OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s looking forward to answering questions from the federal ethics commissioner about his Christmas vacation to a Caribbean island owned by the Aga Khan.
The prime minister and his family spent the holiday at the wealthy religious leader’s private retreat on Bell Island in the Bahamas.
Conservative leadership candidate and Opposition MP Andrew Scheer has asked ethics commissioner Mary Dawson to look into the trip.
Scheer says he wants to know if Dawson thinks it appropriate for the prime minister to accept the hospitality of someone whose foundation receives funds from the Canadian government.
The Aga Khan Foundation has been the beneficiary of tens of millions of dollars in government contributions to international development projects.
In his first public remarks on the controversy since media reports emerged last week, Trudeau characterizes the trip as a family vacation to spend time with an old family friend, but says he’s happy to discuss it with Dawson.
“The Aga Khan has been a longtime family friend,” Trudeau told a news conference. “He was pallbearer at my father’s funeral, he has known me since I was a toddler and this was our family vacation.
“As for the conflict of interest commissioner, the ethics commissioner, I look forward to answering any questions she may have.”
Trudeau’s office said the prime minister and his family flew in a government jet to Nassau on their way to the island getaway and will reimburse the return airfare costs.
The Aga Khan is the hereditary spiritual leader of the world’s approximately 15 million Ismaili Muslims and a renowned philanthropist.
In 2009, then-prime minister Stephen Harper made him an honorary citizen of Canada.