More trouble for Canada’s Sikh woman MP

May 15th, 2009 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, May 15 (IANS) Embattled Indian Canadian MP Ruby Dhalla, who is facing charges of abuse by her two former nannies, was in more trouble Thursday when an advocacy group working for foreign workers testified in support of the nannies.

Thirty-five-year-old Ruby Dhalla, who is the three-time MP from the local Brampton-Springdale constituency, faces the allegations by her two Filipino nannies that they were underpaid, overworked and forced to do non-nanny jobs while they were employed briefly at the MP’s home here in February 2008.

One of the nannies has also said that Dhalla took away her passport and birth certificate and didn’t return them in what has been described as Canada’s nannygate.

But while deposing before a parliamentary committee Tuesday, Dhalla denied the allegations and said that her brother Neil Dhalla was responsible for hiring them.

But an advocacy group Intercede, which was contacted by the nannies for help last year, Thursday refuted Dhalla’s testimony.

Testifying before the parliamentary committee, Agatha Mason of Intercede said the nanny (Richelyne Tongson) had contacted her in May last year to complain that she was not getting her passport and other documents back from Dhalla.

Mason said the nanny described to her the “slave-like conditions” under which she worked at Dhalla’s home.

She said the nanny also told her that she was not allowed to sit at the table or on a chair in the MP’s home. When the

Dhalla family watched television, the nanny had to sit on the floor.

But in her testimony Tuesday, Dhalla said the two nannies were treated with respect and they had a huge television to themselves.

The advocacy group leader also refuted Dhalla’s claim that her brother was responsible for hiring the nannies. Mason said when she called the MP’s brother about the plight of the nanny, he told her to contact Dhalla in her parliamentary office in Ottawa.

She said when she phoned Dhalla in Ottawa, the woman MP responded in the “do-you-know-who-I-am sort of thing” tone.

A former Miss India-Canada runner-up, Dhalla has called the allegations “a political conspiracy” to defame her.

She is the first Sikh woman to become an MP in Canada and is widely considered to become the first South Asian cabinet minister in a future government by her Liberal Party.

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