A federal judge has ordered the Commissioner of Lobbying to reopen an investigation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s dealings with the Aga Khan. The ruling follows multiple trips by the Trudeau Family to the Aga Khan’s private Bahamian isle.
“The decision is quashed and returned for redetermination,” wrote Justice Patrick Gleeson. The ruling came at the request of the advocacy group Democracy Watch.
Then-Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd in 2017 dismissed a complaint that the Aga Khan violated the Lobbyists’ Code by hosting the Prime Minister and his family at his private island. Shepherd ruled that, since the Aga Khan is not a registered lobbyist, no breach of the Lobbying Act occurred.
Democracy Watch argued the Aga Khan is director of the Aga Khan Foundation, which is a registered lobby, and that federal agencies have contributed nearly $330 million to projects supported by the Foundation. “The Commissioner’s analysis does not consider whether the Aga Khan may have received ‘anything of value’,” wrote Justice Gleeson.
“It begins and ends with the simple question of monetary payment,” wrote the Court. “Restricting the analysis to this narrow question is inconsistent with both the wording of the Act and the objects and purposes of the Lobbyists’ Code.”
“The Commissioner was required to take a broad view of the circumstances in addressing the complaint,” said Justice Gleeson. “Instead, the record before the Court reflects a narrow, technical and targeted analysis that is lacking in transparency, justification, and intelligibility when considered in the context the Commissioner’s duties and functions. The decision is unreasonable.”
The Commissioner of Ethics in a separate 2017 Trudeau Report concluded the Prime Minister’s acceptance of a $215,000 sun holiday was a breach of the Conflict Of Interest Act. Trudeau claimed had a personal friendship with the Aga Khan, an argument dismissed by the Commissioner. Under the Conflict Of Interest Act, legislators do not have to report gifts over $200 “from a relative or friend”.
Then-Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson in a 2018 interview described the friendship clause as an embarrassment. “It’s sort of embarrassing to have to opine on whether you’re a friend of somebody or not,” said Dawson. “It’s unnecessary.”
In the Aga Khan case, the Commissioner said she could find no evidence of any actual friendship with the Prime Minister. The two met once in a thirty-year period, at a 2000 funeral for Pierre Trudeau.
“There were no private interactions between Mr. Trudeau and the Aga Khan until Mr. Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party,” the Commissioner wrote in her Trudeau Report. “This led me to conclude their relationship cannot be described as one of friends for the purposes of this Act.”