One of WE Charity’s biggest supporters, Royal Bank of Canada, confirmed to the Financial Post Tuesday that it’s ending its long-standing affiliation with the WE organization, after spending roughly a week “reassessing” its ties to the embattled charity.
The decision comes as other major sponsors and donors to WE Charity such as KPMG Canada LLP, Telus Corp. and Virgin Atlantic Airways have moved away from WE, in some cases permanently halting all payments to the organization.
“After reviewing our partnership, RBC and WE Charity have reached a mutual agreement to end all sponsorship and donation programming,” said a statement from the bank. “Enabling youth remains a key priority for RBC in our commitment to helping communities prosper. We continue to focus on opportunities that help youth develop skills, gain work experience, and more easily access mental well-being services through our broad programming and RBC-created resources.”
The bank’s ties to WE Charity go back years.
RBC Foundation was one of the biggest annual charity donors to WE Charity, contributing approximately $2 million since 2015, according to Canada Revenue Agency filings. RBC also sponsors the WE RBC Virtual Visa Debit card, donating a certain amount to WE each time a user makes an online transaction using the card.
Last year, RBC CEO David McKay served as co-chairman of a WE Day event in Toronto, and the bank’s chief administrative officer, Jennifer Tory, was listed as one of five major donors to the WE Global Learning Centre, the charity’s $30 million flagship headquarters in downtown Toronto.
After reviewing our partnership, RBC and WE Charity have reached a mutual agreement to end all sponsorship and donation programming
In the span of a week, the charity has lost some of its most prominent donors and sponsors. Virgin Atlantic Airways halted payments to the charity after contributing more than $10 million over the past decade. Telus, which along with RBC has been one of the main sponsors of the now-defunct WE Day events, also dropped its multi-year sponsorship to WE, one that has seen it give more than $20 million to the organization since 2007.
While WE Charity owns tens of millions of dollars in real estate in a reserve fund that can be used by the charity in times of crisis, its biggest source of revenue remains donations and sponsorships. The charity’s financial statements show that it received $46 million in donations and sponsorships for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2019 — two thirds of its revenue.
Later Tuesday, WE co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger will testify in front of the House Finance Committee about their role in securing a $900-million contract from the Liberal government to administer the now-cancelled Canada Student Service Grant program. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his top aide, chief of staff Katie Telford, will appear in front of the committee on Thursday, to answer questions about the deal.
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