Trudeau ethics report warning to MPs about meeting with friends: watchdog

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson appears before the House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee in Ottawa, Wednesday January 10, 2018.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA - The former House of Commons ethics watchdog says her report on Justin Trudeau's controversial family vacation is a warning to the prime minister and other politicians when they meet people they consider old pals.

Mary Dawson's decision that Trudeau and the Aga Khan, a wealthy spiritual leader, couldn't be considered friends under the ethics law meant the December 2016 family vacation wasn't exempt from an ethics review.

In testimony before the House of Commons ethics committee, Dawson says the exemption around gifts from friends should be removed from the Conflict of Interest Act.

She concluded Trudeau violated four provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act when he and members of his family accepted the trip to the Aga Khan's private island, which Dawson said could be seen as a gift designed to influence the prime minister.

She also found Trudeau should have recused himself from two meetings focused on a $15-million grant to the endowment fund of the billionaire philanthropist’s Global Centre for Pluralism.

She found no evidence that Trudeau used his position to further the Aga Khan’s private interest.

Politicians, including the prime minister, can meet old friends, but "better be careful" if that friend lobbies or has dealings with the federal government.

Dawson says the entire saga could likely have been avoided if the prime minister came to her before, or immediately after the getaway to the Aga Khan's private island in the Bahamas.

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