Ruby Dhalla

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Ruby Dhalla

Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Brampton—Springdale
In office
2004 – 2011
Preceded by Sarkis Assadourian
Succeeded by Parm Gill

Political party Liberal Party of Canada
Residence Mississauga, Ontario
Profession Chiropractor
Religion Sikhism

Dr. Ruby Dhalla (born February 18, 1974) is a Canadian politician. She has represented the riding of Brampton—Springdale in the Canadian House of Commons since 2004 as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. Dhalla and British Columbia Conservative Party of Canada Nina Grewal are the first Sikh women to serve in the Canadian House of Commons.

Early life

Dhalla was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba to an immigrant family from Punjab (India), India. She first attracted international attention in 1984, when she was ten years old and living in Winnipeg's north end. When Indian soldiers took part in military actions at Punjab's Golden Temple, Dhalla wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, urging her to resolve the situation without further violence. Gandhi personally replied to Dhalla's letter, and referred to it at a press conference held months before her assassination.[1]

Dhalla received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Political Science from the University of Winnipeg in 1995. She moved to Toronto in the same year, and graduated with a Doctor of Chiropractic from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in 1999. She later co-owned a chain of chiropractic clinics in Toronto, Brampton, Ontario, Mississauga and Aurora, Ontario with her brother, Neil Dhalla.[2] Dhalla has also pursued a career in acting, working in India for six months and playing a leading role in Kyon? Kis Liye? (translated as Why? and for Whom?), a Bollywood-inspired Hindi-language film shot in Hamilton, Ontario.[3] She finished second in the Miss India Canada pageant in 1993.[4]

Dhalla volunteered for Winnipeg Liberal candidate David Walker (Canadian politician)in the Canadian federal election, 1988, and later became a prominent member of the Winnipeg Young Liberals (Canada).[5] In 1998, she was elected as youth representative of the party's standing committee on multiculturalism.[6] Dhalla supported Paul Martin's bid to become Liberal Party leader in 2003.[7]

Dhalla attempted to block the DVD release of Kyon? Kis Liye? in 2009, arguing that publicity photos and posters from the movie had been "doctored" by putting her face on someone else's body. She also said that the film was being released to exploit her status as an elected official. Producer Charanjit "Chico" Sihra has said that no images were doctored, while adding that there is no unsuitable content in the movie.[8] Sinha also contends that Dhalla signed a distribution waiver and was paid $2000 (US), although he also says that the actual form was later destroyed in a fire. Dhalla has denied signing a waiver.[9]

In a 2008 poll of parliamentary staffers from The Hill Times, Dhalla was tied for second-sexiest female MP with Helena Guergis,[10] while that year Maxim magazine ranked her third in "The World's Hottest Politicians" behind Sarah Palin.[11]

Member of Parliament

Government member (2004-06)

In May 2004, Paul Martin designated Dhalla as the Liberal candidate for Brampton—Springdale in the Canadian federal election, 2004. This decision was opposed by the local Liberal Party riding executive, who had favoured Andrew Kania for the nomination.[12] Kania informed the media that Martin had previously allowed him to run for the nomination, and said that he would not rule out standing for election as an independent. The deputy campaign director for the Liberal Party defended Dhalla's selection, describing her as a star candidate who would be beneficial to the party. This controversy took place against a backdrop of 2004 Liberal Party of Canada infighting among other Liberal candidates for riding nominations, in which some rejected candidates accused Martin of undermining party democracy.[13] When the election was called, the Liberal riding association endorsed New Democratic Party candidate Kathy Pounder in protest.[14]

One of Dhalla's supporters in the 2004 election was comedian Mike Bullard (television), for whom Dhalla has worked as a chiropractor. Bullard joked during the campaign that he was helping Dhalla because "all my back trouble is on the Right-wing politics".[15] She was elected by a comfortable margin as the Liberals were reduced to a minority government nationally. After the election, she was appointed to the Standing Committee on Health.

Dhalla was a prominent organizer of the "Canada for Asia" benefit concert in January 2005, along with Canadian Senator Jerry Grafstein and singer Tom Cochrane. The event raised money for victims of the previous month's tsunami disaster in southeast Asia.[16] In October 2005, Dhalla organized a relief effort for victims of an earthquake in Pakistan.[17] She also promoted an accelerated foreign credential recognition process to assist recent Canadian immigrants in gaining professional employment.[18]

Dhalla voted in favour of Canada's Same-sex marriage in Canada legislation in 2005, on the grounds that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms must confer equality on different groups in society.[19]

The Liberal government was defeated by a motion of no confidence in late 2005, and Canadian federal election, 2006 was called for early 2006. Dhalla officially launched her re-election campaign in early December, with Bollywood actor Arjun Rampal as a star attendee.[20] Conservative candidate Sam Hundal attempted to use same-sex marriage as a wedge issue among recent immigrant voters, but was unsuccessful.[19] Dhalla was easily re-elected, while the Conservatives won a minority government at the national level.

Opposition member (2006-present)

39th Canadian Parliament

After the election, Dhalla was appointed as the Liberal Health Critic in the Official Opposition. In June 2006, she criticized Minister of Health (Canada) Tony Clement over a possible conflict-of-interest relating to his ownership of shares in Prudential Chem Inc.[21] The following month, she described Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper's refusal to attend an international AIDS conference in Toronto as "extremely upsetting".[22]

In June 2006, Dhalla alleged that the Conservatives had tried to convince her to cross the floor and join the party, as part of a campaign to win the support of youth, women and ethnic voters. She turned down the offer, saying that the Conservatives do not represent her values.[23] She later criticized Wajid Khan for crossing from the Liberals to the Conservatives.[24] (Khan was defeated in the Canadian federal election, 2008.)

Paul Martin resigned as Liberal leader after his party's defeat in the 2006 election. Dhalla initially considered entering the contest to succeed him, but instead gave her support to Michael Ignatieff. She was the Ignatieff Leadership Campaign's national co-chair, alongside Canadian Senatr David Smith (Canadian Senator) and Member of Parliament Denis Coderre.[25] Ignatieff was defeated by Stéphane Dion on the final ballot of the 2006 Liberal leadership convention.

Dion announced his new shadow cabinet in January 2007, and reassigned Dhalla from Health to Social Development.[26] She criticized the Conservatives for canceling the Martin government's national day-care plan, and spoke against the prospect of large, for-profit foreign firms taking over the industry.[27] She also wrote an opinion piece for the Toronto Star newspaper in early 2008, calling for developed countries to invest the necessary resources to target tuberculosis in the global south.[28]

Dhalla opposed the Conservative government's changes to Canada's immigration laws in early 2008, wherein the government set an annual limit on the number of cases to be heard and gave the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (Canada) the discretion to fast-track some applicants. Dhalla suggested that the Conservatives would show favouritism to immigrants from certain communities. She was quoted as saying, "I think they're really picking and choosing for political purposes which communities they want to work with, and that is why there is a fear among these communities that the immigration laws being proposed right now are going to have an impact on them."[29]

Dhalla issued a Private Member's Bill in April 2008, calling on the federal government to apologize for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which a ship with 376 mostly Sikh immigrants was denied access to Canada. The bill was unanimously passed the following month.[30]

She faced a difficult re-election in Canadian federal election, 2008, and ultimately defeated Conservative candidate Parm Gill by a small margin amid a provincial swing from the Liberals to Conservatives. This contest was marked by open animosity between the candidates.[31] The Conservatives were re-elected to a second minority government on the national level. Shortly after the election, a Toronto man was charged with making a death threat against Dhalla.[32]

January 2008 Indian visit and purse-snatching controversy

Dhalla traveled to the Indian state of Punjab in January 2008. While attending a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) seminar, she called on the state government to introduce more stringent laws to prevent the abuse of married women.[33] She later visited her parent's village of Mullanpur.[34]

During this trip, a member of Dhalla's staff had a Handbag stolen by two children. It was later claimed that these children were beaten by the police after being apprehended. A local television news anchorman quoted Dhalla as saying that she "cannot control what the police do … and [hoped] that those young kids learn from this incident". The anchorman called this "shockingly callous". Dhalla later said that her comments were taken out of context and that she had spoken before she found out how the children had been treated. She clarified that she condemned any type of violence against children and called for an investigation into the incident.[35] The local media later issued a full retraction, acknowledging that Dhalla's initial comments had been presented out of context.[36]

40th Canadian Parliament

Stéphane Dion stepped down as Liberal leader after a poor showing in the 2008 federal election, and Dhalla was mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed him.[37] The Toronto Star listed her as an outside contender, noting that her national profile was not very strong.[38] Before she was able to make her decision, other prominent candidates withdrew from the contest and gave their support to Michael Ignatieff. In December, Dhalla announced she would not be a candidate.[39] Ignatieff was duly acclaimed as interim leader in January 2009, and was officially confirmed as party leader later in the year.

In January 2009, Ignatieff appointed Dhalla as the Liberal critic for Youth and Multiculturalism.[40] She stepped down from the position in May.

Caregivers controversy

Original Toronto Star story and reaction

On May 5, 2009, the Toronto Star newspaper ran a front-page story with allegations that two Filipina caregivers hired to look after Dhalla's mother had been illegally employed and mistreated. The caregivers alleged that Ruby Dhalla had improperly seized their passports, and that the family forced them to do chores such as "washing cars, shining shoes and cleaning family-owned chiropractic clinics". Dhalla responded that she was "shocked and appalled" by the allegations, saying that the caregivers were never abused and that she had never taken anyone's passport. She later released a statement indicating that she had no involvement with the hiring or supervision of the women. Ruby's brother Neil Dhalla has also denied the charges, saying that his family was "[the] victim of an unscrupulous agency, as well as the caregivers".[41] A third caregiver later came forward with similar charges.[42]

The Star reported that these allegations had originally surfaced at a public meeting held by provincial Minister of Education (Ontario) Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Labour (Ontario) Peter Fonseca to address violations of Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program.[41] Opposition legislators later called for Fonseca to resign for not having investigated the matter further; he responded that he attended the meeting as an "impartial" observer, and had distributed pamphlets to all complainants outlining their rights under Ontario's labour laws.[43] Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty added that around thirty other caregivers had raised similar concerns, and that it would have been inappropriate for Fonseca to "pick and choose" individual cases to address himself. He added that investigators from the Labour Ministry would attend future meetings.[44]

Dhalla stepped down as the Liberal Youth and Multiculturalism Critic on May 6, and called for a federal ethics investigation to clear her name.[45] A subsequent Globe and Mail article suggested that she had few supporters within the federal Liberal caucus, and that other MPs considered her a "high maintenance" self-promoter, demanding on her staff and unwilling to engage in the mundane details of parliamentary life.[46] Some Liberal MPs have publicly defended her, however, including Judy Sgro.[47] Bob Rae has said of the controversy over Dhalla, "In my, dare I say it, 30-year career, I've seen a lot of feeding frenzies. I've seen a lot of lynch mob activity. And this is just another example of it".[48]

Press conference and committee testimony

Dhalla held a press conference on May 8, in which she described the allegations against her as a coordinated attack on her reputation. Her lawyer described Dhalla as the victim in the affair, and brought forward several signed documents which he said would verify his client's position. He added that Neil Dhalla was responsible for hiring the caregivers, and suggested that the controversy was part of a partisan smear campaign orchestrated by Dhalla's political opponents.[49]

Both Dhalla and the caregivers testified before the House of Commons Immigration Committee on May 12, 2009.[50] Many journalists wrote that the hearings failed to shed any light on the matter, which they argued should not have been investigated by a political committee in the first place.[51] Committee chair David Tilson said, "They both had opposite stories. Who's telling the truth, I have no idea."[52] Following Dhalla's testimony, Michael Ignatieff said, "A member of my caucus has been accused of a serious, serious issue. She's mounted a vigorous and convincing defence ... and I take her at her word".[53]

On the day after Dhalla's appearance, Agathe Mason, the executive director of a Toronto support group for immigrant women called Intercede, testified before the Commons committee that she had called Dhalla (rather than her brother) when one of the caregivers complained about her passport being withheld. Mason said that she informed Dhalla she was breaking the law and had 24 hours to return the passport, and that to her recollection the passport was returned the following day.[54] Dhalla had previously rejected Mason's accusations, saying that she had never spoken with anyone at Intercede.[55] On the same day as Mason's testimony, Dhalla's lawyer informed the media that one of the caregivers had made unfounded charges against another employer in the past.[56]

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (Canada) Jason Kenney has denied the suggestion of political interference, saying that he had no personal knowledge of the matter until it was reported by the media.[57] His ministerial assistant Alykhan Velshi was later seen handing out documents to reporters at a meeting of the Immigration Committee, in a bid to discredit Dhalla. Some believe that this could have a chilling effect among civil servants in Kenney's department, and prevent them from reviewing the case in a fair and open manner.[58]

No charges have been filed. Dhalla has asked the public and media to "hold judgment and give [her] family privacy".[59]

Electoral record

2008 federal election : Brampton—Springdale edit
Party Candidate Votes % +/- Expenditures
     Liberal (x)Ruby Dhalla 18,577 41.0% -6.3% $80,011
     Conservative Parm Gill 17,804 39.3% +8.5% $86,444
     New Democratic Party Mani Singh 5,238 11.6% -6.1% $21,152
     Green Dave Finlay 3,516 7.8% +3.9% $746
     Communist Dimitrios Kabitsis 135 0.3% +0.1% $407
Total valid votes/Expense limit 45,270 100.0 $87,594
Total rejected ballots 419
Turnout 45,689 54.2% -7.0%
Electors on the lists 84,239


2006 federal election : Brampton—Springdale edit
Party Candidate Votes % +/- Expenditures
     Liberal (x)Ruby Dhalla 22,294 47.3% -0.4% $74,424
     Conservative Sam Hundal 14,492 30.8% +3.3% $67,020
     New Democratic Party Anna Mather 8,345 17.7% -2.2% $13,867
     Green Ian Raymond Chiocchio 1,853 3.9% -0.8% $1,280
     Communist Upali Jinadasa
Wannaku Rallage
110 0.2% - $1,108
Total valid votes 47,094 100.0%
Total rejected ballots 220
Turnout 47,314 61.2% +6.3%
Electors on the lists 77,368


2004 federal election : Brampton—Springdale edit
Party Candidate Votes % Expenditures
     Liberal Ruby Dhalla 19,385 47.7% $61,377
     Conservative Sam Hundal 11,182 27.5% $72,905
     New Democratic Party Kathy Pounder 8,038 19.8% $12,009
     Green Nick Hudson 1,927 4.7% $944
     Communist Gurdev Singh Mattu 86 0.2% $599
Total valid votes 40,618 100.0%
Total rejected ballots 294
Turnout 40,912 54.9%
Electors on the lists 74,591

All electoral information is taken from Elections Canada. Italicized expenditures refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available.

Footnotes

  1. Randall King, "Screen Gem", Winnipeg Free Press, 30 May 2003, D1.
  2. Renu Mehta, "House Bound", Femina, 1 September 2004.
  3. Randall King, "Screen Gem", Winnipeg Free Press, 30 May 2003, D1; "Liberal Ruby Dhalla trying to block release of movie in which she co-starred", Canadian Press, 12 March 2009, 6:11am.
  4. Rebecca Myers, "Unconventional Resumes", Time Magazine (Canadian edition), 14 June 2004, p. 17.
  5. Canada Votes 2004, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Brampton—Springdale riding profile.
  6. "Young Liberals elevate Manitoban", Winnipeg Free Press, 1 April 1998, A4.
  7. Jim Brown, "BC-Martin-Democracy, Bgt", Canadian Press, 9 May 2004, 16:43 report.
  8. Mark McNeil, "Bollywood poster body not me: MP", Hamilton Spectator, 13 March 2009, A5.
  9. "Indo-Canadian Lawmaker up in arms on her role in a movie", The Press Trust of India Limited, 14 March 2009.
  10. "Peter MacKay est le parlementaire le plus sexy selon The Hill Times", La Presse Canadienne - Le fil radio, 15 April 2009, 12:06am.
  11. "The wild, the whimsical and the wacky from the campaign trail", Canadian Press, 11 September 2008, 4:14pm.
  12. "Would-be Liberal candidates cry foul", Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 10 May 2004, A4.
  13. Graham Fraser, "Anger as 'stars' oust Liberal hopefuls", Toronto Star, 10 May 2004, A6.
  14. Katherine Harding, "Party infighting plagues riding", Globe and Mail, 8 June 2004, A6; "Correction", Globe and Mail, 8 May 2009, A2 indicates that Kania himself did not endorse the NDP candidate.
  15. Jane Taber, "Nell Martin: the woman behind the portrait", Globe and Mail, 26 June 2004, A6.
  16. Randall King, "MP plans relief concert", Winnipeg Free Press, 12 January 2005, D10.
  17. "Indo-Canadian MP seeks quake relief", Hindustan Times, 21 October 2005, page number not listed.
  18. Ishani Duttagupta, "New Canada govt may serve Indian immigrants better", Economic Times (English edition), 25 January 2006.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Heba Aly, "Tories say stand on gay marriage tightens race in Brampton", Globe and Mail, 23 December 2005, A15.
  20. "Arjun Rampal kick-starts Canadian MP's campaign", Hindustan Times (English edition), 8 December 2005.
  21. Bill Curry, "Clement resists conflict claims", Globe and Mail, 14 June 2006, A4.
  22. Beth Duff-Brown, "Canada's PM will not be among record number of delegates at Toronto AIDS summit", Associated Press, 31 July 2006, 16:45 report.
  23. John Ivison and Peter O'Neil, "Indo-Canadian Liberal MP invited to join Tory ranks", Vancouver Sun, 16 June 2006, A6.
  24. Richard Brennan, "Taxpayers have right to see Khan's report, critics argue", Toronto Star, 15 January 2007, A10.
  25. John Ivison, "It takes a quitter to start a race", National Post, 9 February 2006, A8; Michael Ignatieff with his national campaign co-chairs, accessed October 2006.
  26. Juliet O'Neill, "47 Liberals to shadow 30 Tories", National Post, 19 January 2007, A4.
  27. Tonda MacCharles, "Opposition parties unite to fight big-box daycare", Toronto Star, 1 November 2007, A1; Laurie Monsebraaten, "Canada letting kids down, report says", Toronto Star, 20 November 2007, A4.
  28. Ruby Dhalla, "It's time for action; Tuberculosis is easy to cure but the lack of resources permits epidemic to spread", Toronto Star, 26 March 2008, A6.
  29. Susan Delacourt, "Opposition raises discrimination fears; But immigration plan clears one challenge", Toronto Star, 10 April 2008, A21; David Akin, "Tory budget legislation passes with help from Grits", Ottawa Citizen, 10 June 2008, A1. The Liberals as a whole decided not to bring down Harper's minority government on this bill; Dhalla was one of a number of Liberal MPs who voted in opposition.
  30. Kim Bolan, "Apology on the way for Indo-Canadians", Vancouver Sun, 12 May 2008, B1; Joanna Smith, "Apologies for past wrongs abound", Toronto Star, 20 May 2008, A13.
  31. Theresa Boyle, "Bitter battle between Dhalla and Gill", Globe and Mail, 15 October 2008, U10.
  32. "Toronto man charged with threatening MP", Globe and Mail, 21 October 2008, A10.
  33. "Canadian lawmaker calls on Punjab to check domestic violence", Asian News International, 7 January 2008.
  34. "NRIs cherish visiting their ancestral villages", Asian News International, 21 January 2008.
  35. CTV.ca News Staff, "It MP touring India calls for change after kids beaten ", CTV.ca, 10 January 2008, [1], accessed January 2008.
  36. Sonya Fateh, "Indian police quietly drop case of MP, stolen purse", Toronto Star, 10 March 2008, A1.
  37. For instance, see Norma Greenaway, "Possible successors a varied lot", Montreal Gazette, 21 October 2008, A2; Juliet O'Neill, "Dion vows 'respectful' leadership contest", Edmonton Journal, 24 October 2008, A6; "Two Manitobans among Liberal leadership contenders", Winnipeg Free Press, 24 October 2008, W1; Brian Laghi, Jane Taber, Campbell Clark, "The race to renew the Liberal identity", Globe and Mail, 30 October 2008, A17.
  38. "Taking bets on next Liberal leader" editorial, Toronto Star, 23 October 2008, A6.
  39. Roger Belgrave, "Leadership run not in the cards for local MP", Brampton Guardian, 18 December 2008.
  40. "No place for Dion on Ignatieff's front bench", National Post, 23 January 2009.
  41. 41.0 41.1 Dale Brazao, "Ruby's nanny trouble", Toronto Star, 5 May 2009, A1.
  42. Dale Brazao, "Housekeeper 'paid under table'", Toronto Star, 8 May 2009, A1.
  43. Dale Brazao, Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson, "Provincial ministers defend actions", Toronto Star, 7 May 2009, A1.
  44. Keith Leslie, "Ont. Tories demand labour minister resign over Ruby Dhalla nanny allegations", Canadian Press, 6 May 2009, 4:26pm.
  45. "Dhalla quits critic's role amid family controversy", Canadian Press, 6 May 2009, 10:36am; Mike de Souza, "Dhalla resigns critic post, vows to clear name", National Post, 7 May 2009, A6; Susan Delacourt, "Dhalla seeks federal ethics investigation", Toronto Star, 7 May 2009, A1.
  46. CAMPBELL CLARK, GLORIA GALLOWAY AND KAREN HOWLETT, "Scandal sidelines ‘high-maintenance' Liberal MP", Globe and Mail, 7 May 2009, A3.
  47. Susan Delacourt, "Fellow MP says Dhalla 'devastated'", Toronto Star, 8 May 2009, A6.
  48. Gloria Galloway and Karen Howlett, "Committee to hear from MP's ex-workers", Globe and Mail, 8 May 2009, A5.
  49. Caroline Alphonso, Kate Hammer and Daniel LeBlanc, "Political conspiracy fuelling nanny scandal, Dhalla says; Caregivers' claims ‘complete nonsense'", Globe and Mail, 9 May 2009, A1; David Akin, "Dhalla caregivers' allegations a partisan smear, lawyer says", Ottawa Citizen, 9 May 2009, A3.
  50. Juliet O'Neill, "Dhalla denies caregivers' allegations made at Commons committee", CanWest News Service, 12 May 2009.
  51. "No light on live-in caregivers" [editorial], Globe and Mail, 13 May 2009, A14; "The Ruby Dhalla sideshow was a waste of MPs' time", Montreal Gazette [editorial], 13 May 2009, A16; "Politicians shouldn't investigate each other", Waterloo Region Record editorial, 13 May 2009, A6.
  52. Juliet O'Neill, "Contradictions abound in Dhalla, caregivers testimony", CanWest News Service, 12 May 2009.
  53. Susan Delacourt, "Ignatieff standing by Dhalla; But Liberal leader refuses to take sides in affair where caregivers allege abuse in MP's household", Toronto Star, 13 May 2009, A14.
  54. Gloria Galloway, "Foreign-caregiver advocate contradicts Dhalla", Globe and Mail, 14 May 2009; Susan Delacourt and Dale Brazao, "Advocate for caregivers says MP's recollections are the opposite of hers", Toronto Star, 15 May 2009, A1.
  55. Susan Delacourt and Dale Brazao, "Nanny trouble", Toronto Star, 6 May 2009, A1.
  56. Emily Senger, "Dhalla counsel turns tables on accuser; Man says he was falsely accused of mistreating nanny at centre of issue", National Post, 15 May 2009, A2.
  57. "Tory minister Kenney denies conspiring against Ruby Dhalla", Canadian Press, 10 May 2009, 2:19pm; Gloria Galloway, "Tory minister rejects Dhalla ‘conspiracy'; Kenney says he has never met caregivers", Globe and Mail, 11 May 2009, A3.
  58. Sue Bailey, "Kenney's stance on Dhalla could taint probe: critics", Canadian Press, 14 May 2009, 5:01pm.
  59. "Statement from Dr. Ruby Dhalla, Member of Parliament Brampton-Springdale", Ruby Dhalla, 8 May 2009. This document is available at Dhalla's website.

External links