MPs were told on Thursday that the House of Commons has the power to compel WE Charity founders Craig and Marc Kielburger to testify before the finance committee after they rejected a summons to do so earlier this week.
Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel Philippe Dufresne made the statements in response to an inquiry by Conservative MP and finance committee member Pierre Poilievre.
“The House of Commons should it so wish could have law enforcement authorities take the Kielburgers into custody and compel them to testify if it so wishes and if they refuse,” said Poilievre.
“Let me say that I hope it never has to be done again, I hope that the Kielburgers look at the powers Parliament has, these ancient authorities we have inherited from our British ancestors and agree to appear to answer the questions honestly to parliamentarians.”
According to Dufresne, there exists four historical precedents where witnesses were imprisoned or detained after refusing to abide by a summons.
“The report lists some of the precedents from procedure and practice. The latest one is 1913 as I’ve indicated, the other ones are even older than that. So, there are precedents, they are old precedents, so it’s not something that has been done in more than 100 years,” Dufresne told the committee.
The Kielburgers indicated in a statement on Wednesday that they would not appear before the committee which they accused of being “partisan” due to the fact that NDP MP Charlie Angus had requested the RCMP and the Canada Revenue Agency to investigate WE Charity.
“While WE Charity would welcome and co-operate with any potential investigation conducted by these agencies (RCMP and CRA), no organization should be subject to both an investigation of the same matters by a partisan parliamentary committee which wishes to carry out its own substitute investigation,” claimed WE.
Angus tweeted on the same day that the Kielgburgers should accept the invitation “to reassure donors and taxpayers” and that the ethics committee had already been forced to issue legal summons against two of the organization’s officials.
“I am concerned that the Kielburger brothers are refusing to testify before the Ethics Committee. They should welcome the opportunity to reassure donors and taxpayers by answering the allegations. We have already been forced to issue legal summons against 2 other WE officials,” tweeted Angus.
Since it was revealed in 2020 that the Liberal government had awarded a sole-sourced contract to the charity despite financial and personal connections between the organization and members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family, WE Charity has announced that it would be scaling back its operations in Canada.