Chrystia Freeland’s Conflicts of Interests with the WEF & Ukraine
by Dan Fournier, published Thursday, Jan. 19, 12:30 EST on fournier.substack.com
Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks at the World Economic Forum’s Restoring Security and Peace session on Wednesday, January 18, 2023.
There has been enormous backlash on social media, particularly on Twitter, surrounding Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s involvement with the World Economic Forum (WEF) as well as sitting on its Board of Trustees.
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Screenshot taken on Jan. 17, 2023 from the World Economic Forum’s website showing Chrystia Freeland as a member of their Board of Trustees. Source: https://www.weforum.org/about/leadership-and-governance.
Regarding leadership and governance of the WEF’s board, the following appears on their website:
“The Forum is chaired by Founder and Executive Chairman Professor Klaus Schwab. It's guided by a Board of Trustees, exceptional individuals who act as guardians of its mission and values, and oversee the Forum’s work in promoting true global citizenship.”
And for its mission they sate, in part:
“The Forum engages the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.”
Many have contended that Freeland’s membership on the WEF’s Board of Trustees represents a clear conflict of interest.
Such assertions are not unfounded, as the following is stated in section 15(1) under ‘Prohibited activities’ 2006 Conflict of Interest Act.
Screenshot of section 15(1) of the 2006 Conflict of Interest Act. Source: https://www.laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-36.65/page-2.html.
While, from a legal perspective, there can be some contention as to whether or not Mrs. Freeland is indeed in conflict of interest (since she may not technically be considered a director or officer of the WEF), the secrecy behind what exactly her role is on the board remains murky; for, the general public is not privy to this information even though she is a public servant.
Noé Chartier, a reporter for The Epoch Times Canada, had made a freedom of information inquiry regarding Freeland’s communications with members of the WEF’s board last December. But ATIP said they had to check with third parties first before releasing the info:
Therefore, Mrs. Freeland’s role and duties as a member of this board remain obscure.
Accordingly, it is not unreasonable to seek more information about her duties and responsibilities as a board member of this highly influential international organization for which its leader, Klaus Schwab, has previously boasted about penetrating government cabinets, including our own.
Obtained through an Access to Information Act (ATIA) request by lawyer Daniel Ari Freiheit, the following letter by the WEF’s President Børge Brende from Nov. 1, 2021, addressed to Chrystia Freeland as Deputy Prime Minister appears to suggest how she can assist in the development of some of the organisation’s goals [emphasis added in red]:
What do Canadian Standards of Conduct and Codes of Ethics state on such matters?
Numerous provisions related to conflicts of interest exist which may offer much needed clarity on the matter.
First, with regards to the Conflict of Interest Act itself, the following is stated from an 82-page PDF document linked from the Government of Canada’s Accountable government : a guide for ministers web page [relevant parts boxed in red color]:
As this provision states a “rigorous statutory regime” that is applicable to Ministers, the Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, is subject to the code of the Conflict of Interest Act.
More to the point, on page 27 of this document it is further stated:
Furthermore, since Mrs. Freeland is a Member of Parliament, her adherence to the code is expected.
Regarding the application or enforcement of the code, there are two related points.
First, the following is stated [emphasis added for clarity]:
“The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is responsible for administering both the Conflict of Interest Act and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, investigating allegations involving conflicts of interest, applying compliance measures, and briefing Ministers, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries on their responsibilities under the Act and Code.”
Next, we have the following:
“Ministers, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries are held accountable by the Prime Minister for their adherence to the provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act. In general, the Act establishes mechanisms to identify and avoid possible conflicts of interest, and, among other measures:”
To summarize, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion, is responsible, as per his role and the mandate of his office, for investigating allegations involving conflicts of interest. And, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has a duty to hold his ministers, including his Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, accountable for their adherence to the provisions in the act.
This author has contacted the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for comment. When asked whether Mrs. Freeland was currently under investigation, the Office responded that they do not comment on individual cases due to strict confidentiality restrictions.
In response to a specific inquiry about whether they have received complaints about Mrs. Freeland’s WEF board membership, the Office’s stated the following:
“As indicated in our Annual Report 2020-21 under the Act, over 1,000 of the public and media inquiries received by the Office between February and March 2022 were from members of the public asking the Commissioner to investigate the involvement of Canadian parliamentarians in the World Economic Forum. The Office responded to each one of them by explaining the mandate and role of the Office and providing information about the investigation process.”
In this regard, more specific information appears in the linked 2020-2021 Annual Report [emphasis added]:
“in February and March 2022, the Office received over 1,000 requests from members of the public asking the Commissioner to investigate the participation of Members and ministers in the World Economic Forum. Since the requests did not provide sufficient information to warrant an investigation and they were all related to the same topic, they were counted as a single case file by the Investigations and Legal Services division.”
Put simply, in a period of only two months in 2022, they received 1,000 requests calling for an investigation into WEF memberships, all these individual requests – regardless of whom they were about – were bundled into a single one (due to “insufficient information”) which appears to have been dismissed since “no further information was provided.”
Also with regards to conflicts of interest in government, under Canada’s ‘Values and ethics of the public service’ Apparent Conflict of Interest stresses that government officials are held to a high standard in terms of their conduct:
“A person entering the public service or one already employed there must know, or at least be deemed to know, that employment in the public service involves acceptance of certain restraints”
Moreover, it also outlines “higher standards expected in public service”:
The passage above is also emphasized with the word apparent [conflict of interest] in bold. Specifically, “the public service will not be perceived as impartial and effective in fulfilling its duties if apparent conflicts between the private interests and the public duties of public servants are tolerated.”
Put simply, public employees must ensure that their service be impartial without apparent conflicts of interests.
In the same light and from the same page we find the following under the ‘values and ethics code for the public service’ [emphasis added for clarity]:
In addition, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector has a section on ‘The Role of Ministers’ which states “Ministers are also responsible for preserving public trust and confidence in the integrity of public sector organizations and for upholding the tradition and practice of a professional non-partisan federal public sector.”
With her WEF affiliation, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland can be regarded as not maintaining public trust and confidence, for any action taken in the interests of this organisation may be perceived as “partisan.”
A related FAQ regarding the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and Directive on Conflict of Interest provides guidance on how breaches should be handled:
Another related act called the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act requires “that each organization also have its own code of conduct that is consistent with values and ethics code.” The Department of Finance has its own code. But the greater Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector makes it clear that: “organizational codes of conduct must not contradict or lower the minimum standard of behaviour set out in the values and ethics code.”
What do Chrystia Freeland’s disclosures reveal?
As federal employees are required to disclose financial and private interests, those disclosed by Mrs. Freeland are publicly available via the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
The office also publishes Members’ Compliance Status Report for which, the latest dated January 4, 2023, is available in which we can see that Mrs. Freeland’s ‘initial compliance process’ with regards to disclosing her interests has been ‘completed’.
Members of the public can search the Public Registry by simply typing the name of the desired public official.
By searching the registry with “Freeland”, multiple links will be displayed showing all her public disclosures.
Her last Annual Review dates to March 2, 2022 reveals her declared assets, gifts, activities, and travels, among other things.
Of relevance in the Assets section, Mrs. Freeland declared the following:
Joint ownership with another person of a residential property located on Sofiivska Street in Kyiv, Ukraine
And under the Activities section, it is declared:
Member of the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland
Under the Gifts section, Mrs. Freeland received tickets for a gala dinner from the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko and Myhal Family Foundation at which she was a guest speaker. In the same section, during an “official visit abroad”, she received a book from the Israel Council on Foreign Relations. Also under Gifts, she received an intern, presumably regarding to non-remunerated work, as part of a Ukrainian Canadian Congress Parliamentary Internship Program from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
In the Travel section, there is an April 2019 entry that describes the circumstances of “NATO ministerial meetings were held in Washington DC, USA on April 3, and the G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting was held in Dinard, France.”
No further information is provided regarding the “NATO ministerial meetings,” though Mrs. Freeland was Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time.
Next, we have Mrs. Freeland’s Disclosure Summary which is a public document prepared by the Commissioner based on the member’s statement filed under section 21. Under the Activities section, it states:
Member of the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum, a nonprofit foundation based in Switzerland
Member of the board of trustees of the Aspen Institute Kyiv (Kyiv, Ukraine)
Regarding her board membership for the Aspen Institute Kyiv, a 2020/05/16 update appears which indicates she is no longer on this board.
Mrs. Freeland’s next public declaration is due to commence on or around March 2, 2023 from which she will have 60 days to complete it.
Do Freeland’s Ukraine connections also suggest a potential conflict of interest?
As per an Ottawa Citizen article, Chrystia Freeland has familial lineage originating from the Ukraine.
As per another article from this author, Freeland’s own heritage and writings also suggest her allegiance to the plight of Ukrainians. “For the rest of my grandparents' lives, they saw themselves as political exiles with a responsibility to keep alive the idea of an independent Ukraine,” proclaimed Freeland in her 2015 essay My Ukraine, continuing “That dream persisted into the next generation, and in some cases the generation after that.”
With regards to other associations with the Ukraine, she has received gifts from two Ukrainian foundations as referenced earlier.
In addition, she owns a residential property in Kyiv, Ukraine.
As mentioned earlier, Mrs. Freeland received an intern as part of a Ukrainian Canadian Congress Parliamentary Internship Program from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
Though she is no longer a board member, Mrs. Freeland use to sit on the Aspen Institute Kyiv’s Supervisory Board. This organisation has a partnership with The Aspen Institute based in Washington, D.C, U.S.A, which is concerned with matters surrounding the Russia-Ukraine war.
Over the past year, Mrs. Freeland has publicly, in both her official capacities as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, displayed a fervent pro-Ukrainian stance regarding this external conflict far away from Canadian shores.
Let the reader be reminded that (as outlined above under the values and ethics code for the public service) as a public servant, Mrs. Freeland holds a duty to maintain impartiality and prevent even apparent conflicts of interest in the performance of her duties.
She has attended many meetings and talks in this regard such as with her October 11, 2021 talk at a Brookings Institution event held in Washington D.C.; a transcript of her full statement appears on her Office’s website.
Last year, Chrystia Freeland introduced the now passed Bill-C19 which expanded powers under the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA) and the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law). These powers include the ability to seize and forfeit assets of foreign nationals and entities with the first notable case being that of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
As per a related news release by Global Affairs Canada, seized funds can be earmarked specifically for the Ukraine.
Mrs. Freeland has demonstrated a significant amount of influence over policies that Canada has taken about the war between Russia and the Ukraine as well as with the amount of funds and support, including military support, sent to the Ukraine over the last year along with additional commitments in the pipeline.
As is detailed at the end of the next section, these support packages amount to no less than $3.8 billion in taxpayer funds.
What is Freeland’s involvement at Davos 2023?
Deputy Prime Minister Freeland participated in a panel discussion entitled “Restoring Security and Peace” at the World Economic Forum this Wednesday, January 18.
Other members of the panel include Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Fareed Zakaria – long time CNN host and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in the United States, among others.
The World Economic Forum’s Restoring Security and Peace session on Wednesday, January 18, 2023.
Though the discussion was to focus on security and peace, there was a lot of talk about drastically increasing the amount of weaponry to the Ukraine.
Moreover, NATO Chief Stoltenberg said “We need to provide military support to Ukraine. That’s the only way.”
“Weapons, they are the way to peace,” he added before emphasizing that the main priority is to provide the Ukraine with more advanced weapons. He also thanked Canada for contributing 200 armored vehicles. “Ukraine will become a member of NATO,” added Stoltenberg.
“The weapons are absolutely essential,” stressed Avril Haines, the DNI Director.
“Supplying the Ukraine with weapons,…, supplying Ukraine with the money it needs to win the war is ultimately in our own self-interest,” stated Freeland.
When asked by panel host Fareed Zakaria about how nations will be able to continue to fund the Ukraine at a time of huge deficits and debt loads, Freeland answered that part of this included providing weapons which she deemed “absolutely essential”, adding “we need to get the money now.”
Freeland, who has been considered a top candidate for replacing Stoltenberg as NATO Chief, also mentioned that Canada had issued Ukraine Sovereignty Bonds which amounts to a $500 million loan to the Ukraine.
This is on top of $2 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine in 2021, another $1.5 billion in assistance committed which includes military aid, and $320 million in humanitarian and immigration efforts, as per an October 28, 2021 news release by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office.
A request for comment from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office has been sent regarding several issues outlined in this article, but no response has been forthcoming.
An abridged version of this article is also published in The Counter Signal.
See the author’s About page for full disclaimer.
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"she may not technically be considered a director or officer of the WEF"
That's fine, as there are subtle legal differences between a trustee and an officer.
But it would be quite entertaining to hear the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada argue that she is not an officer of WEF, but merely a trustee, and hence not subject to her country's unambiguous COI statutes.
That should endear her to Canada's citizens, as it looks as if you have your own nascent Hillary Clinton (but maybe without the longstanding homicidal and criminal impulses).
Let them eat cake.
Strangely enough, I find myself at a loss for words these days. I do hope you'll understand. In lieu of an insightful or witty comment on the universal treachery we find ourselves embedded within in these times of "universal deceit", I'll leave this quote, written more than 20 years ago, by the inimitable Wendell Berry, whose words are more relevant and resonant now than ever (to those who will pay attention):
From "Another Turn of the Crank"
"By this time, the era of cut-and-run economics ought to be finished. Such an economy cannot be rationally defended or even apologized for. The proofs of its immense folly, heartlessness, and destructiveness are everywhere. Its failure as a way of dealing with the natural world and human society can no longer be sanely denied. That this economic system persists and grows larger and stronger in spite of its evident failure has nothing to do with rationality or, for that matter, with evidence. It persists because, embodied now in multinational corporations, it has discovered a terrifying truth: If you can control a people’s economy, you don’t need to worry about its politics; its politics have become irrelevant. If you control people’s choices as to whether or not they will work, and where they will work, and what they will do, and how well they will do it, and what they will eat and wear, and the genetic makeup of their crops and animals, and what they will do for amusement, then why should you worry about freedom of speech? In a totalitarian economy, any "political liberties" that the people might retain would simply cease to matter. If, as is often the case already, nobody can be elected who is not wealthy, and if nobody can be wealthy without dependence on the corporate economy, then what is your vote worth? The citizen thus becomes an economic subject."