Brampton law firm silent on its employment of former MP Raj Grewal, who resigned due to a gambling problem
A local law firm is keeping mum about its connection with Raj Grewal, the former MP for Brampton East who resigned last week over a gambling problem amid an investigation by the parliamentary watchdog into alleged abuses of the Conflict of Interest Code.
In public disclosures to the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Grewal, a practising lawyer, noted he had received “employment income” from a pair of Brampton companies, including construction firm Zgemi Inc. and local law firm Gahir and Associates.
Grewal initially cited “personal and medical” reasons for stepping away from his seat in the House of Commons. But after being questioned by the media, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement explaining that Grewal’s departure was due to a gambling problem and major debt.
“Earlier this week, Mr. Grewal told us that he is undergoing serious personal challenges, and that he is receiving treatment from a health professional related to a gambling problem that led him to incur significant personal debts,” the PMO wrote in a statement to The Pointer. “Based on these circumstances, we agreed that his decision to resign as Member of Parliament for Brampton East was the right one. We hope he receives the support he needs.”
A receptionist at Gahir and Associates told The Pointer that Grewal worked directly with lawyer Harinder Gahir but would not divulge what that work entailed. Gahir was occupied in meetings all day and would be unavailable for comment, the firm said.
According to its website, Gahir and Associates practises in areas including business, civil litigation, real estate and immigration law. The website biography for Gahir notes that he has been practising law in Canada since 2000 and he has “successfully represented his clients before the Immigration & Refugee Board and Federal Court. His areas of practice include Corporate & Commercial law, Commercial and Development Real Estate and complicated immigration cases.”
Grewal, 33, got himself into hot water over his employment connections earlier this year when he invited Zgemi Inc. CEO Yusuf Yenilmez to attend receptions during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial trip to India in January. The building company executive attended functions during the official visit, which featured meetings and events with influential politicians, business people and bureaucrats from Canada and India.
In March, NDP MP Charlie Angus sent a letter about the matter to ethics commissioner Mario Dion, asserting that Grewal’s conduct violated aspects of the Conflict of Interest Code, which applies to all MPs and prohibits using public office to benefit private interests.
The commissioner determined that the complaint warranted an official investigation. A probe was launched in May and appears to be ongoing. The commissioner’s office had not responded to requests for comment as of the time of publication.
The rules about MPs accepting outside employment depend on their position, and there are grey areas. The Conflict of Interest Code, which applies to ordinary MPs, allows most to hold outside employment as long as they are not using their parliamentary office to advance their own interests or those of someone else. (Members of Cabinet, however, are strictly forbidden to take outside employment under the Conflict of Interest Act; this would not apply to Grewal.)
“This general rule set out in the Members’ Code is complemented by rules that prohibit Members from using their public office to influence a decision and taking advantage of insider information, in order to further their private interests or those of a family member, or to improperly further another person’s or entity’s private interests,” states the ethics commissioner’s website. “For example, furthering a private interest would include cases where a Member’s actions result, directly or indirectly, in outcomes such as an increase in a person’s assets or obtaining a business position.”
The Pointer has been unable to reach Grewal for comment since his resignation, and he has shared little information publicly since then, except for the Facebook post where he initially announced he would be stepping aside.
“This has been a decision I’ve struggled with for some time now and one I made with great difficulty and real sadness. But I feel I need this time to focus on my health and family,” Grewal wrote in his resignation Facebook post. “I am grateful for your unwavering support over the past three years. Brampton East is and will always be a special part of my life. I will continue to work for this community and am hopeful I will have the opportunity to serve you again.”
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