OTTAWA - Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is dismissing claims by Ruby Dhalla's lawyer that the Liberal MP is the victim of a conspiracy mounted by people bent on destroying her political career.
Kenney, in an interview Sunday on CTV's Question Period, insisted he takes no partisan delight in the allegations levelled against Dhalla by three immigrant women who worked as caregivers for her family.
"One never likes to see a colleague from any party facing a difficult personal situation," said the Conservative minister.
"Frankly, I like Ms. Dhalla and have gotten along quite well with her. And I think she does deserve the benefit of the doubt."
The three women from the Philippines who were employed in the Dhalla family home in Mississauga, Ont., last year all say they were overworked and underpaid. Two also claim they were illegally hired while the third says she was paid under the table.
Dhalla's lawyer, Howard Levitt, told a news conference last Friday the allegations are false and "deliberately made in a purposeful attempt to destroy Dr. Dhalla's career and credibility."
Levitt said the only question is "who's really behind" the allegations and who "orchestrated or assisted or enabled" the women to come forward with their claims.
Kenney prefaced his response Sunday with a disclaimer that he doesn't like to comment on individual cases as immigration minister - then went on to denounce the assertions made by Levitt.
"I don't know what conspiracy this would be, between the Conservative part, the NDP, three Filipino nannies and the Toronto Star," he said.
"I can hear the black helicopters hovering overhead. I think it's unfortunate and undermines credibility when people start talking about conspiracy theories."
Kenney said he had no personal knowledge of the case until news of it broke publicly last week.
And he said he doesn't't believe he's ever met any of the three women - although he's held discussions with groups that work with immigrant caregivers and "I suppose it's possible that some people involved in this story were at one of my consultations."
Dhalla remains a member of the Liberal caucus but has given up her post as the party's multiculturalism critic pending resolution of the controversy. She has also asked Mary Dawson, the federal ethics commissioner, to review her actions.
Kenney pointed out, however, that the ethics commissioner is primarily concerned with matters such as conflict of interest affecting MPs.
The allegations against Dhalla and her family revolve around federal immigration law, the provincial labour code and taxation rules, said the minister.
"The ethics commissioner has nothing to do with any of those whatsoever. I don't think that's relevant in any respect."
The Commons immigration committee is trying to arrange for the three women to testify this week.