Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke ethics rules when he and his family vacationed at the private island of billionaire philanthropist and spiritual leader the Aga Khan, Canada's ethics watchdog ruled Wednesday.
In a statement, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson said the Trudeau family post-Christmas vacation a year ago contravened the Conflict of Interest Act.
"The vacations accepted by Mr. Trudeau or his family could reasonably be seen to have been given to influence Mr. Trudeau in his capacity as Prime Minister", Dawson said.
There is an exception in the act for gifts or "other advantages" from friends or relatives, but Dawson ruled it didn't apply because "Trudeau and the Aga Khan can not be characterized as friends".
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is apologizing for effectively violating federal conflict of interest laws for a trip he took last Christmas to the private Bahamian island of the Aga Khan.
The Aga Khan's foundation has received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Canadian government to promote development and other projects in several countries.
And she found the PM should have found alternatives to using the Aga Khan's private aircraft to travel between Nassau and his island.
He said he considered the Aga Khan a close family friend and that's why he didn't think to run his trip by the ethics commissioner before going.
Dawson found that Trudeau also contravened section 21 of the Act when he did not recuse himself from discussions that provided an opportunity to further private interests associated with institutions of the Aga Khan, and section 5 for failing to arrange his private affairs to avoid such an opportunity.
But the ethics commissioner disagreed, indicating that Trudeau had not spoken directly with the Aga Khan in 20 years.
Her findings make Trudeau the first prime minister to have been found in contravention of the federal conflict of interest rules.
"There seems to be two worlds", he said.
Dawson noted the Aga Khan has had relationships with most prime ministers since Pierre Trudeau's time, including Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper.
Trudeau said their conversations focused on geopolitics, the Muslim world, Canadian leadership on the global stage and problems the Aga Khan was facing, but didn't involve any funding requests. "We have a system in place to protect the integrity of the (prime minister's) office", he said.
"Subsection 14 (1) of the Members' Code prohibits Members from accepting gifts or other benefits that might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence them in the exercise of an official power, duty or function", Dawson said.
Mr Trudeau had previously vacationed on the private island in 2014, when he was an MP.
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