Ontario premier defends action against Indian woman

February 27th, 2008 - 11:42 am ICT by admin  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, Feb 27 (IANS) Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has defended police action against an Indo-Canadian freelance reporter, who has been booked for making “death threats” against his staff after she sent him ingredients to make gulab jamun. Neelam Vir, 40, a freelance reporter and part-time teacher, who met the premier during the October provincial election campaign, has been accused of writing threatening e-mails to McGuinty’s staff.

While covering his election meetings and functions before the Oct 11 elections last year, Vir had come to know that the premier liked the Indian sweet gulab jamun.

So she sent him a packet of ingredients that go into making gulab jamuns on Sep 30, just days before the elections.

After sending the packet, she emailed the premier asking whether his office staffer Monica Masciantonio had given it to him.

“If she didn’t give it to you, I’ll kill her,” she wrote. The police booked her for death threats against the premier’s staff.

Premier McGuinty expressed his sadness over her ordeal.

“What really strikes me is the whole thing is kind of sad,” he said, adding he had no previous knowledge of the incident till it appeared in the media Tuesday.

However, he defended police action against the Indian woman. “Obviously, if I or someone in my family or staff receive some kind of threat, we turn it over to the police and they deal with it the way they see fit,” the Star quoted him as saying.

Vir said what she wrote was just a term of endearment for loved ones. “Indians often say in Hindi `Main Tumhari Jann Nikal Dungi’ (I will kill you),” she said.

But this was taken as a threat to the premier’s office staff. Though no action was taken immediately, in mid-November the police knocked at her door. She was arrested and her laptop, camera and other documents were seized.

The 40-year-old Indian immigrant woman, who holds a PhD in botany, was released on condition that she would not contact the premier, his staff, family and not enter the provincial assembly, known as Queen’s Park.

But she wrote to the premier again, apologising for her mistake, which she called “a cultural misunderstanding”. She was re-arrested for this breach of her release terms.

Vir and her husband, who also holds a PhD in entomology, came to Canada from India in 2002.

Since they could not get any employment in this country, Vir returned to her teaching job in India.

Back in Canada once again, she could only become a part-time teacher. In desperation, she emailed Canadian leaders about the plight of newcomers.

The October provincial polls in Ontario gave her an opportunity to know Premier McGuinty.

Hoping that he would help her land a job, she is reported to given his wife her resum

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