Trudeau contravened ethics rules with visit to Aga Khan island: watchdog

Federal ethics commissioner Mary Dawson concluded December 20 that Trudeau violated the rules when he vacationed last Christmas at the private Bahamian island owned by the Aga Khan and when his family vacationed on the same island months earlier in March 2016.

"When Mr. Trudeau, as prime minister, accepted the gifts of hospitality from the Aga Khan and the use of his private island in March and December 2016, there were ongoing official dealings with the Aga Khan, and the Aga Khan Foundation Canada was registered to lobby his office", Dawson said.

But, she added, the prime minister did contravene conflict of interest rules by accepting travel to and from the island and accommodations.

Commissioner Mary Dawson said Wednesday that Trudeau put himself "in a position to be able to advance some of the matters of interest to the Aga Khan", who is described by Forbes as "one of the world's richest royals" and is a revered religious figure of almost 15 million Ismaili Muslims around the world.

"I take full responsibility for it", he told a hastily-called news conference.

"Perhaps the prime minister, having been found in clear violation, should perhaps consider repaying some, or perhaps all, of the $215,000 in costs generated to support his improper trip to the Aga Khan's island", Kent, who sits on the House of Commons ethics committee, said on the SiriusXM Canada program National Post Radio Thursday morning.

Mr. Trudeau long maintained he broke no rules because public-office holders are allowed to accept gifts from friends. There is an exception in the Act for gifts or other advantages from relatives and friends, but it did not apply in this case, as the Commissioner determined that Mr. Trudeau and the Aga Khan can not be characterized as friends within the meaning of the Act.

Before that, the two hadn't spoken for 30 years.

Trudeau and his family vacationed on the island during the holidays in late December 2016 into January this year. Moreover, he said it undermines Trudeau's entire defence of the trip. "We need to make sure that the office of the prime minister is without reproach", Trudeau said.

Going forward, Trudeau vowed to clear all family vacations with the ethics watchdog in advance in order to avoid conflicts. They all flew on the Aga Khan's private helicopter, which is the main link between the Bells Cay and Nassau.

Dawson concluded that the vacation could reasonably be seen as a gift created to influence the prime minister, whose government has had official dealings with the Aga Khan, a billionaire philanthropist and spiritual leader of the world's Ismaili Muslims, and his charitable foundation. But she also found no evidence that Trudeau had asked for, or ordered officials to do anything to further the Aga Khan's private interest.


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