Toronto MP broke ethics rules in hiring her foster sister, investigation finds


OTTAWA—Toronto MP Yasmin Ratansi broke ethics laws when she hired her foster sister to work in her office, the federal ethics commissioner concluded in a report released Tuesday.

That’s despite the fact Ratansi, who left the Liberal caucus over the issue last fall, claimed her foster sister wasn’t her legal sister, and therefore didn’t count as a family member under House of Commons rules.

While that may be technically accurate, ethics commissioner Mario Dion said, Ratansi repeatedly referred to Zeenat Khatri as her sister, and the public perception was that’s who she had hired to work in her constituency office from January 2017 until she was let go last year.

Ratansi let Khatri go after getting a call from the Liberal Party in November, saying they’d been informed she’d hired her sister and that was a violation of the rules.

She then stepped down as a member of the Liberal caucus to sit as an independent in the riding of Don Valley East, saying at the time she would refer the issue to the commissioner, and follow his instructions.

“I made an error of judgment by employing my sister in my constituency office, and I have remedied the situation, but this does not excuse the error I made,” her statement at the time said.

Under ethics law, MPs can’t act in a way that furthers the private interests of family members, though siblings aren’t included in that definition.

They are, however, included in the House of Commons rules governing who MPs can or can’t hire.

So, Dion concluded, Ratansi was in breach of that rule, and in turn in violation of the ethics code that says MPs must avoid real or apparent conflicts of interest.

“While the additional facts that emerged over the course of the inquiry may have revealed the true nature of the family relationship between Ms. Khatri and Ms. Ratansi, the employment relationship nonetheless retained its improper character for the purposes of the Code,” he said.

Dion ruled, however, that the decision to hire her was an error of judgment “made in good faith,” so Ratansi won’t face further sanction.

In a statement, Ratansi said she accepts the report.

“My hope is that this report brings this matter to a close,” she said.

“The report now allows me to turn the page and my pledge is to continue to represent the residents of Don Valley East to the best of my ability and to ensure their voices are heard in Ottawa.”

Earlier this year, the House of Commons board of internal economy, which sets spending and other rules for MPs, ordered Ratansi to repay nearly $9,400 in termination and severance pay given to her sister once her employment in the constituency office was ended.

In an email to the Star, Ratansi did not rule out running again in the upcoming election.

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“I am just processing this report and will be able to reflect on my next steps after,” she said.

Former provincial cabinet minister and current Liberal MPP Liberal Michael Coteau, as well as Hafeez Ladha, an investment consultant with a background in public health, are currently seeking the Liberal nomination in the riding.





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