Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dhalla resigns as critic, vows to fight to clear her name in nanny scandal

It all comes out in the wash for the hypocritical LIBERALS EH

The controversy swirling around Liberal Ruby Dhalla has forced the Toronto-area MP to resign from her critic's portfolio after accusations that she illegally hired and then mistreated two caregivers.

The accusations were made in the Toronto Star.

Two nannies, Magdalene Gordo, 31 and Richelyn Tongson, 37, said they were hired to look after Dhalla's mother but ended up washing cars, cleaning chiropractic offices, even polishing the shoes of Dhalla's brother.

Dhalla says she's giving up her post as the party's multiculturalism critic while she works to clear her name.

Gordo and Tongson claim they earned $250 a week working 12- to 16-hour days at the Dhalla family home in Mississauga, Ont., and that Dhalla seized their passports.

In a statement released to the media, Dhalla says she is giving up her critic's role "in order to focus my attention on clearing my name" and that she will "vigorously" defend her reputation.

"I will work with the appropriate officials to ensure the facts of the matter are clarified and corrected regarding my family's experience with live-in caregivers and will work vigorously to defend my reputation," she wrote in a short statement.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff also released a terse statement on Wednesday. In it he said he was looking forward to "a determination of the facts regarding her family's experience with live-in caregivers."

Staying on as MP
Dhalla says she is not stepping down as MP for Brampton-Springdale.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said he couldn't comment on specific allegations nor would he deign to "politicize the complaints process."

But his assistant, Alykhan Velshi, later circulated to reporters a press release from the Independent Workers Association that called on Ontario's attorney general to investigate Dhalla.

Kenney himself, while saying he didn't know the facts of the Dhalla allegations, was emphatic that holding the passports of foreign caregivers is offside.

"Employers should not be taking their employees' passports and that's the kind of tactic which a lot of, which some caregivers indicate makes them feel that they're especially vulnerable — that if they don't have access to their own travel documents they can be easily exploited," Kenney said outside the Commons.

NDP MP Olivia Chow noted that the allegations range from mistreatment to tax evasion and lack of proper worker documentation.

Chow suggested the police might need to be involved because "if all those allegations are true, then there are three or four laws at least that have been broken, whether it's labour laws or immigration regulations."

Gordo told CBC News she was hired by Dhalla in February 2008, but she didn't last long.

She and Tongson had come to Canada from the Philippines on temporary foreign caregivers visas and were sent to Dhalla's Mississauga home by an agency.

When Gordo arrived she found there was no infant or sick, elderly person to take care of, which is what the federal program is intended for. Her only caregiver job was looking after Dhalla's mother, Tavinder.

Both Gordo and Tongson said Tavinder Dhalla looked fine but she had a foot problem that meant her feet needed to be massaged every evening.

Gordo claimed she never signed a contract with Dhalla, which is required. She also claimed that Dhalla asked for and kept her passport.

She alleged she was forced to work hours that were longer than mandated by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Finally, after three weeks, Gordo found the conditions so bad she quit.

Gordo recalled a conversation when she asked Dhalla that she pay her for the time Gordo worked.

"She was raising her voice and starting to yell at me, 'And you stay away from me because I'm going to call the police and I have the power to throw you [out of the country] ... And I was tortured because I was so scared. I know exactly that she is powerful," Gordo said.

"She is so rich and powerful and why is she not giving me this couple of hundreds [of dollars] that i earned from seven o'clock in the morning until 11, 12 o'clock in the night. Like, it is so painful."

Spoke out at meeting
Gordo and Tongson's stories came to light after they spoke openly at a meeting which was attended by Ontario Labour Minister Peter Fonseca and provincial Education Minister Kathleen Wynne, about two weeks ago.

The presence of those ministers led to an eruption at Queen's Park on Wednesday.

PC critic Lisa MacLeod told the legislature that Fonseca personally heard claims from the caregivers that their passports were withheld and they were paid $1.56 an hour.

Fonseca wouldn't speak directly to the issue, but said he had heard many stories from caregivers and told the federal government to fix the program that brings in foreign workers as live-in caregivers.

With files from The Canadian Press

1 comment:

  1. When will the 4 million dollar inquiry start?