprecedented pandemic, we got very creative with a range of programs designed to help Canadians, to help families, to help businesses, and yes, to help young people. We worked with a range of partners across the country, organizations from United Way to the Red Cross to food banks. We made sure that we got help to Canadians. When it came to this organization and this program, the involvement that I’d had in the past and that my family has should have had me remove myself from those discussions, and I’m sorry that I didn’t.
Justin Trudeau: (02:59)
I’m particularly sorry because not only has it created unnecessary controversy and issues, it also means that young people who are facing a difficult time right now getting summer jobs, contributing to their communities are going to have to wait a little longer before getting those opportunities to serve, and that’s frustrating.
Justin Trudeau: (03:22)
[foreign language 00:03:25].
Justin Trudeau: (05:12)
We will continue to work very hard to deliver programs and services to Canadians who need support right across the country, including to young people who want nothing more than to be able to help out. Because of a mistake I made in not withdrawing from these conversations when the public service recommended we move forward with the WE organization, it has gotten a little slower for young people who are facing a difficult time right now to be able to get involved in their communities and make a difference.
Justin Trudeau: (05:42)
But I know young people across this country will continue to step up and serve in their communities, and we as a government will continue to work forward on delivering good programs for Canadians. From the beginning, we knew we to move in unprecedented creative ways, work with a range of partners, and we have. In this situation, the mistake that we made was on me, and I take responsibility for it. We will continue to work very, very hard to deliver the programs that young people, indeed all Canadians need to get through this historic pandemic.
Justin Trudeau: (06:18)
[foreign language 00:06:21].
[foreign language 00:06:23].
Thank you. [foreign language 00:06:30]. First question, [inaudible 00:06:31], Bloomberg. Line open.
Speaker 4: (06:36)
Hello, Prime Minister. I have a question regarding the WE charity. You’re facing your third ethics investigation in several years, and given the life expectancy of a minority government in Canada, do you think voters will forgive you whenever Canadians go back to the polls?
Justin Trudeau: (06:53)
I think it’s really important that governments do the best they can to serve Canadians. In this situation, I should have recused myself. I think Canadians will make their judgments about what we were trying to do and what I should have done instead of staying involved in these conversations. But at the same time, we’re going to keep focusing on delivering for Canadians so we can get through this pandemic and come back with a stronger economy while, at the same time, we make sure that vulnerable Canadians and young people have greater opportunities than they had before.
Following up, Kate.
Speaker 4: (07:26)
You spoke with President Trump today, and I’m wondering if you could give us more details regarding whether there will be tariffs on Canadian aluminum in the coming next few weeks,
Justin Trudeau: (07:34)
I highlighted to the President that the pandemic has disrupted usual manufacturing processes and supply chains, and that has caused for a certain disruption in the aluminum sector that is starting to realign itself, given the economies are starting up again and manufacturing is getting going. I impressed upon him that it would be a shame to see tariffs come in between our two countries at a time where we’re celebrating NAFTA and at a time where we want our businesses and our manufacturers to get going as quickly as possible. We pledged to keep working on it together. [foreign language 00:08:13].
Thank you, operator. Next question.
Speaker 5: (08:51)
Thank you. [foreign language 00:08:52].
Justin Trudeau: (08:51)
[foreign language 00:09:06].
Speaker 6: (08:51)
[foreign language 00:09:19].
Justin Trudeau: (09:21)
I was very aware that members of my family have worked with and contributed to the WE organization, but I was unaware of the details of the remuneration, and I should have. I regret that.
[foreign language 00:09:23].
Speaker 5: (09:51)
[foreign language 00:09:34].
Justin Trudeau: (09:54)
[foreign language 00:09:46].
[foreign language 00:10:20].
Thank you. [foreign language 00:10:23]. Next question. David [inaudible 00:10:26], Reuters. Line open.
Yeah. Good morning, Prime Minister. You spoke to President Trump. Can you let us know what your latest thinking is on when the border might be opened?
Justin Trudeau: (10:36)
We recognize that the situation continues to be complex in the United States in regards to COVID-19. Every month, we have been able to extend the border closures to all but essential goods and services, and those discussions are ongoing with the United States right now. As we are a week from the next deadline for closures, we’re going to continue to work hard to keep Canadians safe and to keep our economies flowing, and we will have more to say later this week, I’m sure. [foreign language 00:11:09].
Following up, David?
Secondly, given the complete calamity down South, how much are you possibly thinking about extending the closures, let’s say to the end of the year, as opposed to this continual month over month movement?
Justin Trudeau: (11:52)
We’ve pledged to continue to monitor closely the situation that is constantly evolving. We will be discussing with our American partners what the next steps should be, and I think this is a situation that is evolving rapidly. Therefore, we need to keep responding to the situation on the ground. [foreign language 00:00:12:11].
[foreign language 00:12:27]. Last question on the phone.
Thank you. [foreign language 00:12:31].
Speaker 10: (12:12)
[foreign language 00:12:39].
Justin Trudeau: (12:12)
[foreign language 00:12:54].
Speaker 5: (12:12)
[foreign language 00:13:31].
Justin Trudeau: (13:33)
I have known, obviously, for many years that my mum has been an extraordinary advocate for mental health issues, a professional public speaker who works with a range of different organizations. Obviously, I knew she worked with WE. I didn’t know the details of how much she was getting paid by various organizations, but I should have, and I deeply regret that.
Justin Trudeau: (13:54)
What I also deeply regret is the fact that I have brought my mother into this situation in a way that is really unfair to her. I should have been thoughtful enough to recuse myself completely from any discussions around WE because of these connections from the very beginning, and I did not. I’m very sorry about that.
[foreign language 00:14:16].
Speaker 10: (14:50)
[foreign language 00:14:20].
Justin Trudeau: (14:50)
[foreign language 00:14:52].
Speaker 5: (15:10)
[foreign language 00:15:18].
Justin Trudeau: (15:20)
Obviously, the opposition parties have their job to do, and they will keep doing it. I have my job to do as well, which is to make sure that Canadians are well supported through this pandemic and we have an economic restart that goes smoothly. I will continue to work with an outstanding group of ministers, including the deputy prime minister. We will make sure we stay focused on delivering for Canadians.
Hi, Prime Minister. Crystal [inaudible 00:15:46] with Global News. You just said that you weren’t aware of the specific details of your family’s involvement with WE, but did you know that your mother and brother were paid by them, period?
Justin Trudeau: (15:53)
I knew that my brother and my mother work as professional public speakers, and it is not surprising to me that they got paid by WE, but I did not know the details. As I said, I should have known the details, and I regret that.
Speaker 5: (16:30)
[foreign language 00:16:12].
Justin Trudeau: (16:32)
[foreign language 00:16:14].
Marie [inaudible 00:16:34] with the Globe and Mail. I just want to clarify what you’re actually saying. Is it correct that you’re saying that you knew they were being paid, but not how much? Is that the distinction you’re making?
Justin Trudeau: (16:42)
I knew that they were working as professional public speakers and worked for a range of organizations, including WE. It is not a surprise to me that they got paid by WE, but I didn’t know how much they got paid by WE. But I should have, and I regret that. [foreign language 00:16:58].
Will you be accepting the Conservatives’ invitation that you testify at Finance Committee?
Justin Trudeau: (17:18)
We have a number of ministers and officials testifying this week to answer questions at committee, and I will look at any invitations that come in and discuss them with my house leadership team. [foreign language 00:17:31].
Good morning, Prime Minister. Evan Dyer, CBC News. People are wondering also about the size of the grant to WE, $900 million. You have 35,000 applications, and it doesn’t seem, even if those people take the maximum amount available, that you would come anywhere near to $900 million. So can you explain that number and how many people you were expecting to assist through this program?
Justin Trudeau: (18:09)
First of all, the amount in the contract to WE was about $20 million for delivery of tens of thousands of youth placements across the country. They are the ones that have the network that was able to do that quickly. That was the recommendation by the professional public service. As to the larger contract, which includes direct payments to young people for contributions, for volunteering across this country, we’re going to work with other organizations, perhaps even with Service Canada, as a way of delivering those grants for summer volunteerism. But that is obviously something that we’re going to continue to work out with the public service now.
Speaker 5: (18:51)
[foreign language 00:18:51].
Justin Trudeau: (18:51)
[foreign language 00:18:54].
Speaker 14: (18:51)
[foreign language 00:19:36].
Justin Trudeau: (20:17)
[foreign language 00:19:45].
Justin Trudeau: (20:22)
I have been involved in youth organizations, youth volunteering, youth service since well before I was in politics, and throughout my time in politics, it is something I believe deeply in and should … Even given all that, I should not have stayed involved in the conversations because of the organization involved, because of the links to WE that are there with my family and myself in the past. I regret this, because something that I care deeply about, getting young people opportunities to serve, has become more difficult because of a mistake I made. We’re going to work very, very hard to ensure that these young people continue to get opportunities to serve.
Speaker 15: (21:37)
[foreign language 00:21:05].
Justin Trudeau: (21:41)
[foreign language 00:21:17].
Hi, Prime Minister. Molly Thomas, CTV National News. You are making a massive U-turn today by saying sorry after a week of defending your decision on WE. How can you convince Canadians that this is a genuine apology and not just saying sorry because you got your hand stuck in the cookie jar?
Justin Trudeau: (22:00)
Oh, I am sorry because young people who should be out there volunteering, contributing to their communities through this program will now have to wait a little longer. I’ve worked very hard through this pandemic, but also through my career to create opportunities for young people, and we’ve put forward many programs for young people, whether it’s the increase in the Canada summer jobs, whether it’s creation of new jobs in pandemic-related areas, whether it’s investments in youth through the Canada Emergency Student Response benefit.
Justin Trudeau: (22:30)
We are there to help young people, and it is really frustrating for me that because I made a mistake on this and I didn’t step back from this decision when it came forward from the public service, young people are going to have to wait a little longer to be able to serve their country. I am frustrated by that, I deeply regret it, and I take responsibility for it.
Justin Trudeau: (23:29)
[foreign language 00:22:51].
With all due respect, Prime Minister, this is the third time you’ve had a conflict of interest as Prime Minister. How many will it take for you to actually learn the lesson?
Justin Trudeau: (23:46)
We’re going to continue to work very, very hard to deliver programs for Canadians. From the very beginning, the intention on this program was to get young people serving their country in a different way, in a creative way, in a way that we had to move quickly on because of the pandemic. We always knew from the beginning that there were going to need to be adjustments and tweaks to various programs, and we demonstrated throughout the past months that we have adjusted and tweaked and fixed errors and put programs aside that weren’t quite working and improved other programs that were working well.
Justin Trudeau: (24:20)
These are the things that Canadians expect us to do, but on this one, this was my mistake. This was me not stepping back from an organization that I should have known to not get involved with, even as Prime Minister, and allow the public service and the non-connected ministers to move forward on delivering this program. The fact that I didn’t made it more difficult for young people at a time where things are difficult enough already, and that is something I deeply regret.
[foreign language 00:24:51].
Justin Trudeau: (24:52)
[foreign language 00:24:52].