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Indian pizzas cost Canadian minister her job

A Toronto-based pizza shop owner who faces deportation, caused the minister's downfall, reports Gurmukh Singh.
PTI | By Gurmukh Singh, Vancouver
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2005 12:29 PM IST

Harjit Singh, a Toronto-based Indian pizza shop owner, has triggered the resignation of Canadian Immigration Minister Judy Sgro. Singh is also facing deportation.

Sgro had to resign on Saturday following Singh's allegations that the minister promised to bail him out if he provided free pizzas and workers for her election campaign last year.

Harjit Singh, who came to Canada in 1988, faces deportation within a week on charges on forgery and perjury in 2000 for travelling to India on someone else's passport.

The minister resigned on Saturday when the Toronto Star published a story based on Harjit Singh's court affidavit in which he alleged that order of his deportation came "when word of his arrangement with Sgro started to leak out.
The minister suddenly reneged on the deal and last month ordered his arrest and removal from Canada 'to save' her job.''

Sgro had won the York West seat in Toronto in the June 2004 parliamentary elections.

In his affidavit, Singh says when he spoke to Sgro during her election campaign about his immigration problems; she promised to bail him out if he helped her with free pizza deliveries and workers during her campaign.

"I own a pizza store in Brampton and Sgro said that she wanted me to deliver pizza, garlic bread etc., to her campaign office in North York. I did this. She also said that she needed 15-16 people to help work in her campaign. I organized this for her as well," the Star quoted Harjit Singh in his affidavit.

After her poll victory, Harjit Singh alleges, Sgro's adviser Ihor Wons told him that he would forward his case for "clearance to immigration in Ottawa." 

Harjit Singh's court affidavit also had a certificate signed by Sgro thanking Singh for his "outstanding contribution to my 2004 re-election campaign."

Then things began to sour. Ihor "told me that there is a lady working under Sgro, her name is Katherine Abbott, and that whatever had happened in Toronto regarding my case and other people's cases, Katherine had opened her mouth and talked about it.

"Ihor also told me that now because of Katherine opening her mouth, it has put Judy into trouble, so he said that Judy will not be able to do anything for me regarding my situation. He requested me not to talk to the media regarding my case."

Fearing exposure, Harjit Singh alleges, Sgro ordered his arrest on December 26 on the ground that he failed to report to authorities on December 6 (made mandatory for him since 2001 after the forgery case of 2000). 

"I have been here for 16 years and have no criminal record. My whole family is here and my wife's grave is here. I have worked hard in Canada. What am I going to do if I am sent back to India? I have no one there. My family, my business and all of my property is here in Canada," the Star quotes his affidavit.

The minister was already under investigation by the Canadian Ethics Commission for allegedly fast-tracking the immigration application of a Romanian stripper, Alina Balaican, after she volunteered on Sgro's election campaign.

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