No students participated in grant program, government says, to charity’s surprise

No students participated in grant program, government says, to charity’s surprise

OTTAWA — A Halifax-based charity is expressing confusion and frustration as it looks likely to have to foot the bill for nine students that it says were hired through the federal volunteer program at the centre of the WE affair.

That is because the Liberal government contends no students actually started their placements before WE Charity backed out of running the Canada Student Services Grant amid controversy about its ties to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family.

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission CEO Michelle Porter says that isn’t true and her organization brought the students in during the brief period, about a week at the end of June, when WE Charity was running the Canada Student Service Grant for the federal government.

Students participating in the grant program had been promised they would receive up to $5,000 toward the cost of their post-secondary educations depending on how many hours they volunteered.

“There was a formal process and we followed it,” Porter said Tuesday. “And we have confirmations in our email saying you’re approved for 15 positions. … The students then applied on their own. They picked us and they contacted us.”

The nine students have been working in the Souls Harbour thrift store, which helps fund a meal program for local families in need. Porter said they have been critical to the organization, which has seen about 60 fewer volunteers due to the pandemic.

Souls Harbour isn’t alone in its confusion as a number of students have taken to online forums such as Reddit in recent days wondering whether they will receive any grant money for volunteer hours that they have already worked.

Many of the questions were prompted by Trudeau’s appearance before the House of Commons finance committee last week, in which he suggested the grant program was not going to be part of the government’s COVID-19 support for students.

Asked what that meant for charities such as Souls Harbour as well as students who had already started placements, Youth Minister Bardish Chagger’s spokeswoman Danielle Keenan told The Canadian Press that those people didn’t exist.

“The way that the program unfolded is unfortunate, especially as no students had started their placements through the CSSG at the time the decision was made that WE would no longer administer the program,” Keenan said in an email.

Keenan repeated the assertion when asked specifically about Souls Harbour, saying only that when it comes to supporting students and charities, “we’re looking at options on how best to proceed.”

“Obviously I’m frustrated,” Porter said in response to Keenan’s statement. “Up to now I’ve just been assuming they’ll come up with something. Are they really just leaving charities out in the lurch?”

While Porter said she intends to press the government to change its mind, the Souls Harbour board has agreed to pay the students if the program is cancelled, at an estimated cost of around $15,000 — money that would normally go toward feeding local families.

Opposition critics blasted the Liberal government for mismanaging the rollout of the program and for leaving charities and students in the dark about what will happen to them.

“The two things cannot be true: they cannot be saying they’re not proceeding to these groups, and the groups saying they were approved,” said Conservative economic development critic Dan Albas.

“It’s almost been a month now since they stopped the program and they have yet to actually tell Canadians clearly what they’re going to do about the different groups that did apply and if this program will be delivered.”

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said students took the prime minister at his word that they would be compensated for volunteering through the program.

“It is unconscionable that Justin Trudeau is now telling students that signed up for the program that they aren’t getting paid,” he said. “The summer is ticking down and not a dime has flown to students who badly needed help.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2020.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

charity

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Six months into the pandemic, at least some things are getting back to normal for rural producers

‘Things are kind of getting more normal it seems… (we’re) just having to learn how to deal with everything how it is.’

Central zone down to 16 active COVID-19 cases

Alberta Health Services’ central zone is down to 16

Former Bashaw mayor, postmaster, merchant remembered

A tribute to George McKenzie (Mac) Raemer written by his daughter, Zoe Raemer

Central zone down to 19 active COVID-19 cases on Thursday

Provincially, 158 new COVID-19 cases were identified

Central zone has 20 active cases of COVID-19

Province identified 143 new cases across Alberta on Wednesday

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $50 million Lotto Max jackpot

Jackpot for the next draw will grow to approximately $55 million

Wilkinson aims to be B.C. premier after cabinet role, working as doctor and lawyer

The B.C. election is Wilkinson’s first as the Liberal party leader

First Nations police services look to throne speech pledge for higher, stable funding

‘I won’t be happy until I hear two words: royal assent’

8 charged, $260K in drugs and cash seized in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Millet Agriplex to become a hub for indoor soccer

Wetaskiwin Soccer Club will be operating out of the Millet Agriplex this season.

‘We’re losing what makes the Parkland so distinctive,” conservation specialist says

The Lacombe district will lose two sites with provincial park status: JJ Collett and the Narrows

Sylvan Lake woman says Town’s response time to concerns isn’t enough

Glenda Jackman says it took almost a month for the Town to act on her complaint about a playground

Ermineskin Kindergarten has a confirmed case of COVID-19

The school has shut down and Cohort 2 is in self-isolation

Most Read