B.C. cabinet minister steps down amid special prosecutor investigation
A B.C. MLA has resigned from her cabinet post after the appointment of a special prosecutor in an RCMP investigation.
In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Premier John Horgan announced that Minister of Citizens' Services Jinny Sims had offered her resignation from cabinet and he had accepted it.
"We take any such investigation very seriously," the premier said. "While we await the conclusion of the matter, I have asked minister Selina Robinson to temporarily assume responsibility as minister of citizens services."
In a statement to the Canadian Press, Sims said she is not aware of the allegations that have been made against her, adding that she is confident her name will be cleared.
Sims has been the subject of misconduct allegations in the past. In May, a former staffer in her office accused her of breaking the province's freedom of information rules, alleging that she instructed her staff to communicate with her via unconventional channels -- such as iMessage, WhatsApp and personal email -- while doing government business.
Kate Gillie, the former staffer, also alleged that she had written "visa support letters" for Pakistani citizens who wanted to come to Canada and were later found to be on a security watch list, and that she wrote the letters in exchange for money.
Asked for comment Friday night, Gillie's lawyer Don Sorochan told CTV News Vancouver "the answer should come from those doing the investigation."
CTV News reached out to the RCMP, the BC Prosecution Service and the Attorney General's office for more information. The Attorney General's office referred all questions to the prosecution service. Both the RCMP and the prosecution service provided brief written statements.
The prosecution service wrote:
"The BC Prosecution Service can confirm that, after a request from the RCMP, Richard Peck, QC, a senior lawyer in private practice in Vancouver, has been appointed as Special Prosecutor to provide legal advice in relation to an investigation into criminal wrongdoing involving the Minister of Citizens’ Services, Jinny Sims, and others. No other information is available at this time."
The RCMP wrote:
"The RCMP has an active investigation underway and we will take the time necessary … Given the role of the individual(s) involved, the RCMP sought the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. We have nothing further to add at this time."
When the allegations were made in May, Sims acknowledged writing the letters while she was a member of the Canadian Parliament, but said she never received any money.
Visa support letters are common practice, she said, but she admitted it was a mistake to include her job title.
"In this case, I knew some of the people who were coming," Sims said at the time.
Sims has denied any wrongdoing with regard to freedom of information rules.
"That is a load of nonsense," Sims said of those allegations in May. "A load of nonsense. I follow the rules."
Speaking to reporters Friday night, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the NDP government had failed to heed his party's warnings about Sims.
“For almost a year we’ve been raising issues about the lack of integrity of Jinny Sims and John Horgan completely ignored the problem until the RCMP stepped in and he was forced to drop her from cabinet,” Wilkinson said.
“We received a lot of information from her staff, people who are appalled at her behaviour," he continued. "We handed that over to the RCMP and perhaps that’s the cause of this investigation, but there may be other issues.”
Sims is the MLA for Surrey-Panorama. She was first elected to that seat in 2017. She was previously an MP for Newton-North Delta, but lost the renamed Surrey-Newton seat in the 2015 federal election.