The Hill Times, December 13th, 2004
By Angelo Persichilli
'We shouldn't penalize people who fall in love': says Sgro
Embattled Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro speaks up on her
TORONTO--Embattled Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro says she has
no regrets and "would do it again," despite the fact that she's being
investigated by Ethics Counsellor Bernard Shapiro for fast-tracking a Romanian
stripper in Canada who worked on her 2004 re-election bid and has also been
accused of handing out ministerial permits and eight travel permits to members
of the Ahmadiyya community during the election, in exchange for the $5,000
donation which she subsequently returned.
Declared Ms. Sgro last week: "I have no regrets and I would do it
Ms. Sgro also explained why she allowed the exotic dancer to be in Canada,
adding that she wants to change the law because "we shouldn't penalize
people who fall in love."
"I'll be exonerated of any wrongdoing. I just helped a woman in need and to
find a different job other than in a strip club. That was the right thing to do
and I make no apologies for doing that. I did what I do for several people every
week," Ms. Sgro said.
Last week, Ms. Sgro spoke to The Hill Times.
Minister Sgro, if you had the possibility to go back, would you act
"Not a lot. In fact, I wouldn't change anything. The decisions I have made
were made for the right reasons and I'll continue to do that and I will exercise
common sense in my decision-making. It was the right thing to do."
Many don't agree. Tell us what happened then.
"There was a young woman living here in Canada legally for two years,
married to a Canadian citizen who had sent the renewal papers through an
immigration consultant who didn't do what he was paid to do. This woman was out
of status, which means she was an illegal in Canada and would have to go home
for her husband to be able to sponsor her for a year."
So, what did you do?
"All I did was to allow her to stay here for the husband to sponsor her,
and for her to be able to work in another business other than being an exotic
dancer. She was legally married here in Canada, I did not break the law, I did
not bring her into Canada, she was already here married to a Canadian."
There are many other people in the same situation.
"In fact, in a few days I'm going to change the policy in this sector in
the country. I do not believe it is healthy for this country to be separating
people who are legally married if another, for whatever reason, one becomes
illegal. It just doesn't cut with me when we talk about reuniting family when we
build this nation. It is not acceptable that you separate a married couple,
sending one of them back home, to wait for a year to be processed. If we know
that it is a legal marriage, we should help them to stay together, not to
separate them. I'm going to be changing that policy that will allow the exact
problem I had to help this couple with. I'll be fixing that in the next couple
By making it easier, aren't you afraid that the abuses might increase?
"There are a lot of people, right now, in the same situation. As long as we
know it is a bona fide marriage, we shouldn't penalize people who fall in love.
It just doesn't make sense to me. It is a policy that I'll be changing in the
next few days."
Let's talk about the problems with the cheque your campaign received.
"There was no problem with the cheque. The problem was with the receipt.
The receipt was made out with the wrong name. All the kerfuffle in the House was
a receipt issued with a wrong name. The individual who made the donation has
been a supporter of mine for a long time. He was very active in the Ahmadiyya
community. I have 8,000 members of this community living in my riding and they
are almost a million in Canada. They have been supporting me for a long time.
Their support goes way back when I was a municipal councillor and I've tried to
be supportive of them as councillor, as an MP, and, of course, as a minister.
I've known this individual for at least 10 years. The opposition continue to go
after vulnerable women and immigrants. This man now, that has his name all over
the papers, he is a volunteer putting a lot of hours in to make this country
better, is now so embarrassed and humiliated because he has his name all over
How come there are so many permits at the same time for the same group?
"They have a convention that attracts over 500,000 people. All this smear
campaign is all about is to bring a minister down. There is no justification to
it other then cheap politics. When people talk about politics being dirty, well,
this is an example of how dirty it is. I'm waiting for the ethics commissioner's
report. The only thing I know is that they want to do a thorough job, which I
When is the report going to be out?
"I don't know. They are interviewing people up to this and next week, then
they write the report. I hope to have some response before Christmas but we
should leave them to do their job and take all the time they need."
Do you think you have the support of the Liberal caucus?
"I certainly believe that the caucus is behind me, especially after the
today meeting. I know I have the support of my caucus, of the government and of
Prime Minister Paul Martin."
What about your constituents?
"I know that there are many of my constituents calling my office and they
are worried. A lot of emails and phone calls and I know I have their support. I
want to tell them that I'm quite confident that when the ethics commissioner['s
report] is out, I'll be exonerated of any wrongdoing. I just helped a woman in
need and to find a different job other than in a strip club. That was the right
thing to do and I make no apologies for doing that. I did what I do for several
people every week."
Angelo Persichilli is political editor of Corriere Canadese, Toronto's
Italian-language daily newspaper.
The Hill Times