Canada, China had better relationship at time of Trudeau Foundation pledge: Rosenberg

OTTAWA — The former head of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation says the level of caution Canadian institutions must now take when dealing with China was not top of mind when the charitable organization accepted a pledge from a Chinese billionaire.

Morris Rosenberg was president of the Trudeau Foundation from 2014 to 2018, which is when the charity was given $200,000 by Zhang Bin, a political adviser to the Chinese government, and another wealthy Chinese businessman.

The charity set up to honour the legacy of the former prime minister announced Wednesday it is returning the donation after the Globe and Mail alleged it was linked to a Chinese government plot to influence Justin Trudeau after he became Liberal leader.

Citing an unnamed national security source, the newspaper reported Zhang was instructed by Beijing to donate $1 million in honour of the elder Trudeau in 2014, two years before the $200,000 donation to the Trudeau Foundation was made.

Rosenberg, who says talks about the donation were already underway when he assumed his role, recalls at the time, Canada had a more positive, hopeful and trusting relationship with China.

The former senior public servant, who authored an independent report on how a federal panel monitored foreign interference in the 2021 election, says the situation had changed since then and Canadian institutions need to question China's motivations for such a relationship.

The Canadian Press could not immediately reach Zhang regarding the allegations in the Globe and Mail, which said Tuesday he did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2023.

The Canadian Press