First, a little re-intro. I am a former journalist, now practicing law and writing researched non-fiction books. I hold a PhD in History, as well as a law degree and a Master’s degree in journalism. I’m a four-time National magazine Award nominee, winning once for a feature on a wrongly-accused man.
In 2015, my book Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know was published by Harper Collins. It was a Globe and Mail best-seller and one of the Globe and Mail’s top books of 2015.
Kill the Messengers had this thesis: mainstream media is dying, and partisans are replacing it with online propaganda that looks like new media. Conservatives and extreme-right fanatics are leading the way on creating this pseudo-media, but are not alone in it
This fake media is fueling a populism that is a threat to every institution that democracy relies on: the Courts, effective legislatures, a professional and non-politicized public service, the sanctity of the ballot box.
My next book, in 2016, was The Killing Game, was about the use of social media by extremists like ISIS as a way to recruit, spread propaganda and to communicate with each other.
(My last book was a biography of Pierre Radisson, which, frankly, was much more fun to write, and sold an awful lot of copies).
My legal practice focuses on the same problems that I identify in Kill the Messengers and The Killing Game. I see the collapse of media as being part of a much wider threat to democracy. When Kill the Messengers came out, some critics like Andrew Coyne said its thesis was over the top.
It would be hard for anyone to make that argument today.
So now I spend most of my time defending whistle blowers, legitimate media outlets, and ordinary people whose right to express themselves is threatened. I am also working on cases that I believe must be litigated to prevent American-style dirty politics from being used in this country.
I started this site just over a year ago to talk about media issues. It has been my only public outlet to do so. I was inspired by the work of Jesse Brown’s Canadaland, after doing a bit of a deep dive on the first articles he ran on the Kielburger brothers. I didn’t know much about them or their work, but I did some fact-checking and found the Canadaland articles had serious problems.
I’m still not sure why Brown went after the Kielburgers and their charity, other than noting he started his campaign in Canadaland’s Patreon fundraising season. I do know some of Brown’s previous work had serious problems. In his book on the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, Toronto Star investigative reporter Kevin Donovan writes about the reporting issues he had with Brown, and makes it clear Brown sometimes hindered Donovan’s investigation.
But Brown has built up a following among people with a superficial view of Canadian media and politics. He has also become a useful conduit for working journalists who want to smear their colleagues.
For months, I let this site go dormant. Frankly, it didn’t seem worth the trouble. My Radisson book, Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre Radisson, was selling well and being nominated for book awards (it won the RBC Charles Taylor Prize in March). My law practice was doing very well, and frankly, doing thankless media analysis simply took time that I could use to help my clients. Most of my feedback was from trolls. I felt it was time for others to step up, rather than let me be the lightning rod. I believe people who knew WE and the Kielburger brothers better than I did -were hiding behind me, rather than speaking out. Canadians loathe to stick their necks out when their social status is at stake. This is especially true of journalists.
I have also been isolating myself since March because I have asthma that can sometmes be quite serious aand am concerned about COVID. I’ve used that time to write another book and handle a much scaled-down law practice.
But last week, Craig Kielburger reached out to me.
We talked about the impact of the summer’s controversy, when the Canadian media, as a pack, turned on WE Charity and its social enterprise company, ME to WE. My own take was that it was a cheap story to cover, easily done by watching TV. Journalists were after Trudeau and looking for Bill Morneau’s scalp. I believe Prime Minister Trudeau and then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau should have recused themselves from decisions related to WE, but I still saw no serious issues with how WE operates. Certainly none that warranted the destruction of an organization that seeks to empower many thousands of students and employed 1,000 people.
Craig told me how the Toronto Sun had published his home address, and how screwballs started showing up at his door. That was on top of the death threats and the crazy QAnon talk about WE on social media that none of the mainstream media who took WE down seem to find disturbing and newsworthy. I believe the headline of this piece is justified. Between the doxing, the media pile-on and the politically-motivated attacks on these young men during a stressful pandemic, harm to the mental and physical well-being of the Kielburger brothers and their families is foreseeable.
He and his wife had a new baby. The stress has been brutal. The Kielburgers and their organization had to field 5,000 media questions since the end of June, and to no one’s surprise, Jesse Brown was leading the charge by sending them over 150 questions for 19 stories and/or podcasts posted on Canadaland since July.
He called to explain that Brown is going after WE’s operations in Kenya. Brown hired a Kenyan videographer and, according to sources, had sent the videographer a script.
The government of Kenya has the power to seize the assets of charities and NGOs without judicial review. WE owns schools where more than 12,000 Kenyans are being educated, as well as a hospital-nursing school, and some community development projects. It also has a crafts company that employs Kenyan women. So any story, true or false, that calls into question WE’s honesty could be used by Kenya to seize WE’s aid projects. Kenya needs to know that there is no reason to do so.
Brown sent WE more than thirty questions, and later sent some follow-ups that WE staff were expected to answer over the Thanksgiving weekend. (He did that to WE last Thanksgiving, too). These are all about WE’s Kenyan operations. Journalists, politicians, political researchers and members of the public in both Canada and Kenya should carefully read both the questions and the answers and compare them with anything published by Canadaland.
Much of Brown’s work seems to be focused on two discredited claims by former employees of WE entities, who are both facing serious charges in Kenya.
One, a Kenyan national, stole from the organization and was caught during an audit. At the same time, his abused Canadian wife was fleeing their home. Marc Kielburger and the Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi helped get her and two kids back to Canada.
The other ex-employee employee set up a web page to blackmail the Kielburgers and WE. He quickly took it down, and is now facing charges of forging the material he used on the site.
So here’s a deep dive into the materials Craig Kielburger sent to me, and has also sent to Brown. (I asked him not to give me anything that was not given to Brown, to be fair to Canadaland).
First, the documents show WE entities in Kenya now have a professional accounting company, Alexanna, handling all their finances. Alexanna was hired before Brown began his attacks on WE.
Second, Rosen and Associates, a Bay Street forensic accountant hired by WE, found its books to be in order and its corporate entities protected from any possibility of looting or misuse by the Kielburger brother or anyone else.
- “The mandates of (WE companie) Bogani, Minga, and Kidimu are to ‘host international volunteer trips’. Araveli For Mamas focuses upon ‘women’s empowerment activities’. All are directly financially managed by officers in Kenya. In essence, each of these three entities (Bogani, Minga, Kidimu) were intended to be the equivalent of the Canadian ‘ME TO WE’ social enterprise concept.”
- “Based on my review, there is no evidence of financial malfeasance or similar financial concerns. There are proper reconciliations in place between the organizations.”
- “Our overall conclusions from our analyses are that we did not locate transactions or examples of where the Kielburger family directly benefitted financially from the various WE arrangements in Kenya.”
Frankly, I believe this kind of audit should have been commissioned by the Parliamentary committees studying rather than relying on oral evidence from witnesses, some of whom, to be blunt, are simply cranks.
At the same time, WE Charity hired a former Ontario deputy solicitor general, who is now in private practice of law, because it was clear from Brown’s questions that he will allege the charity mishandled the criminal complaints. Matt Torigian reviewed the investigation process into the theft and fraud allegedly committed by the two former WE employees in Kenya, Santai Kimakeke Peter Ruhiu.
Marc Kielburger was deeply involved in the Kenyan police investigation, working with local authorities. That is why there is a recording of him and Peter Ruhiu, at the request of the Kenyan police who were trying to get Ruhiu to admit his crimes on tape.
Marc Kielburger put his own safety on the line in order to protect the charity, and most importantly, to protect Mr. Ruhiu’s wife, who is now in Canada with her two children.
Torigian’s re1port concluded:
- “By investigating the alleged wrongdoing, WE Charity Canada uncovered irregularities, proved the underlying criminality, identified those responsible, and exposed a serious risk of harm that facilitated Mr. Ruhui’s wife and children being moved to a safer environment.
- “WE Charity’s engagement of a qualified and skilled third-party investigative agency, which provided advice that safeguarded people, property, and purpose, led to the result that is now before the courts in Kenya. This strategy also assisted WE Charity Canada in further protecting its assets and reputation. The advice of the third-party investigative team to proceed with caution, citing concern about the wellbeing of innocent individuals was sage. Marc Kielburger and WE Charity senior leaders were professional and reasonable in their approach to the situation and in the actions they took in response. This is particularly true with respect to Mr. Kimakeke.
- “In keeping with Canadian standards, WE Charity and in particular Mr. Marc Kielburger addressed these matters appropriately by keeping the Board and local authorities apprised. They took every reasonable step consistent with expectations in Canada and most developing countries.”
Again, this is the kind of research that should have been commissioned by Parliament, and by big media outlets in Canada that so callously destroyed WE’s operations in this country.
It is appalling that no journalists were willing to defy the mainstream narrative and take a serious look at WE in Canada and abroad, and what was lost in this summer’s bullshit “scandal”. Calling up WE’s competitors for donor support, organizations like Amnesty International (which does not run aid projects), and allowing its spokespeople to make ideologically-based attacks on WE’s Kenya work (as the Canadian Press did recently) is not investigative journalism. It’s lazy, cheap, and unfair. It’s as ridiculous as interviewing Marc or Craig Kielburger about Amnesty International’s program delivery.
It is clear from Jesse Brown’s new questions that he is choosing to twist the facts, as he often does, to try to attack the charity and in this case, Marc Kielburger specifically.
The second theme of those questions is the theory of the Kielburgers standing to profit personally from ownership of some WE entities in Kenya, either by skimming profits or through transfer of assets. Similar smears have been done in Canada. Rosen’s report shows transfers were done to protect the charity’s assets in Kenya in response to the theft and fraud described above, not to enrich the founders of the charity.
All experts involved in the investigation recommended, and the Board of Directors, including ex-chair Michelle Douglas, agreed that a new entity should be formed in order to hold the organization’s Kenya assets under Canadian control. That’s why WE Education for Children was created, and its function was to hold all the assets for WE Charity Canada. They also had to comply with Kenyan’s NGO Act, which prohibits foreign charities from owning land.
In November 2017, Free The Children Kenya engaged Oraro & Company, a major Kenyan law firm, to review the transfer of assets and employees, and the firm provided the following opinions:
- “2.1.1 Section 12 (b) of the NGO Act stipulates that a duly registered NGO is by virtue of its registration a body corporate with capacity to take, purchase or otherwise acquire, hold, charge or dispose of moveable and immovable property.
- “2.1.2 FTC therefore has the capacity to dispose of its movable and immovable assets as a duly registered body corporate un the NGO Act.”
- Additionally, they noted, “Whereas there is nothing under the NGO Act or the Constitution of FTC preventing FTC from transferring its assets to another entity, it would be advisable that the assets be transferred to an entity with similar objectives and which performs similar functions to those of FTC.”
I looked over the legal work, and it seems solid.
I also asked Craig Kielburger if there was any way that assets of WE and its entities in Canada or any other country — the real estate in Toronto and elsewhere, shares in profit-making enterprises, or anything else of value — could be taken by the Kielburgers when they leave WE. He said no. Assets of all the companies either belong directly to WE, or by trusts where WE is the beneficiary of all profits, and where the capital reverts to other WE entities if the company is wound down.
WE itself is covered by Canadian laws that prevent the looting of charities.
He told me the Kielburger family does own one house in Rosslyn, Kenya, paid for by Craig and Marc’s parents and owned by them through a company called Kujitolea. It is used, rent-free, as a residence for senior WE staff and some guests. That remains the property of the family.
Rosen, the forensic accountant, found the value of the Kielburger family’s loans of the Rosslyn property to support the work of WE Charity in Kenya would be equivalent to $2,293,736 USD. “The only accurate described ‘Kielburger private company’ is that of Kujitolea was purchased in 2006 for the Kielburger family and has provided $2,293,736 USD in rent¬free space to WE Charity in Kenya over a 14-year period based on a qualified valuation,” Rosen stated is his report, which was sent to Brown and given to me.
I expect Brown to do his usual super-torque job, relying on the ignorance of his followers (many of whom have used Brown material and themes to craft QAnon and other conspiracy theory social media posts, with no criticism from any Canadaland staffers and supporters, or anyone else in Canadian media). We may see terms like “money laundering” applied to WE’s actions, and mischaracterizations of what it means to be a listed shareholder of a charitable enterprise.
For example, in his questions, Brown repeatedly refers to ME to WE’s operations in Kenya as being “Marc Kielbruger controlled companies.” ME to WE-type social enterprise entities in Kenya, some of which have Marc Kielburger as a shareholder, support the charity’s operations. Specifically they are Bogani, Minga, Kidimu, and Araveli. And the forensic auditor shows that they all act exactly like ME to WE in that all profits they generate are reinvested in the charity or social mission. They are all, essentially, simple legal trusts that any lawyer can understand and evaluate.
I expect blowback from this piece. I was not paid by WE or anyone else to write it. I am not obsessed with Brown. The more I see the media get this story flat-out wrong, and the more that I see the life work of two decent man and the many hundreds of people who worked for them, along with the many tens of thousands of WE volunteers, destroyed in drive-by smears, the angrier I get.
I am afraid this is what journalism has come to in Canada: pack reporting; feeding frenzies on people and organizations that don’t fight back; poorly-sourced, rushed, incomplete and superficial work; politically-motivated hack work.
WE, one of the very few great charities started in Canada, was collateral damage in a third-rate political controversy. It sickens me to know that people I once considered colleagues were either caught up in the frenzy or were too cowardly to try to speak against it.
So let’s sum this up. To believe WE was founded and run by crooks, you have to buy into the idea that a downtown Toronto forensic accounting firm, a former top official in the Ontario Solicitor General’s office who now runs an investigation firm, a retired Ontario Court of Appeal Judge (Stephen Goudge), who reviewed WE’s operations and real estate holdings and wrote a report saying they were legitimate, an international accounting firm that handles WE’s money in Kenya, and a small army of consultants who have advised WE on best practices over the years, are either incompetent or corrupt.
Or you can believe Jesse Brown, Pierre Polievre and Charlie Angus.
Attached: WE’s latest lawyer’s letter to Jesse Brown. It hits most of the points about recent Canadaland reporting and the recent questions posed by Brown:
October 9, 2020
Dear Mr. Brown:
RE: WE Charity
We are counsel to WE Charity together with its co-founders Marc Kielburger and Craig
Kielburger. Our clients have provided detailed statements to the 27 questions posed by
Canadaland to our clients on October 1, 2020, as well as the additional questions posed
through our clients’ seeking clarification. In addition to providing formal statements in
response to specific questions, our clients have included supplementary documents to
support in providing an accurate, fair and balanced report.
It appears that the majority of your questions are based on background provided by
discredited former employees, most notably two Kenyan employees who were terminated
and charged by the Kenyan police with various counts, including fraud, forgery, and theft.
It is our clients’ reasonable expectation that their responses be given serious consideration
prior to publication should you still choose to publish despite your narrative being built on
what appears to be a precarious foundation. It is our view that the principle of responsible
communication cannot be extended to permit the publication of false allegations made
carelessly, and in some cases later retracted by the source, simply because our clients have
provided a response.
History of publishing inaccurate content, and indifference to balanced and fair
Respectfully, your historical bias and hostility toward our clients has been clear in every
publication on Canadalandshow.com in relation to our clients starting with your attack on
a media literacy partnership between the Globe and WE Charity in September 2017, titled,
“Why it is important to kick these people when they are down.”
Jaren Kerr, a former employee of Canadaland, confirmed this bias in statements made
while on a panel at an Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in May 4, 2019. Mr.
Kerr shared with the audience that you had an agenda from the outset. “[Mr. Brown] had
a story in mind,” Mr. Kerr stated.
October 9, 2020 2
According to Mr. Kerr’s commentary, you clearly had a pre-determined narrative already
established, which would require libel insurance. “He sold me on the story as, you know,
‘You’ll have time, you’ll have resources, you have legal insurance. Give it a shot.’” It is
clear that Canadaland sought from the outset to publish material that would be damaging
to the reputation of our clients and would harm an established children’s charity.
Mr. Kerr admitted to having fully drafted his October 2018 article before receiving
responses from our clients.
Canadaland repeatedly used its “investigation” of the children’s charity to solicit
crowdfunding for Canadaland. As the owner of the website, your financial motives are
clear. In less than one month, in at least six episodes of the Canadaland podcast, Short Cuts
and OPPO, you made a relentless pitch for money on the backs of a children’s charity and
its good works around the world. You have previously dubbed October as “crowdfunding
season at Canadaland”. The timing of your questions appears tied to publishing yet another
report on WE Charity to support soliciting funding from your audience.
History of circulating inaccuracy and proven false content, and recklessness and
indifference to balanced and fair reporting
You and Canadaland have previously, demonstrated a pattern of circulating inaccurate
information. You have a history of recklessness in its reporting on these matters and seem
indifferent to requirements of fair and balanced journalism.
We are particularly concerned about Canadaland’s willingness to rely on incomplete
information often provided by anonymous sources. You are content to publish
manufactured “evidence” replete with factual errors in aid of an already determined
narrative aimed at maligning a children’s charity.
We have previously drawn to your attention the fact that the entire narrative of the October
15, 2018 publications by Canadaland was premised on falsely characterized “extensive
evidence,” including a digitally created mock-up of a non-existent Kellogg’s cereal box
bearing the ME to WE logo and the publication of incorrect financial data, significantly
altered WE Charity documents. Accurate information provided by our clients prior to
publication demonstrated that your information and data was false. For some reason, you
chose to ignore these facts; they did not support your narrative.
As you know from previous Notices of Libel served upon you, together with associated
correspondence, Canadaland continually falsely presents its works as though they have
come to light through thorough investigations and you and your team have found some sort
of “smoking gun” only to be disproven by credible sources of review. You have repeatedly
refused to correct the record when presented with irrefutable evidence contradicting your
claims, and indeed have doubled down on Canadaland’s statements when they have been
proven to be false.
For example, most recently you have repeatedly stated that the Kielburger family somehow
benefits from providing to WE Charity rent-free commercial buildings for its operations,
October 9, 2020 3
and that they are seeking to deceive the public about the arrangements. While on the media
circuit leveraging your prolonged criticism of our clients, you stated, falsely, on CTV News
Network (September 13, 2020): “Now, I’ll remind you and everybody who is watching this,
the Kielburgers have not been truthful with the public. (…) They told CTV news that their
parents’ vast real estate empire was completely detached from the charity, but for the fact
that the parents let the charity use some real estate rent free. Canadaland has a copy of
the lease which has commercial rent explicitly in it.”
Your false claim about the Kielburgers misleading the public is especially tactless when an
independent valuation clearly demonstrated that nearly 80-year old Fred and Theresa
Kielburger provided an in-kind value of $5.3M to the charity over the years for the use of
233 and 231 Carlton Street, as certified by Sotheby’s. They declined to accept a charitable
tax receipt to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
All details of this matter were reviewed by the Honourable Stephen T. Goudge, a former
Justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, who stated: “From June, 2004 to September, 2018,
WE Charity operated out of the office building at 233 Carlton Street. Fred and Theresa
did not charge WE any rent for use of this building. ME to WE paid the carrying costs
associated with the building, including property taxes and interest on the building’s
mortgage, through a targeted donation to WE Charity which was specifically earmarked
for this purpose. From August, 2010 to September, 2018, WE Charity also operated out of
the neighbouring office building at 231 Carlton Street, which is also owned by Fred and
Theresa indirectly. Fred and Theresa did not charge WE any rent for use of the space, and
paid all carrying costs associated with this building.” Justice Goudge confirmed at
multiple points in his report that the Kielburger family did not gain financially from this
arrangement, as the payments by ME to WE covered only the carrying costs for the
building, property tax, and interest on the mortgage (no principal or additional payments).
You have been presented with this report multiple times.
The city lease agreement does not contradict our client’s statement or the findings of Justice
Goudge, who was, in fact, aware of these facts. The city lease agreement was simply
established to achieve the appropriate city property tax discount when the building is
occupied by a charity, and the financial amount identified on the lease is the amount Justice
Goudge identified in his statement that “ME to WE paid the carrying costs associated with
the building, including property taxes and interest on the building’s mortgage.”
The simple facts are that the charity did not incur any costs for the use of the building and
the Kielburger family in no way benefited from the financial arrangement. Any reasonable
person would conclude that our clients are being truthful. However, you have continuous
repeated your false claim in print, social media, and via interviews that my clients sought
to deceive the public. You have shown a clear pattern of mispresenting the facts in order
to fit your narrative and to disparage our clients.
October 9, 2020 4
Relying on Peter Ruhiu and Santai Kimakeke as the foundation of your recent
It is apparent from your line of questioning that the foundation of Canadaland’s next
article/podcast is based largely on statements or blog postings by Santai Kimakeke. The
contents of this blog have been so thoroughly discredited that no responsible journalist
would publish such content.
Mr. Kimakeke was charged by Kenyan police in January 2020 with multiple counts relating
to forgery and fraud, and he is currently awaiting trial on these charges. The charges include
forgery for the purpose of seeking a bank loan for personal gain and attempting to illicitly
gain money from ME to WE. In a signed confession on March 31, 2020, Mr. Kimakeke
acknowledges digitally manipulating images to create content to portray our clients in a
negative light. In July 2020, he signed another confession, this time taken under oath. In a
further signed statement dated October 7, 2020, also taken under oath, Mr. Kimakeke
shares that he included documents on his blog which were “fabricated” and that he
selectively edited WhatsApp messages provided to you. These were purposefully
manipulated in that “some contextual messages were deleted.” Mr. Kimakeke also
maintains that he provided messages to you which he sought to “purposefully (take) out of
In these circumstances, fairness dictates that these text messages cannot be relied upon. It
would be incredibly irresponsible to be published them, or to rely on them in any way.
In his statement dated October 7, 2020, Mr. Kimakeke speaks about certain documents
which he provided to you, including Kenya Revenue Agency forms and as well as banking
information for WE Education for Children. Mr. Kimakeke clarifies that he presented this
information “without proper context”, and provides clarity in his statement about both these
documents and what is his understanding of them. We assume that if any of these
documents are published, his October 7, 2020, statements will be clearly attributed to these
documents as both the self-identified source and as someone who provides critical
clarification at this time.
Mr. Kimakeke, himself, under oath, clarifies that, “I can personally attest to the fact that
Marc Kielburger has not asked me or any member of the WE team, to improperly influence
any member of the Kenyan government or law enforcement officials.” He further shares
that “any indication otherwise was taken out of context.” We trust that Mr. Kimakeke’s
statement will be published, and that and no reliance will be placed on his prior allegations.
To do otherwise would be highly unfair, and indeed reckless.
Finally, the information posted to his website is not credible, especially considering that
Mr. Kimakeke has resiled from the thrust of the website’s content multiple times. Mr.
Kimakeke, witnessed by a notary, on October 7, 2020, writes, “I renounced the website
five days after posting, and I have remained consistent in my renouncement of its contents.”
In addition to fully retracting the allegations made on the website and deleting its content,
Mr. Kimakeke specifically contacted you in public Twitter posts to say the information
October 9, 2020 5
was false. In those Tweets, he also states, and you have confirmed, that he spoke to you to
retract his statements.
In the October 7, 2020 letter Mr. Kimakeke explained: “I am concerned that Jesse Brown
will continue to rely on false information, past documentation and claims originated by me
for any upcoming reporting. I wish to explain to him, his editors (if any) and his legal
counsel (if relevant) this should not be the case, and these materials should be excluded.”
Simply presenting our clients’ truthful denials of the website’s contents will not afford you
and Canadaland protection under the responsible communications defence, or under the
rule of reportage. As you have likely been advised, that defense only applies to a report
that fairly reports both sides of the dispute, where the dispute itself is a matter of public
record. Given our clients’ ongoing experience with you and Canadaland in the past two
years, it is doubtful that either test will be met.
Further, the repetition rule is a longstanding common law concept. It prevents you and
Canadaland from repeating defamatory statements and hiding behind the assertion that they
are only repeating what Mr. Kimakeke already published.
Similarly, Peter Ruhiu is not a credible source of information. He was charged by Kenyan
police in 2018 with filing a false police report and other matters and is currently awaiting
trial for these charges.
Mr. Ruhiu’s employment with Free The Children Kenya was terminated with cause due to
theft of charity funds, and he too has demonstrated a pattern of presenting false information
and later renouncing those false claims. Mr. Ruhiu made a full confession in March 2018
(witnessed by a notary) and he signed a second confession retracting false allegations he
made to the police. He has since been charged with filing a false police report.
No reasonable person would consider Mr. Kimakeke or Mr. Ruhiu to be credible sources
of information. Moreover, Canadaland simply attributing its claims to a source does not
relieve your clients of their responsibility as it relates to libel. Responsible communication
is not a defence when relying on unsubstantiated claims of sources who have proven to be
unreliable. Responsible communication is not a defence when relying on unsubstantiated
claims of sources who have proven to be – to knowledge of the reporter – unreliable.
Responsible communication will also not afford a defence when the reporter has been
provided with alternate, and established, facts in the form of third-party statements.
Responses to current line of questioning
Without the benefit of specific allegations and given the history of Canadaland’s malicious
and unbalanced reporting of WE Charity, our clients can only guess as to the core of your
claims. Nevertheless, our clients have provided detailed evidence refuting false financial
and real estate “evidence” that formed the basis of your questions, as well as statements
and documentation contradicting claims by your sources, including their own signed
confessions recanting those same statements.
October 9, 2020 6
You seem also be relying upon the following sources:
1. Records from the NGO board of Kenya
2. Records from the Kenyan Lands registry
3. Records from the registrar of companies
If this is so, we must caution you that you do not have a sufficient basis to make negative
claims against our clients. Documents from the sources above cannot be properly
understood without important legal and accounting records. These demonstrate that our
clients have acted with integrity and financial activities, especially in relation to Free the
Children Kenya and WE Charity.
Financial management of all WE entities in Kenya from early 2018 onwards has been subcontracted to the respected financial management company Alexanna Limited. To be clear,
this function is outsourced, and no transaction is performed without their execution and
oversight. This specific function is not performed by any employee of WE Charity, ME to
WE, or the co-founders. Alexanna Limited manages for all WE entities accounting and
financial tracking, including transfer of funds, reconciliations between entities, and
assurance of compliance, fiduciary responsibility, and financial integrity.
For the sake of certainty on this point, we provided the relevant information, including files
from the (i) NGO Board, (ii) the Kenyan Lands registry and (iii) the registrar of companies,
along with the additional critical relevant legal and accounting information, including
detailed audits and financial files, to forensic accounting expert Dr. Al Rosen, who
reviewed a significant number of the relevant legal and financial materials.
Dr. Rosen is a Fellow of the Chartered Accountants of Ontario and Alberta (FCA), a
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and a specialist,
Investigative and Forensic Accounting (CA-IFA). In his review Dr. Rosen stated:
• “Based on my review, there is no evidence of financial malfeasance or similar
financial concerns. There are proper reconciliations in place between the
• “Our overall conclusions from our analyses are that we did not locate transactions
or examples of where the Kielburger family directly benefitted financially from the
various WE arrangements in Kenya.”
• “In essence, each of these three entities (Bogani, Minga, Kidimu) were intended
to be the equivalent of the Canadian ‘ME TO WE’ social enterprise concept.”
• “The mandates of Bogani, Minga, and Kidimu are to ‘host international volunteer
trips’. Araveli For Mamas focuses upon “women’s empowerment activities”. All are
directly financially managed by officers in Kenya.”
October 9, 2020 7
• “Whereas some critics have labelled these entities as ‘private companies under
Marc Kielburger’s name’, this is not an accurate description. Namely, the basis for
the unexplained assertions clearly conflicts with what the entities actually focus
upon and their social enterprise nature. As stated previously, the Kielburgers are
not receiving dividends or other compensation that the entities’ auditors, or our
examinations, have detected.”
• “Based on our review, our conclusions that the Kielburger family are not
benefiting financially from these companies.” “Also, what the three named
companies (Kujitolea, Kidimu, Linganya) have in common is property holding.
Kidimu’s asset is held in trust for ‘ME TO WE’ trips. Similarly, the Linganya
property is held in trust for the “ME TO WE Foundation’.”
• “Based on a review of financial records, including banking information, as well as
multiple statements from legal counsel who handled the conveyance, as well as
employees who oversee the financial statement of the organizations in Kenya and
Canada, it is apparent that no charitable funds were used for the purchase of the
• “Moreover, in the absence of much revenue or zero revenue, we have little or no
reason to conduct some hypothetical search for any possible financial misdeeds.
In short, there is no evidence of such.”
• “The only accurate described ‘Kielburger private company’ is that of Kujitolea
was purchased in 2006 for the Kielburger family and has provided $2,293,736 USD
in rent free space to WE Charity in Kenya over a 14-year period based on a
• “Some questions have been raised that a ‘Free the Children’ asset transfer was
potentially not handled in accordance with legal processes in Kenya. The asset
transfer was made to ‘WE Education for Children Ltd.,’. It involved ‘WE Education
for Children’ holding the assets “in trust” for WE Charity Canada.”
• “Our understanding is that WE Charity officers in Kenya handled the legal
responsibilities and complied with all laws. Overall, once more, we did not observe
any financial benefits of the transfer to the Kielburger Family.”
• “Some of the investigative pursuits and actions of the mainly Kenyan employees for
the WE family group included: recovering and sending funds to ‘Araveli for
Mamas’ (in trust for WE Charity), as approved by members of WE Charity’s Board
of Directors; hiring lawyers and accountants for advice on improving controls and
governance; contacting police and Court officials so as to assemble the necessary
evidence that thefts had allegedly occurred; evaluating documentation so as to
comprehend how the alleged thefts likely occurred; meeting with Government
officials; ensuring that prosecutors had the necessary documentation that would be
needed at a trial; responding to requests of prosecutors and police.”
October 9, 2020 8
• “Other financial issues arose for Kenya because a few employees had to be
dismissed for inappropriate behaviour, including two for alleged criminal
activities. Nevertheless, based on our review, the Kielburgers received no financial
benefits, directly or indirectly from such distractions.”
As you are also aware, Former Deputy Solicitor General for Ontario, Matt Torigian,
reviewed the investigation process into the theft and fraud committed by Mr. Kimakeke
and Mr. Ruhiu. Mr. Torigian is the former Deputy Minister of Community Safety for
Ontario, which made him responsible for oversight the Ontario Provincial Police, the
Ontario Police College, Police Support and Inspections Services. He also served as Chief
of Police for Waterloo Regional Police Service. As a Distinguished Fellow at the Munk
School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, Mr. Torigian provides advice and assistance
to government officials around the globe, including Africa, on a range of challenging
issues in criminal justice. Mr. Torigian concluded:
(1) Did WE Charity Canada engage qualified third-party agencies to help conduct the
investigation and processes? Yes
(2) Is it evident that WE Charity Canada engaged in a collaborative process with local
authorities, including providing materials to the Kenyan police? Yes
(3) Is Mr. Peter Ruhiu a credible source of information? No
(4) Is Mr. Santai Kimakeke a credible source of information? No
(5) Did WE Charity Canada, and its leadership, and specifically Marc Kielburger,
address this matter in a manner that was reasonable and responsible, and was the
matter addressed within reasonable Canadian standards? Yes
Mr. Torigian further concluded that:
• “Early in the investigation WE Charity became aware of threats to the domestic
safety of Mr. Ruhiu’s wife (now ex-wife) and children. WE Charity worked
diligently with Canada’s High Commission in Kenya to facilitate the safe and
secure passage of Mr. Ruhiu’s wife and children back to Canada, and made their
safety and security the top priority. The overall timeline of the investigation was
driven by the need to prioritize the family’s safety.”
• “WE Charity provided ongoing cooperation to, and coordinated with, the thirdparty investigative team and local police. WE Charity leadership including Mr.
Marc Kielburger provided evidence that assisted the investigation and will be
integral to the prosecution. Throughout the investigation Mr. Marc Kielburger
worked collaboratively with the investigative agency and local police, and provided
all material evidence required for criminal proceedings against Mr. Ruhiu.”
• “In keeping with Canadian standards, WE Charity and in particular Mr. Marc
Kielburger addressed these matters appropriately by keeping the Board and local
October 9, 2020 9
authorities apprised. They took every reasonable step consistent with expectations
in Canada and most developing countries.”
• “Importantly, the delicate balance of protecting the mission of the charity, the
welfare of innocent victims and witnesses, and the integrity of the criminal justice
system is an accomplishment not often realized in environments such as Kenya yet
was certainly accomplished in this case.”
WE Charity’s good works in Kenya and around the world
Once again, our clients have co-operated with you and Canadaland in good faith, providing
answer to your questions together with additional context and data to support a fair and
balanced report. Our clients have made every effort to correct the errors in your
understanding of the “facts.”
Our clients have only their experience with Canadaland in the past two years to discern
how you and Canadaland perceive fairness and accuracy in reporting. However, it would
be impossible to present a fair and balanced report without also dedicating a meaningful
portion of the report to the significant, lifesaving work our clients have contributed in
As our clients have often shared with Canadaland only to be discounted or ignored, either
by willful ignorance or purposeful omission to suit their narrative, WE Charity has sought
in the past 25 years to eliminate extreme poverty, and its work has resulted in over 1 million
children and families lifting themselves out of poverty in the developing world.
In Kenya, specifically, the tangible impacts WE Charity has enabled include:
• Providing 13,000 Kenyan children with the opportunity to attend WE-supported
schools every day;
• Building over 230+ schoolrooms, libraries, teachers’ offices and kitchens;
• Constructing Kisaruni Group of Schools, which includes an all-girls secondary
school and an all-boys secondary school: to providing Maasai and Kipsigis students
graduating from primary schools in our partner communities with access to
secondary school; and
• Opening the doors to two health centres: Baraka Hospital and Kishon Health
Centre, which have provided over 130,000 patients with high-quality medical care.
In a letter provided to your clients, the Governor of Narok County, the Hon. Samuel K.
“My County has had the privilege of hosting and benefiting immensely from WE Charity’s
international work. The majority of WE Charity’s development programs in Kenya are
located in Narok County. I have personally witnessed the impact of its social programs
October 9, 2020 10
and the meaningful difference the organization has made to the local communities in
We will of course look to see what you publish but, with regret, we will be relying on the
factors outlined above, as evidence of Canadaland’s ongoing malice.
You should also immediately take reasonable steps to preserve all documents relevant to
this matter. For this purpose documents include any form of recorded communication,
including but not limited to notes from interviews, electronic communications with sources
and all documents provided by unnamed sources in the original form in which they were
provided, as well as all material, in electronic or hard copy form, otherwise relating to the
production or editing of your article and podcast.
We have provided a copy of this letter to your counsel Doug Richardson.
I would be happy to discuss this matter further with your counsel.
Yours very truly,
William C. McDowell