20 December 2016

The following text constitutes the public response of The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation to the National Post reporting about its donations and governance. The letter was published in the National Post on 20 December 2016. 


To the Editor:

Last month in Vancouver, 120 scholars, fellows, and mentors of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation joined with 140 members of the public at a Foundation conference on diversity, pluralism, and the future of citizenship in Canada. For one attendee, this conference represented all that is good about the work of the Foundation, stating “the Foundation’s willingness to stand behind challenging and sensitive research topics is unmatched.”

This is the true story of the work of the Foundation.

An article in the National Post on December 13 portrays a different image of the Foundation. The article’s intent is to erroneously link the Foundation to the ongoing debate around fundraising taking place on Parliament Hill. Readers can be forgiven for being left with a distorted view of the Foundation’s purpose and work.

For one thing, the Post article states that foreign donations to the Foundation have jumped since Mr. Justin Trudeau assumed the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada and assigns unknown motivations to that increase.

In fact, the increase in our donations comes primarily from one source: the McCall MacBain Foundation, a Swiss-based philanthropic organization recognized around the world for donating to such educational causes as the Rhodes scholarships, Oxford University, South Africa’s Mandela Rhodes scholarships, Dalhousie University, McMaster University, McGill University, and Harvard Business School. One of its largest donations was a £75 million gift to the Rhodes Trust – awarder of the Rhodes scholarships.

We also note that the McCall MacBain Foundation was founded by John McCall MacBain, a Canadian who has chaired the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation’s Board since 2012 – when a different government was in power.

There has also been an attempt to link our reception of a $200,000 donation from two Chinese nationals, to their supposed interest with the government of Canada. In reality, the donors were introduced to our Foundation in 2014, and negotiations to secure this donation took over 18 months to complete. It is not unusual for a donation of this size to take this long to complete, especially when it involves several institutions – in this case the Université de Montréal and the Foundation – three languages, two countries, and different cultural and legal traditions.

In this regard, on 13 December, Canada’s Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner rejected the Leader of the Opposition’s request to look into the donation in question, stating that the commissioner “found no evidence that Mr. Bin has dealings with or is seeking funding from the Government of Canada or that Mr. Trudeau had any involvement in soliciting the funds from Mr. Bin.”

The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation is dedicated to continuing to support scholarship, education, and public engagement on issues of importance to Canada. This is the work we have undertaken for 15 years, and it is the work we look forward to pursuing.


Morris Rosenberg, C.M.
President and CEO
The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation


Related: Factual background on $200,000 gift from Bin Zhang and Niu Gensheng

Morris Rosenberg

2005 mentor, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation (2014 to 2018)

2005 Mentors