OTTAWA Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla says she does not understand the motives of the three Filipina caregivers who say they were mistreated while employed in her family home in Mississauga, Ont.
But, Ms. Dhalla told the Commons immigration committee on Tuesday, she had nothing to do with hiring the women or supervising them. And during her “limited interaction” with them, “they were treated with love and compassion and care and respect.”
Ms. Dhalla said it was her brother Neil who did the hiring and her mother, Tavinder, who did the supervising. In fact, she told her fellow politicians, she was rarely at the home when the women were working.
When asked why she believes there is a “conspiracy” behind the allegations to discredit her as a politician, Ms. Dhalla alluded to possible involvement by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney or his officials.
“One does not know who has been in contact with whom,” she said.
Mr. Kenney has appeared in public with the Conservative candidate she narrowly beat in the last election, she said. And he told CTV's Question Period this weekend that the women have been by told by Immigration officials that the time they spent in the Dhalla residence will be counted towards their permanent residency, even if they were not working as caregivers as required by law.
Yet “today, when the question was asked to the women - ‘Have you ever met with Minister Kenney or with any other department official?' - they denied meeting with any other department official,” Ms. Dhalla said.
“I really hope that my name and my family's name is not being utilized in any way, shape or form to gain permanent residency into Canada.”
Ms. Dhalla's denial of any wrong-doing stood in stark contrast to the testimony of two of the three caregivers who spoke to the committee via video camera from Toronto.
Magdalene Gordo, the woman who first raised the accusations against Ms. Dhalla at a public meeting with Ontario provincial cabinet ministers on April 25, said it was Ms. Dhalla who interviewed her and laid out her responsibilities.
“Dr. Neil was never involved in interviewing,” Ms. Gordo said. “The only interaction with him that I had was when he instructed me on how to shine his shoes.”
Ms. Gordo said she asked Ms. Dhalla if she would sponsor her. “And Ruby said ‘absolutely, I am a member of Member of Parliament and I can ask for a work permit for you.'”
But her relationship soured, she said, when she was asked to clean the apartment of Ms. Dhalla's cousin. And she said she refused to clean the family's chiropractic clinics, as instructed by Tavinder Dhalla, because she didn't realize Neil and Ruby Dhalla were chiropractors and not medical doctors and she worried she would get an infection.
Ms. Dhalla, Ms. Gordo said, continually asked for her passport but she refused to hand it over. At one point, she said Ms. Dhalla became so angry with her for refusing to giver her the documents, that the MP said “if you don't give me you passport, I will never sponsor you.”
Richelyn Tongson, another of the caregivers employed by the Dhallas, broke down in tears during her testimony, saying she could not be sent back to the Philippines because her husband is unemployed and her four children would go without food is not for her salary.
But Ms. Dhalla took her passport, her birth certificate and her marriage certificate, Ms. Tongson said, and she was worried that she would be removed from Canada.
Ms. Tongson said she eventually was given the documents after an outside agency intervened.
But Ms. Dhalla pointed out that Ms. Tongson signed a documents saying it was Neil Dhalla who returned them.
The women also said they were paid in cash – and Ms. Gordo said the Dhallas would not give her her money on the day she quit. Tavinder Dhalla later met her at a McDonalds restaurant and gave her $400 in cash.
“The caregivers did not want cheques because they did not have bank accounts,” Ms. Dhalla said. “The reason she was paid after she was left and not on that day is because she demanded cash, and my mother didn't have cash.”
The allegations have hurt her deeply, Ms. Dhalla said, her voice quavering.
The politics surrounding these allegations “have been in large supply,” she told the committee, adding that her conduct and her character have both been maligned.
“For me politics is not about power,” she said. “It is about helping those very women who we saw testifying earlier on.”