Over the past 20+ years of working in the nonprofit sector, many journalists have written about WE Charity. We respect those who have challenged us and highlighted areas for change and, on many occasions, we have used this feedback as a learning opportunity to strengthen the efficacy of our work.
However, the situation with Canadaland is significantly different. Canadaland is a news website with Jesse Brown as the owner, publisher, and editor. Mr. Brown has publicly acknowledged that he has been targeting WE Charity and our co-founders for many years, and his actions demonstrate a clear unprofessional bias.
Over the past 18 months, Canadaland has knowingly published false information on its website and social media channels about WE Charity. It has misrepresented WE Charity’s work and relationships, deliberately ignoring key facts and information provided in good faith by WE Charity, which clearly contradicted their claims. This has included publishing manufactured evidence such as digitally-altered images.
Following Canadaland’s October 15 blog and podcast, WE Charity sought an unbiased and independent opinion on Canadaland’s claims from the highly respected jurist, the Honourable Justice Stephen Goudge (retired), who served on the Court of Appeal for Ontario. Justice Goudge reviewed Canadaland’s publications. In his report, he dismissed each of Canadaland’s eight core claims and delivered the verdict:
“(…) I conclude that these allegations by Canadaland are without merit.”
Justice Goudge’s independent report can be found here.
The majority of Canadaland’s blogposts, podcasts, and social media posts on WE Charity were launched in October 2018 concurrently with the Canadaland annual company fundraising campaign. Mr. Brown consistently advertised the blogposts and podcasts with direct appeals to increase his company revenue.
The inaccurate and false content, consistently repeated throughout Canadaland’s articles and amplified through repeated social media, are causing extensive harm to WE Charity, with a serious consequence on our mission to uplift children and families from extreme poverty. As one example, as a direct result of Canadaland’s inaccurate published statements, the organization lost a half million dollar commitment of support—which was meant to provided 2,000 girls with a year of primary education in rural Kenya. The consequences on the lives of these young girls is profound and heartbreaking.
While we support free and independent media, WE Charity cannot allow misinformation to go unchallenged when it negatively impacts our mission and our ability to meet the most basic human needs of children and families around the world. Therefore, following the unbiased and independent opinion of Justice Goudge, WE Charity has served Canadaland with two Notices of Libel, with the only request an apology and retraction of their false content. This was not a decision we took lightly. As context, the charity and its co-founders last submitted a Notice of Libel in 1997. However, Canadaland’s sustained posting of false statements over 18 months, and the fact these pieces continue to be shared extensively online, left no other option.
It is worth noting that WE Charity, along with the independent social enterprise ME to WE that supports WE Charity, have been the subject of numerous independent audits and reviews by respected third parties including Mission Measurement, B Labs and the Fair Trade Foundation. WE Charity has received top grades from unbiased charitable sector evaluators including MoneySense, Charity Navigator, Charity Intelligence and GuideStar. In 2017, WE was named the first ever recipient of Good Housekeeping’s Humanitarian Seal, and we have received numerous awards for our workplace culture, including Canada’s Top Employer for Young People and Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Culture. The governance and financial structures of both WE Charity and ME to WE have been reviewed by the Ontario Public Guardian Trustee, a retired Supreme Court Justice and multiple auditors. Furthermore, the charity has been the subject of laudatory coverage by media such as the New York Times, The Economist and three in-depth reports by 60 Minutes.
WE Charity simply seeks to return to our work that matters, focusing on our 1,500 schools in developing countries, our medical programs and clean water serving one million beneficiaries, and 30,000 women’s co-ops empowering families to lift themselves out of poverty.