Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under investigation for a vacation he took at the Aga Khan's island previous year, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson said in a news release on Wednesday.
"I've always considered the Aga Khan a close family friend, which is why I didn't clear this family trip in the first place", he said.
He added that he and his family would be spending Christmas this year at the prime minister's official retreat at Harrington Lake in Gatineau Park before taking a trip to the Canadian Rockies.
Members of his family also accepted an invitation for March 2016.
Dawson's report notes, however, that there is no evidence Trudeau actually advanced the private interest of the Aga Khan or any institution he controls. "Mary Dawson said in a report Wednesday that Trudeau's vacation broke conflict of interest laws that prohibits a minister from accepting gifts or 'advantages" that could reasonably be seen as influencing government decisions.
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"Justin Trudeau said that when he and the Aga Khan saw each other at his father's funeral in 2000, they hugged and he felt an instant re-connection and an instant closeness".
"The date will not be July 1, I can assure you of that", Trudeau said.
Responding to Dawson's report in the House of Commons foyer, Trudeau said he is "sorry" he didn't take further steps to clear the trip and his dealings with the Aga Khan ahead of time.
Trudeau and his family stayed at the Aga Khan's home on Bell Island in the Bahamas from December 26, 2016 to January 4. In Dec. 2014 and 2016, Mr. Trudeau and his family went to the Aga Khan's residence.
"Obviously there was a mistake", Trudeau told reporters. She made a determination that he is not a family friend.
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The Act allows for some exemptions for gifts from relatives and friends, though in the report Dawson concluded that Trudeau and the Aga Khan can not be characterized as friends.
Ms. Dawson rejected the Prime Minister's assertion that the free flights to the island did not violate the rules because of the "exceptional circumstances" related to the secluded nature of the residence.
Dawson concluded that this did not suggest that "Mr. Trudeau and the Aga Khan were seeking to fulfil [sic.] opportunities to spend private time together as friends".
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.
In his interview with the commissioner, Trudeau accounted for the decades-long gap in communication because he felt he "had yet achieved a level of success or attained a level of authority or responsibility that would allow him to have a peer-to-peer relationship with the Aga Khan". "While it may have been typical for guests of the Aga Khan to use his helicopter to reach the island, Mr. Trudeau knew that travel by helicopter was not the only means of transportation to the island", she said.
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