Friday, June 5, 2009

MPs call for Dhalla nanny investigation

Probe abuse allegations: Committee

June 05, 2009
Dale Brazao
The federal and provincial governments should investigate allegations by caregivers that they were mistreated and abused while working at MP Ruby Dhalla's home, a Commons committee has recommended.

While stopping short of calling for a police investigation the report recommends, "the authorized bodies in the provincial and federal governments investigate allegations of the former live-in caregivers in the Dhalla residence and take measures as appropriate."

The 31-page report of the Citizenship and Immigration committee recounts the allegations of abuse made by caregivers Magdalene Gordo, 31, and Richelyn Tongson, 35, while working at the Mississauga home shared by Dhalla, the 35-year-old MP for Brampton-Springdale, her mother Tavinder and her brother, Neil.

The allegations were first reported in a Toronto Star investigation last month after the two Filipino nannies came forward saying they were interviewed and hired by Dhalla to look after her mother, but ended up working long hours in non-caregiving jobs, such as shining shoes, washing cars, shovelling snow cleaning at family owned chiropractic clinics.

Both admitted to working "illegally" at the Dhalla home without proper federal approvals (commonly called LMO's) or work permits. Both alleged Dhalla had taken and held on to their passports while promising to get them the proper federal documents they needed to work legally.

"The committee regrets that such situations may occur under the live-in program," according to a draft copy of the report obtained by Torstar News Service.

Both Gordo and Tongson "expressed concern about requests for passports or holding passports purportedly for the purpose of the LMO and work permit applications," the report says.

Dhalla, who appeared before the committee shortly after the women testified offered a different version of events, and vehemently denied any mistreatment of the nannies by any member of her family.

The report categorizes her testimony as having a "different perspective."

"She denied any involvement with the employment or immigration status of the caregivers and claimed the allegations against her were false," the report says. "She addressed some of the specific claims made by the caregivers concerning pay, tasks, and passports and asserted that people entering the family home were treated well and with respect."

The investigation will likely involve the federal departments of Citizenship and Immigration, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Canada Border Services Agency, as well as well as the provincial labour department as the allegations made by the caregivers touch on all these jurisdictions, a source told Torstar News Service.

HRSDC processes requests from Canadian residents wishing to hire a foreign caregiver. The Immigration department hands out the work permits necessary before they can began working in a home. But it is up to the provinces to enforce labour laws as it relates to hours of work, minimum wage, days off and overtime.

The federal live in caregiver program is governed by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which calls for maximum penalties of two years in jail and $50,000 fine for anyone "employs a foreign national in a capacity in which the foreign national is not authorized under this Act to be employed."

Ignorance of the law is no excuse and "a person who fails to exercise due diligence to determine whether employment is authorized under this Act is deemed to know it not authorized."

Reached for comment yesterday, Magdalene Gordo said she welcomed the investigation.

"I have endured a lot of emotional trauma since I went public with this, but I felt I was doing the right thing to improve the working conditions for all caregivers working in Canada."

"I am confident the truth will prevail, and we have told the truth."

The Spec

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