Aga Khan affair

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Aga Khan in 2014
Aga Khan
Justin Trudeau in 2016
Justin Trudeau
The Aga Khan affair was a political scandal in Canada involving Justin Trudeau and Aga Khan IV

The Aga Khan affair was a political scandal in Canada involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In 2017, Trudeau was found guilty of violating sections 5,11,12, and 21[1] of the Federal Conflict of Interest Act[1] by accepting private-island vacations, gifts, and flights from the Aga Khan, a philanthropist and spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili religion. This was deemed significant as the Aga Khan Foundation, a registered lobby, had received over $50 million of federal funding in 2016.[2][3][4]

Justin Trudeau adopted the position that he and the Aga Khan were close friends, and the trips were of a personal nature.[5] This was ostensibly supported by a close relationship between Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and the Aga Khan. Furthermore in 1983, when Justin Trudeau was twelve years old, their two families had undertaken a vacation together to Greece.[1]

Then-Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson stated in her ruling however that Justin Trudeau and the Aga Khan had undertaken no serious social interactions for thirty years outside a single instance at the funeral of Pierre Elliot Trudeau; and that, “there were no private interactions between Mr. Trudeau and the Aga Khan until Mr. Trudeau became Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. This led me to conclude that their relationship cannot be described as one of friends for the purposes of the Act.”[6]

December 2016 Vacation[edit]

On December 26, 2016 Justin Trudeau and his family left Canada to travel to the Aga Khan’s private residence at Bell Cay, The Bahamas, via Nassau.[1] Over the course of the trip Trudeau would travel to and from various locations via the Aga Khan’s personal helicopters.

During his stay on Bell Cay, Trudeau met with the Aga Khan, as well as then-United States Secretary of State John Kerry who was also visiting the island at the time. This meeting was entirely coincidental and not unusual as in the six months prior, Bell Cay had entertained 178 guests. Trudeau stated that although all interactions were of a purely social nature, the topic of the US administration did come up.[7]

The vacation lasted until January 4, 2017: eight days in total. It was later disclosed that government expenditures for the trip had amounted to $215 000.[8]

This was later followed by the Aga Khan Foundation receiving an amount of $50 million in funding and donations from the Liberal government of Canada. [9]


The existence of the trip was not disclosed to the public.[10] Shortly after Trudeau's return to Canada, however, details about the trip were reported by the media.[11] These were confirmed in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office on January 6, 2017.[12] This began calls for an investigation into the matter by the Official Opposition who filed formal complaints on January 8 and 11 to the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.[13]

On January 14, 2017 then-Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson officially opened an investigation into the matter.[14] As a result of the investigation, two more trips taken by Trudeau’s family to Bell Cay, in March and December 2014 were retroactively disclosed; these were taken into consideration in the final report.[15]

On December 20, 2017 Mary Dawson released her final report entitled “The Trudeau Report”.[16]

The Trudeau Report[edit]

The final report released by the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner exonerated the Aga Khan of all involvement as he was found to be acting entirely within his rights as a private citizen. Justin Trudeau was found to have violated four sections of the Conflict of Interests Act.[17]

Section 5[edit]

Section 5 requires that a public office holder arrange his or her private affairs in a manner that will prevent the public office holder from being in a conflict of interest.

Section 11[edit]

Subsection 11(1) prohibits a public office holder or a member of his or her family from accepting any gift or other advantage that might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the public office holder in the exercise of an official power, duty or function.

Section 12[edit]

Section 12 prohibits ministers and members of their families from accepting travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft unless certain exceptions apply, namely travel required as part of the minister’s official duties, in exceptional circumstances or with the prior approval of the Commissioner.

While the English section of the act, written in both official languages, specifically prohibited various types of aircraft, the French version referred only to avions, or aircraft in general. Trudeau, through his legal team, would unsuccessfully argue that the French wording of the act was written too ambiguously which had caused confusion in his interpretation of the wording and subsequently that no violation had taken place.[2]

Section 21[edit]

Section 21 requires that public office holders recuse themselves from any discussion, decision, debate or vote on any matter in respect of which they would be in a conflict of interest.


The Royal Canadian Mounted Police determined there were "reasonable grounds" to think fraud may have been committed.[18] They considered charging Trudeau; however, they did not do so because, as the head of government, Trudeau may have had the authority to approve the trip himself.[18][19] On December 20, 2017 Justin Trudeau apologized[1] and stated he would report future trips to the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. Trudeau stated "Obviously there was a mistake," and that, "Moving forward, we will be behaving differently…I take full responsibility for it. We need to make sure that the office of the prime minister is without reproach."[20]

Attempts at further investigations into the Trudeau Report, such as calling the Prime Minister to testify before a parliamentary committee, were blocked through parliamentary procedure along partisan lines.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d "'I'm sorry,' Trudeau says after violating conflict laws with visits to Aga Khan's island | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  2. ^ a b "The Aga Khan trip and a glimpse into Trudeau's bad judgment -". Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  3. ^ Dec 20, Kelsey Johnson Published on; 2017 5:21pm (2017-12-20). "Trudeau broke conflict of interest rules: Dawson". iPolitics. Retrieved 2020-12-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Trudeau violated conflict-of-interest law with Aga Khan trips, ethics watchdog says". Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  5. ^ "Justin Trudeau suffers the political consequences of a rarefied scandal | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  6. ^ Dawson, Kim (December 2017). "The Trudeau Report" (PDF). Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. p. 2. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-01-25. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  7. ^ "Trudeau, John Kerry discussed incoming U.S. administration during Aga Khan trip | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  8. ^ "Trudeau's Bahamas vacation cost over $215K — far more than initially disclosed | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  9. ^ "Justin Trudeau and a list of vacations that got him in trouble". nationalpost. Retrieved 2023-04-18.
  10. ^ "Trudeau's trip to Aga Khan's private island kept secret to protect privacy, PMO says". 2017-01-06. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  11. ^ "Trudeau and family were New Year's guests of the Aga Khan on his private Bahamas island". nationalpost. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  12. ^ "Trudeau spent vacation on Aga Khan's private island". CTVNews. 2017-01-06. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  13. ^ Ottawa, Associated Press in (2017-01-16). "Justin Trudeau's holiday on Aga Khan's island comes under investigation". the Guardian. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  14. ^ "Justin Trudeau's vacation with Aga Khan under investigation". BBC News. 2017-01-17. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  15. ^ Dawson, Kim (December 2017). "The Trudeau Report" (PDF). Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. p. 30. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-01-25.
  16. ^ "WATCH and READ: Ethics Commissioner Report on Trudeau and Aga Khan". CPAC. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  17. ^ Dawson, Kim (December 2017). "The Trudeau Report" (PDF). Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. pp. 61–63. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-01-25.
  18. ^ a b Fife, Robert (2022-04-25). "Trudeau faces backlash in House over inquiry into Aga Khan trip". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2022-06-23.
  19. ^ "RCMP considered charging Justin Trudeau over Aga Khan visit -".
  20. ^ "Trudeau says 'sorry' after watchdog finds he broke ethics rules". CTVNews. 2017-12-20. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  21. ^ "Ex-ethics commissioner says 'it's unfortunate' Trudeau didn't consider pitfalls before Aga Khan trip | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2020-12-06.