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Money trail from Quebec chocolate sales company proceeds murky

10/21/2014 05:00 EDT | Updated 12/20/2014 05:59 EST
There are questions about how a charity that receives funding from controversial chocolate sales company Ado Boulot  spends some of the cash.
  
The Fondation d'adolescents en difficulté du Québec (FAD Quebec), a registered charity, organizes activities for students who have autism or learning disabilities. It sends a handful of them on supervised trips to countries such as Cuba or Costa Rica once a year.
 
But of the three school boards FAD says it finds recipients from, only one said it has any kind of relationship with the foundation.
                                        
Isabelle Sergerie, president of the foundation, told CBC Montreal Investigates that Ado-Boulot, a company that employs teenagers to sell chocolate bars, donates around 10 per cent of its sales proceeds to the charity.

The company's high-pressure sales techniques have come under fire by at least one parent whose teen said he was fired for not meeting a quota. The company denies any such quotas exist. 

The foundation has direct ties to Ado-Boulot. The company's president serves on FAD's board of directors.

In 2013, FAD Quebec raised $18,636, and spent nearly $16,000 of that on expenses, according to financial returns filed with the federal government.
 
The vast majority of its expenses went to "charitable activities", but nearly one third of that spending isn't detailed in its government filing.
 
The other two-thirds was spent on items including advertising, promotion, travel and vehicle expenses, according to those documents.

Sergerie said the foundation finds its teens from schools in three Quebec boards: Des Samares, Des Affluents, and Ste-Thérèse.

School board ties questioned

The Des Samares school board said it had no direct ties to the foundation and the Ste-Thérèse school board has not existed since 1998.
 
Another entity, la Commission Scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles, now covers its territory.
 
Des Affluents said it sends some of its secondary school students to a program run by the non-profit NGO Les Jardins du Méandre that lists FAD Quebec as a partner.

Jardins president Nancy Aubut told CBC FAD Quebec has donated around $7,000 to its activities since 2012, and ''does some PR work'' for her.

The Commission Scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles said it has no current ties to the foundation; however, it and Des Affluents had run-ins with Ado-Boulot two years ago.

Both boards said representatives of the company tried to solicit on school property and were told not to return.

Meeting minutes for a Seigneurie high school, the Polyvalente Deux Montagnes, show the incidents occurred more than once.

"[Principal] Diane Gladue mentions she will call police services to make a complaint. This company comes each year to distribute ads illegally to students at the school," the document reads.

Seigneurie said it fell short of calling authorities, and the visits stopped.

No official complaints 

There have been no complaints filed against either the foundation or Ado-Boulot with any governmental jurisdictions.

Ado-Boulot obtained a permit for door-to-door sales from Quebec's Office de la Protection du Consommateur in 2014, four years after it started up.

"It's normal for a lot of companies not to know they need one immediately," said Office spokesperson Jean-Jacques Préaux.

CBC Montreal Investigates

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