B.C. minister denies ex-staffer's claim she accepted money for visa reference letters
CTV News Vancouver
Published Wednesday, May 15, 2019 9:36AM PDT
For a second day, the BC Liberals raised serious allegations about the conduct of an NDP cabinet minister.
The concerns about Jinny Sims, minister of citizens' services and MLA for Surrey-Panorama, come from a staffer fired after weeks on the job.
Sims is denying any wrongdoing after writing "visa support letters" for Pakistani citizens who were later found to be on a security watch list.
During Question Period Tuesday, the Liberals put Sims in the hot seat.
"Despite being caught last year, this same minister continues to purposefully circumvent the system that she has sworn to uphold," MLA Peter Milobar said.
The allegations came from a letter written by an ex-employee, and involve "the attempts to bring foregin nationals into the country that were on a security list in exchange for money," Liberal MLA Mike de Jong said.
Speaking to reporters after QP, Sims said, "I wrote a letter, but no money was ever discussed. As an MP, I used to write these letters."
She 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," she said.
The former staffer alleges three of the 10 people were rejected due to security concerns.
The new accusations came after other questions raised by the same former employee, who claims in a letter that the minister instructed constituency staff to communicate with her by means other than her government email address.
"The whistleblower says, 'I was repeatedly told to never admit the use of personal email for ministerial business as we have to protect the minister,'" Liberla MLA Jas Johal said.
It is alleged that the use of channels including personal email addresses, iMessage and WhatsApp was meant to skirt B.C.'s Freedom of Information rules.
"That is a load of nonsense. A load of nonsense. I follow the rules," Sims said.
"In that very same letter, the privacy commissioner stated, 'For your information the FIPPA – Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act – does not apply to MLAs or the office of a person who is an MLA."
The privacy commissioner's office has confirmed it's reviewing a letter related to the issue.
Other allegations against Sims include that she traded support for campaign donations. The former staffer outlines in the letter a case involving a Surrey developer.
Sims says it's simply not true, and that money was not accepted in any of these cases.
The former employee, Kate Gillie, isn't speaking to media but her lawyer says she's a principled woman who wants to do the right thing.
With a report from CTV News Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan in Victoria