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MP Yasmin Ratansi denies claims of abusive, inappropriate behaviour in social media post – CBC.ca

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After more than a week of silence, MP Yasmin Ratansi has posted a statement on Facebook denying allegations by former employees that she created a “toxic and verbally abusive” environment in her office and that she ignored the immigration files of certain constituents.

In the post, Ratansi writes that “anonymous complaints have surfaced alleging inappropriate behaviour on my part with my staff. I categorically deny this. To the best of my knowledge, no one has filed a complaint about me.

“I sincerely believe that I have always behaved professionally and appropriately. Former members of my staff remain close friends, and I am proud to have mentored many of them over the years.”

Multiple sources alleged to CBC News that they saw Ratansi tell staff to stop working on immigration and family reunification files for some South Asian constituents’ because she felt they were “untrustworthy” or they “lied” because of their ethnicity.

“This is simply false,” Ratansi wrote.

Allegations ‘simply false’

“As many of you know, I have devoted much of my life to building bridges between Canadians of different backgrounds and have been recognized for my work in this regard,” she continued.

“As the first Muslim woman elected to Parliament and through my community work, I am well aware of the challenges visible minorities face in our country. Discrimination against any group of Canadians is simply contrary to my core values.”

MP Yasmin Ratansi denies allegations by former employees that she created a “toxic and verbally abusive” environment. (Facebook)

The now Independent MP left the Liberal caucus earlier this month after a CBC News investigation revealed that she had been employing her sister in her constituency office for years, in violation of parliamentary rules.

The matter is now before the ethics commissioner. Last week, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s office sent Ratansi a letter of concern and gave her 30 days to respond.

Several former staffers told CBC News Ratansi tried to cover up the relationship by having her sister use a fake first name. The former employees claim they witnessed her sister hiding in a spare office when members of the public came to the constituency office.

“I think it’s horrific that a member of Parliament that’s entrusted to behave honourable and ethically can get away with impunity,” said a former employee on Nov. 9. “It really questions the integrity of the institutions.”

‘Co-operating with the ethics commissioner’

CBC News agreed to protect the identities of the sources, who said they fear harm to their careers and retaliation from Ratansi herself after speaking out.

“As I have stated,” Ratansi said in her Facebook post today, “I erred in having my sister as a paid member of my staff for the past few years.

“I have apologized for this lapse in judgment, addressed the situation, and am cooperating with the Ethics Commissioner.”

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is reviewing MP Yasmin Ratansi’s conduct after it was found she was employing her sister in her parliamentary office. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

In response to Ratansi’s statement today, a former staffer gave this statement to CBC News: “I am disappointed in Yasmin Ratansi and her lack of integrity in denying the allegations against her. She needs to acknowledge that she acted unprofessionally, was a bully and abusive towards her staff.”

Ratansi, a backbencher, is a trained accountant and represented Don Valley East from 2004-2011 and again from 2015 to the present. Up until a few weeks ago, Ratansi was the chair of the standing committee on environment and used to be the vice-chair of the committee overseeing federal government departments’ expenses.

Her sister Zeenat Khatri has worked as her constituency assistant for much of her time in office, according to six former staffers. 

Violating parliamentary rules 

During her early years as an MP, it was against the rules to hire “immediate family” — including parents, spouses and children — but not siblings. That changed in 2012 when the House’s Board of Internal Economy updated its bylaws, said House director of communications Heather Bradley. 

MPs have their own operating budgets and are allowed to pay constituency assistants a maximum salary of $89,700 a year, according to the House of Commons. That means Ratansi could have paid her sister up to $269,100 for three years of salary.

Several former staff members also claim they heard Ratansi casually make comments they considered “racist” by applying stereotypes to Chinese, South Asian and Caribbean constituents and communities.

The four former employees CBC News spoke to also claim Ratansi mistreated some staff by yelling about their work, insulting their appearances and publicly humiliating them. 

CBC News spoke to a fifth former employee who said that while Ratansi is opinionated, they never felt they were being mistreated or heard any troubling comments.

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Surrey councillor gets death threat through a social media message – Vancouver Sun

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Article content continued

Hundial said the message contained “a single threat. And it was direct. It came through messenger online and had a bunch of slurs attached to it.”

One of the names he was called was “pig … you know, referencing my previous career,” he said.

“And it was basically saying, put a bullet in me. And he also made reference to the Prime Minister — Trudeau — as well.”

While the person had a profile on social media, Hundial says he doesn’t know if it’s a real one or not. It’s not someone with whom he has had previous contact.

“It’s someone that does appear in their profile to have links to some sort of organized crime — in the U.S. and there’s an anti-social degree here, anti-religion, anti-police,” he said.

The person who sent the message did not refer to the controversial decision to replace the Surrey RCMP with a municipal force, but Hundial believes the rhetoric around the issue may have led to the threat.

“I’ve been fairly outspoken my position on the police transition. And certainly, this didn’t happen when I was a police officer,” he said.

“I don’t mind engaging in political discussion and discourse. But recently in Surrey, the level of the discourse on the political side has certainly escalated with all these fake posts and memes going around. … And I put that squarely on the shoulders of the mayor and his team, which seem to be the biggest instigators of this.”

Mayor Doug McCallum had no comment on the threat to Hundial, his media representative, OIiver Lum, said Tuesday.

Hundial said the hardest part was explaining to his 12-year-old why “there’s a police car parked outside her window.”

He said he hopes the person is held accountable that a “very strong clear message is sent that people can’t be bullied.”

“We do live in a civilized society and people need to act like it. You need to tone down the rhetoric.”

kbolan@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/kbolan

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Sources close to ex-PM Abe say his camp subsidised backers' party: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Sakura Murakami

TOKYO (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office helped cover the costs of dinner parties held for his supporters, sources close to Abe told local media on Tuesday evening, in a possible violation of funding and election laws.

The resurfacing of the scandal, which dogged Abe in the last year of his tenure could damage his political reputation and also threatens to drag in successor Yoshihide Suga, who was Abe’s right-hand man during his 2012-2020 term.

Politicians in Japan are forbidden to provide anything to constituents that could be construed as a gift. The rule is so strict that one cabinet minister quit in 2014 after distributing paper fans during the summer.

Abe vehemently denied his office had subsidized parties during parliamentary sessions last year where he was grilled by opposition lawmakers on his office’s involvement in hosting the reception.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he said he was aware of the accusations and promised that his office will “fully cooperate” with Tokyo prosecutors who are looking into the matter, but declined to comment further on the accusations.

“He can’t run or hide,” opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano said of Abe on Tuesday, adding that the revelation meant Abe had lied in parliament when he had denied his office subsidized parties.

“Prime Minister Suga was also the ringleader of the Abe administration in his position as chief cabinet secretary, and he can’t escape that responsibility,” Edano said, according to NHK.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, stepped down in September due to health problems, but has stayed on as a lower house lawmaker.

The opposition has demanded he address the accusations during a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday, but the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) refused to concede to the request, saying it was “unreasonable.”

Local media, including public broadcaster NHK, said Abe’s office helped cover a shortfall of about 8 million yen ($76,540) over the last five years of his premiership to hold annual dinner parties at swanky hotels for his supporters, citing people close to the ex-PM.

Although each supporter paid about $48 for their attendance, the total cost of hosting the parties came to more than $190,000 over five years, exceeding the total amount collected from ticket sales and creating a gap covered by the ex-PM’s office, NHK said.

Tokyo prosecutors are analysing hotel documents that suggest Abe’s office partly subsidized the receptions, and conducted a voluntary questioning of Abe’s former aides, media said on Monday.

In interviews with NHK, sources close to the ex-PM said staff members working for Abe had told their former boss when asked last year by Abe whether the office had partially footed the bills for parties that the ticket sales had covered the costs when in fact, they had not.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; editing by Richard Pullin)

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Ignore the social media echo chambers – TechCrunch

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After Election Day, NPR, The Washington Post and various blogs described America as bitterly divided or on the brink of civil war. These were by the same journalists, pundits and intellectuals who only know how to sell fear.

“They want to take away your guns!” and “They want to take your children away!” were their cries, while praising BLM’s protesters on one screen and promoting videos of the infinitesimal number of rioters on another.

The Atlantic speculated about widespread violence depending on the outcome, but I never believed these seemingly well-researched reports that have become commonplace in our clickbait-driven world. And as we saw, nothing of real concern happened; instead of violence, there were relatively small protests and dancing in the streets.
The gap that supposedly divides our nation is narrower than the doomsaying pundits, intellectuals, politicians and cause leaders want you to believe. Why do they want you to believe this? Because promoting division and conflict sells and grants a perverse glue that unites people within their tribal communities. Behind these labels of conflict are seeds of fear that can grow into irrational fears. Fears without reason, fears beyond facts. Sometimes these fears become things we hate  —  and our society and nation should have no place for hate, because it is an unproductive emotion without any possible positive outcome.

I’ve learned to ignore much of the headline-driven news and social media echo chambers where ridiculous ideas fester across our political spectrum. There are obviously ridiculous ideas, such as QAnon, but the subtly ridiculous ideas can be more dangerous and potentially even more destructive. These ideas can be diminished by simple questions to the average reasonable person.
One idea spawned in some progressive echo chambers was the notion that Trump would stage a coup d’état if Joe Biden won the election (i.e., “Did you see those unmarked federal police!?” which signaled to some that a coup was coming).

A basic element of a coup d’état is military support or control, which obviously Trump did not have. I would ask basic questions around this idea, but always ask the rhetorical question, “Do you know how difficult it is to conduct a coup d’état?” Meanwhile, in some conservative echo chambers, a similar concern made rounds that “defund the police” was an effort to install a “federal police force” that Biden would control once in the Oval Office. So there really isn’t much original thought inside the echo chambers of America.

Maybe both sides with such fantasies recently watched that Patrick Swayze classic, “Red Dawn,” where a tiny militia of high school students held off the combined forces of the old Soviet Union and Cuba. Or maybe they saw “300,” in which Sparta’s army held off more than 300,000 invaders. After watching either of these inspirational movies, I might possibly believe such a militia or “federal force” could overpower the whole might of the U.S. military. Ahem.

For those warmongers and soothsayers warning of civil war, where do they want the country to go? Static echo chambers of America, or a vision of suburban folks with pitchforks and handguns versus urban dwellers carrying machine guns and Blue Bottle coffee mugs?

Since the level of violence after the election did not in fact match the crystal balls of these oracles, the definitions and terms have of course changed. As Bertrand Russell stated, “fear is the main source of superstition”  —  to which I would add that fear is also the source of really stupid predictions and ideas.
And let’s be clear that while I do criticize the echo chambers of social media, they are only tools of promotion, because echo chambers are not limited to the online social media. Echo chambers can be homes, bars, lodge meetings, yoga studios and Sunday bridge clubs. The enablers are the pundits, intellectuals, politicians and cause leaders that seed these ideas.

Conspiracy theories, misinformation and outlandish statements were quite capable of spreading before the recommendation engines of Facebook and others were fully developed. For example, in 2006, over 50% of Democrats believed the U.S. government was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack. More than half of registered Democrats believed in this conspiracy theory! And let’s not forget the Obama “birther” conspiracy, where at least 57% of Republicans continued to believe that President Obama was born in Kenya even after he released his birth certificate in 2008.

But today, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media sites have become extremely powerful accelerants for such provocative ideas and strange fictions. Tristan Harris, co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology, was recently featured in the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” where he discussed how social media tends to feed content to retain people’s attention and can spiral downward.

This can become an abyss of outright misinformation, or — even more importantly in my estimation — for subtle, ignorant ideas, such as coups d’état and civil wars. And those destructive ideas and irrational conspiracy theories from the 2000s that probably took months to spread, are now supercharged by today’s social media giants to infect our society in a matter of days or weeks.

The fabric of our nation was delicately woven, but after countless turns of the loom between conflicts and enlightenment, our country has proven itself extremely resilient. Indestructible beyond today’s calls for racism and ignorance, for anarchy and destruction, and for civil wars.

Biden is our President-elect with a mandate to lead our nation beyond this divide  —  a divide that I believe has been overstated. Many citizens met in the middle to provide Biden with a mandate to bridge the gap. The “blue wave” didn’t occur and House Republicans gained 10 seats, which means many Republicans and independents voted “red” down-ballot but also voted for Biden.

Trump had the largest number of minority votes for a Republican presidential candidate in history, including from 18% of Black male voters  —  and that number would have been much higher pre-pandemic. I see all of this as a positive, because our citizens are not voting party line or becoming beholden to one party.

In reality, many of the major issues that supposedly separate us are much closer than we know. For example, I’ve sat down behind closed doors with a senior adviser on healthcare for a major Republican leader, who stated that Obamacare isn’t far off from what they were planning. The difference was that their plan was more small business friendly and their cost savings would be among the younger demographic. I also sat down with a senior adviser for Obamacare, who explained that they believed it wasn’t sustainable unless the cost savings were for those 65 and above. So the differences on such critical policies are not miles apart but only steps away from each other. Although at times politics are about credit and conflict, hopefully such differences can be resolved in the near future.

I hope this election will change the temperament of our nation and its citizens. I hope it will lead more people to ignore the tactics of both political parties and organizations seeking their attention and support. Their shortsighted methods should be cast away like the relics of the past and conflict should not be the tool of this new America. Instead, let’s focus on productive dialogue to find common ground, and thoughtful, practical policies to move our nation forward.

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