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News Brief

WE Charity Says Trudeau Government Told Them To Pay Students Less Than Minimum Wage

Legal experts told CBC News the arrangement could have violated labour laws

The organization at the centre of Justin Trudeau’s growing ethics scandal says the federal government made the call to pay student workers at a rate below the minimum wage, an arrangement that could violate labour laws.

According to CBC News, WE Charity recently clarified that the decision on how much students participating in the Canada Student Service Grant should be paid per hour was determined by the Trudeau government, not by them.

WE to CBC: “The Government of Canada determined the compensation per hour of service for the CSSG, and WE Charity was contracted to administer CSSG according to that decision,” WE Charity told CBC News.

Program paid $10 per hour: According to the press release announcing the CSSG, students would be paid $1,000 for every 100 hours of work completed, working out to a rate of $10 per hour — a rate far below the minimum wage in any province.

“Administered by WE Charity, the CSSG is a one-time payment available at five levels, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. The amount will vary based on the number of hours each volunteer completes, with $1,000 provided for each 100 hours completed, up to a maximum of $5,000 for 500 hours.”

Trudeau government’s program could have violated labour laws: “Legal experts have warned organizations that they could violate employment codes, like Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, by taking on volunteers under the Canada Student Service Grant,” CBC News reported.

Minister won’t confirm government lawyers reviewed program: Youth Minister Bardish Chagger side-stepped a question from NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus during a committee hearing last week asking if her office ran the idea of paying students less than minimum wage by a lawyer.

Chagger’s response? “I’m confident that the public service would have done their due diligence and would have requested legal opinions.”

Students say program blurred line between volunteering and work: “I’m a big fan of volunteering, but this program really steps over the line of what we can consider volunteering … It’s not volunteering when there’s monetary compensation,” Spencer Julien of #DontForgetStudents told CBC News.

“It’s unfortunate that the government thinks that the only way to incentivize young people to go out and help in their communities is by bribing them with this grant.”

No shortage of cash for WE deal: Despite paying students at a rate that would fall below minimum wage, the CSSG program was by no means strapped for cash.

CBC News previously reported that even if the program met its ambitious target of recruiting 100,000 students and paid out the maximum grant, there would still be over $400 million left over in the program’s nearly one billion dollar budget:

“Even if 100,000 students were recruited and logged enough hours to earn the maximum $5,000 grant, that would only account for $500 million of the more than $900 million allocated to the program.”

[CBC News]


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