By Chris Mazzacane, International News Writer
As of January 16, Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, is being investigated by the nation’s federal conflict of interest and ethics office following his family’s winter vacation.
The Trudeaus spent part of their time abroad at the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas. The Aga Khan, billionaire and spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, was a friend of former prime minister and Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
The Aga Khan has poured millions of dollars into Canadian cultural and political institutions including the Museum of Muslim Art in Toronto and a proposed Global Center for Pluralism in Ottawa.
Previous administrations have contributed money to these projects, and it is unclear whether Mr. Trudeau will do the same. His visit is seen as a conflict of interest since the Aga Khan is still seeking support for varying projects from the Canadian government.
Additionally, separate allegations are plaguing the prime minister following his attendance at a handful of Liberal Party fundraising events. At the events, exclusive groups of people were allowed to meet the prime minister after making individual donations of 1,500 Canadian dollars.
Canada’s Conflict of Interest Act which came into effect in 2007 established an official legislative regime to oversee the ethical behavior of all elected officials and public office holders. Public officials must comply with the law as a condition of their employment.
The possible penalties imposed on Prime Minister Trudeau will not be severe. The New York Times reports the penalties for these violations are small fines and are not considered crimes under the law. In Mr. Trudeau’s case, the largest ramifications will likely be political. He has based his administration on the principle of transparent politics, and verified conflicts of interest will certainly call this into question.
These allegations have come as a shock to many. Mr. Trudeau’s leadership has been relatively scandal-free since the start of his term, and he has been praised both at home and abroad for inclusive, progressive, and transparent policies. Should the ethics office find him at fault for conflict of interest violations, he will have to make a concerted effort to save face and push forward his platform of transparency.
It appears as though Mr. Trudeau is cooperating with the investigation.
According to The New York Times, Cameron Ahmad, Trudeau’s press secretary, stated, “[The administration] is happy to engage with the commissioner and answer any questions she may have.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 24th print edition.
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