A NEW BOOK By Tawfiq Rangwala
Foreword written by former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell
It’s a story of a manufactured scandal designed for partisan gain. Of a media landscape defined more by clicks and likes than facts and truth. Of self-appointed experts ever searching for the spotlight. It’s a story people think they know—but they don’t.
A word from the author
“This book is an invitation to see what my investigation revealed. My goal is to cut through the noise and fog and address common misconceptions by offering up facts and context. I take you inside the rooms where it happened and reveal what went on behind the scenes … Let me also be clear about what this book is not. It is not a blind defence of WE Charity or the Kielburgers. They made mistakes, there is blame to be shared, and I do not shy away from revealing the missteps and taking stock.” – Tawfiq Rangwala
Limited Edition Paperback
Autographed by the Author
An autographed paperback edition of What WE Lost. There are 250 copies available from the Optimum Publishing International shop only! $26.95
Limited Edition Hardcover
Autographed By The Author
An autographed hardcover edition of What WE Lost. There are 250 copies available from the Optimum Publishing International shop only! $49.95
Over the past ten years, I’ve had the honor of speaking at WE Days across Canada, including in Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Montreal, and Halifax. It’s given me the opportunity to see more of this beautiful country and speak to thousands of inspiring young changemakers… Although this is the end of one chapter, WE Charity has sparked a passion for activism in millions of young people around the world—and that is enduring.
I think it was yellow journalism. I think many journalists were gleefully indifferent to the pain they were causing, not just to the charity but to the kids. Nobody seemed to care about the tens of thousands of young people who would have benefited from the Canada Student Service Grant program
I believe no other organization in Kenya has made the impact that WE has for young people … To see the negative publicity in the Canadian media makes me emotional because those people are doing a disservice and injustice to our boys and girls who today have a future because of WE Charity.
I’ve been involved with WE Charity for nearly fifteen years. I have taken trips with my family to visit the organization’s international projects, attended many WE Day events, and visited classrooms to observe WE Schools programming first-hand. And I have proudly donated to the charity and helped with fundraising by introducing WE to others in my network. I also held a senior leadership position at one of WE’s biggest corporate partners. It has been hard to listen to the many allegations levelled against the charity that I know are not based on facts. Along with so many supporters of WE Charity, we considered ways to assist in getting the charity’s side of the story out. But the vitriol was intense and it did notseem the media wanted to listen.
“That is why this book is so essential. It is a sober, fact-based account of how and what occurred to pulverize one of this country’s foremost charities.”
The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, Canada’s 19th Prime Minister
WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW
Multiple government agencies and third parties reviewed WE Charity’s actions related to the CSSG and not one found any wrongdoing on the part of the charity
Throughout the CSSG affair, opposition MPs presented requests for investigations of the affair and/or WE Charity to: the RCMP, CRA, Ethics Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner, lobbying commissioner, and official languages commissioner. None of these have found any wrongdoing on the part of WE or its senior leadership.
Media knowingly printed false information
Critics and media continually sensationalized the CSSG by circulating an incorrect dollar amount, even when they had the official CSSG contribution agreement. The Globe and Mail printed the false figure over 100 times. The paper’s public editor Sylvia Stead justified the bad journalism by saying that the inaccurate number yielded more online search results, writing to WE Charity, “Google: WE Charity + $912 million or $900 million = 188,000 results. WE Charity + 543 million = 24,400 results.”
Conservative politicians doxed an innocent family company and exposed them to threats and harassment
Speaker’s Spotlight, a small family-owned speakers’ bureau, had no involvement in the CSSG. Nevertheless, on social media Conservative MP Michael Barrett and Interim leader Candice Bergen falsely accused Speaker’s Spotlight of wrongdoing, and even published private contact info about the staff, subjecting them to intense harassment and even threats of violence.
The Kenyan government accused the CBC of acting illegally in it's on the ground reporting of WE Charity
Despite being told repeatedly they needed government permission to enter, CBC journalists lied and forced their way onto school grounds in numerous communities in violation of pandemic regulations, putting locals safety at risk, despite only a small percentage of the population at the time being vaccinated. A regional representative of the office of the president of Kenya issued a formal reprimand to CBC, citing its employees’ “misconduct and illegal actions,”
Independent forensic audits by some of Canada’s most respected accounting experts found no wrongdoing by WE or the Kielburgers
Two of Canada’s most respected forensic auditors—Al Rosen and Ken Froese—have conducted independent investigations into various allegations against WE Charity, including claims that donor funds meant for Kenya were spent elsewhere, and that WE Charity was in financial difficulty prior to the CSSG. Their reports conclusively found no basis to any of the claims.
WE CHARITY’S REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS WERE PART OF A BOARD-APPROVED RESERVE FUND STRATEGY AND CONFERRED NO BENEFIT TO THE KIELBURGERS
WE Charity’s real estate assisted in delivering its charitable programs (hosting school groups etc.) while providing financial security for the organization and keeping overhead costs to a minimum. All real estate was purchased through targeted donations from supporters: no funds from youth or international development funds were ever used for these purchases.
WE CHARITY did not rely heavily ON GOVERNMENT FUNDING AND WAS NOT BEHOLDEN TO ANY POLITICAL PARTY
Prior to its closure, WE Charity Canada received a miniscule amount of its revenue base from the federal government, or any level of government, especially when compared to other charities similar in scope. In 2019, government grants made up just 2.4% of WE Charity’s revenues. In 2018, it was 3.7 percent. By comparison, other charities, like Right to Play took in $18.75 million in government grants in 2020, or 38.1% of its revenue. And Plan International Canada received more than $43.5 million in government grants (18.1% of its annual budget for 2020).
DONORS RESPONSIBLE FOR FUNDING THE MAJORITY OF WE CHARITY’S INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORK SAID THEY WERE NEVER MISLED AND CONTRADICTED REPORTING BY THE CBC AND OTHER MEDIA OUTLETS
WE Charity’s largest donors remain so supportive of WE Charity that they wrote an open letter to CBC to express their frustration with portrayal of their experiences as donors. The signatories included 77 donors who collectively represented the majority of donations made to WE Villages programs in Kenya, including the Right Honorable Kim Campbell, Michael “Pinball” Clemons, Gail Asper, Chip Wilson, Heather Skoll, Jennifer Tory, Danielle Saputo, and John Peller. Signatories also included grassroots community organizers who had been fundraising for WE Charity for years. Educators quickly followed suit with 50 former and current teachers, principals and directors of education signing a similar letter.
A KEY WITNESS WHO OFFERED NEGATIVE TESTIMONY ABOUT WE CHARITY BEFORE PARLIAMENT TRIED TO EXTORT THE CHARITY FOR MILLIONS IN EXCHANGE FOR HIS SILENCE
After a Las Vegas-based journalist told a parliamentary committee that he believed WE Charity may have defrauded donors because he found that a plaque honoring his son had been moved, he proceeded to demand the charity bankrupt itself and pay him $20 million in exchange for silence. If the charity refused, he threatened to use his connections as a journalist to spread negative stories. After WE refused and made the threat public, the journalist apologized and backed down, but the media and politicians that had heralded his testimony stayed completed quiet.
About the Author:
Tawfiq Rangwala was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He completed his undergraduate degree at McGill University in 1999 and earned his JD from Osgoode Hall in May 2002. He moved to New York to start his career at the law firm Milbank LLP, where he is a partner in the Litigation and Arbitration Group and serves as Chair of the firm’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
Rangwala specializes in representing companies and individuals facing investigations by government authorities, conducting sensitive internal investigations across various industries, and litigating and arbitrating a wide range of commercial disputes. He frequently speaks and writes about white-collar defence and government investigations, securities litigation, international arbitration, and issues relating to cybersecurity and technology disputes.
Rangwala also devotes a significant portion of his practice to pro bono matters addressing systemic discrimination and injustices in criminal cases. He was named Chambers & Partners’ Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in 2021.
About Optimum Publishing International
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