Thursday, May 07, 2009

Is Dhalla guilty until proven innocent?

I don’t really know Ruby Dhalla so I can’t say if the rather serious allegations that have been raised sound plausible or not. But I do think her stepping-aside from her critic responsibilities until this matter is cleared-up is the right thing.

These are serious allegations. But they are just that: allegations. And in this country we’re all still innocent until proven otherwise. I want to see these allegations fully investigated by the proper authorities. And then, once we have all the facts, the proper action should be taken. But until then, we should let the investigative process proceed and the investigative authorities do their work.

And that should be the attitude of those who really care to see justice done here, and who really care about the welfare of domestic workers in general, and the two workers raising the allegations in this case in particular. Unfortunately, it seems many are more interested in playing politics here then actually seeing justice done.

Take Ontario NDP MPP Cheri DeNovo, who seems to want Dhalla thrown in jail. DeNovo didn’t specify if she wanted a trial first, or if she was playing by Monopoly “don’t’ pass Go” rules. I find this particularly ironic coming from DeNovo, who has been the victim of some rather scurrilous accusations herself during her career. You’d expect a little more compassion from a church minister who has faced plenty of slings and arrows herself.

There’s Jason Kenney saying he can’t comment while his communications director feeds ammunition to reporters and Conservative MPs raise the issue in question period.

There’s anonymous Liberals snipping in the media, apparently eager to talk-down an ambitious young female MP who was perhaps advancing faster than they’d like.

And, of course, this all comes to light just as a report dealing with this very topic is scheduled to be released in Parliament. The timing is very convenient, to say the least.

Look, there are lots of unanswered questions here. Are the allegations true, or not? If they are, was Dhalla even involved, and to what extent? It could be her brother that did the hiring and managed the household. We don’t know.

But I think we owe it to both Dhalla and to the workers to wait until we have all the facts until passing judgment. She has stepped aside, which is the proper action and sets a higher standard than the Conservatives have ever held themselves to. She is taking the allegations seriously, and has promised to cooperate fully in the investigation. The investigation is proceeding. That’s enough for now.

Or at least it should be, if justice is really what this is about.

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Joseph said...

I found it interesting that "The Point" on CBC used the allegations as a starting point for (strangely light-hearted) banter on the topic of what requests are "too extreme" for an employer to ask of their employees.

What struck me was that it was over 5 minutes into the show, after repeating the accusation details more than once including audio of the former employees, that the host finally got around to adding - belatedly at the end of some minor additional point - that it would be bad "if these accusations prove true." I've seen and heard plenty of stories in which the news uses the word "accusations" as the lead of the story then later in the conversation drops the phrase. But I cannot recall a time where a news lead began with stating the accusations as if they were given facts so blatantly.

My instinct tells me there is something to this story - paperwork issues, actual disputes on the employment terms, including responsibilities, etc - but I think it is already clear these women are being used or willingly working from a political angle as well. I thought the coordinated tag-team yesterday in the House of Commons between the "socialists" and Conservatives was particularly telling.

Even so, I find the assumption of guilt very powerful. I am not one to use the word "sexism" often, but I've seen men of all parties given much more "cautious" framing for larger crimes. Look no further than Mulroney, but anyone who pays attention to politics can quickly create a list that crosses party lines of men who were accused of huge crimes and/or indiscretions yet were given wide berth assumptions of innocence until the facts were nearly indisputable.

I just find it a little disturbing at the automatic acceptance that the worst possible scenario is true in this instance. I can't imagine that happening to a man in the same situation.

Michael Harkov said...

It seems that a THIRD worker has come forth to issue a complaint against Ms. Dhalla. Not only is this story on increasingly strong legs, it seems it has grown another one.