Foreign interference: Rosenberg says no red flags when donations made
Former Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation CEO Morris Rosenberg insists donations accepted by the organization under his leadership — which have since come under scrutiny amid foreign interference concerns — did not raise any red flags at the time.
Rosenberg also told the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Tuesday that he agrees with the organization’s plans to carry out an independent investigation into the donations and the circumstances surrounding them to “separate fact from innuendo.”
Rosenberg, a former long-time public servant, was CEO of the Trudeau Fondation when it accepted $140,000 in donations from a Chinese billionaire and a Chinese businessman with ties to the regime in Beijing.
Rosenberg was also later tapped by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to author a report on attempts to interfere in the 2021 federal election. Rosenberg concluded that, while attempts were made, the panel whose work he was assessing “did not detect foreign interference that threatened Canada’s ability to have free and fair elections.”
He told the committee that despite the donations being called into question in media reports in February, no one from the Trudeau Foundation had reached out to him about them until last week.
He also said no one from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service contacted him with questions or concerns about the donors at the time the donations were made.
On several occasions during his testimony at committee, Rosenberg reiterated the independence and non-partisanship of both himself and the Trudeau Foundation.
“The foundation is independent from the Government of Canada and simply did not coordinate decisions with the government,” he said.
The committee has been studying foreign interference and threats to Canada’s democratic institutions since mid-March, building on the work of another House committee given the heightened scrutiny of foreign interference attempts in Canada’s elections.
Rosenberg’s testimony came amid a slew of other witness accounts before the committee with ties to the Trudeau Foundation.
The foundation’s most recent CEO, Pascale Fournier — who along with the rest of the organization’s board of directors resigned last month — testified before the same committee last week.
The Canadian Press reported Fournier said she resigned from her position because of a breakdown in trust on the board of directors, and that she had pushed for an independent forensic audit into the donations, a move that caused tension between board members.
The foundation issued a statement following Fournier’s appearance at committee saying that it “strongly contests” several aspects of Fournier’s testimony, namely “some of the facts or their interpretation,” the internal governance process of the organization, and the circumstances around the board of directors’ mass resignation.
The prime minister’s brother, Alexandre Trudeau, is also set to testify before the committee on Wednesday. He was a member of the foundation’s board of directors when the donations were made and was the subject of several MPs’ questions to Rosenberg.