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HomeBusinessExclusive: BCLC paid American company, not Canadian charity, when WE bro spoke at casino

Exclusive: BCLC paid American company, not Canadian charity, when WE bro spoke at casino


Bob Mackin

When a WE Charity co-founder spoke at a downtown Vancouver casino in 2019, B.C. Lottery Corporation paid Craig Kielburger through an American corporation rather than his Toronto-headquartered charity.

WE’s Craig Kielburger promoting his book at the 2019 BCLC conference in a Vancouver casino (@BCLC) exclusively obtained the invoice after an appeal to the B.C. Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Kielburger’s representative, The Lavin Agency, required BCLC pay more than $14,000 owing after the March 14, 2019 speech to Global Impact Fund Inc.

Global Impact Fund is a New York-registered corporation, part of the labyrinth of Kielburger businesses that drew national attention last summer. The other half of WE’s brother team, Marc Kielburger, is the CEO of Global Impact Fund, according to the State of New York registry. The company was founded in 2003, registered to an address in the Buffalo area and was known as WE Education Inc. from 2013-2017.

WE Charity did not respond for comment.

Craig Kielburger was a keynote speaker at BCLC’s New Horizons on Responsible Gambling conference at Parq Casino, a venue that had a partnership with WE and penny stock company Victory Square Technologies.

Parq’s involvement with WE was part of the casino’s public relations strategy to counter anti-casino activists who feared the $700 million gambling palace beside B.C. Place Stadium would become a magnet for crime and addiction. Craig Kielburger was an opening night guest in September 2017 of Paragon Gaming, the Las Vegas company behind the casino. BCLC and its partners in the B.C. casino industry are under intense scrutiny during the ongoing Cullen Commission public inquiry on money laundering, which has heard evidence of links to Chinese triads and the illicit drug trade.

Craig Kielburger spoke at the 2019 BCLC New Horizons conference (BCLC)

WE announced last September that it would wind-down its Canadian operations, but carry-on business in the U.S., after a summertime of scandal that saw sponsors flee.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau sparked conflict of interest investigations for not recusing themselves from cabinet meetings about the $912 million youth job training program for which WE was hired. The no-bid contract was later cancelled. Canadaland reported that WE had paid Trudeau’s mother Margaret $250,000 and brother Alexandre $32,000 for speaking engagements and also reimbursed Margaret and Trudeau’s wife Sophie $200,000 for expenses.

Eby distances himself from WE

The Oct. 12, 2018 BCLC contract from Lavin, under the title “firm offer,” said Kielburger’s speaking fee was $15,000 plus taxes. BCLC was responsible for a flat $2,500 airfare fee, hotel accommodations for two, $350 for out of pocket expenses, home city ground transportation and ground transportation in Vancouver.

BCLC was also responsible for arranging a book signing and media interviews before and after the speech. Kielburger gave permission to BCLC to record and publish 10% of the speech upon his approval.

Lavin invoiced BCLC for the $8,058.75 deposit, including GST, on Oct. 18, 2018, and the balance in 2019.

B.C. NDP Attorney General David Eby, whose portfolio includes BCLC, distanced himself from the Kielburger speaking arrangement.

“As minister, I was not involved in operational matters at BCLC related to hosting conferences, including the decision to invite Craig Kielburger to this event or how he was paid,” Eby said.

Craig Kielburger (left) and Paragon Gaming’s Scott Menke at Parq Vancouver’s 2017 opening night (Facebook/Parq)

Craig Kielburger’s BCLC appearance came more than seven years after he and brother Marc appeared at the City of Surrey’s Regional Economic Conference on Oct. 20, 2011 for $22,400.

The Kielburgers were on the undercard of the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel event that featured former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The contract, obtained under freedom of information, was also with a company, WE Education Inc. Surrey was responsible for air and ground transportation, accommodation, meals and incidentals for three (the Kielburgers and an unnamed support person) for Oct. 19-20, 2011. After the event, WE Education Inc. invoiced Surrey for the $1,045.89 expenses.

A Toronto lawyer who specializes in non-profits, registered charities and philanthropy, told a House of Commons committee in late 2020 that “WE was just very much unlike any other group I’ve ever seen.”

“The biggest concern for the charity sector is that the WE Charity scandal will hurt the reputation of the sector, undercut donations and government funding,” Mark Blumberg said before the Select Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on Dec. 11.

“The WE Charity scandal raised a number of very important questions about the regulation of registered charities. Either regulation of the charity sector will be enhanced or the reputation of the sector and public trust in the sector may decline.”

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