On Wednesday, August 5, 2020, Brampton City Council unanimously passed a motion requesting that Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon resign. Council also passed the steepest penalty legally available and suspended Dhillon without pay for 90 days.
This all follows an Integrity Commissioner (IC) probe which determined the councillor, while on a trade mission to Turkey with the Canadian Turkish Business Council in November 2019, sexually harassed and assaulted a Brampton woman who was also on the same trade mission.
(Readers should note that the IC report does not indicate criminal wrongdoing or guilt. The complaint from the alleged victim has not been tested in a court of law.)
Council also voted to implement each recommendation made by the IC, Muneeza Sheikh, in her report, which was released publicly on Friday, July 31, 2020. The report stated that Dhillon subjected the complainant (identified as a Brampton businesswoman) to “unnecessary, unwelcome, and unwanted sexual touching”.
Council also voted to have Dhillon make a formal apology to the complainant, to take him off his city committees, and to forbid him from representing the City of Brampton outside of the province. He is also not allowed in the city’s offices at this time other than to get his mail or attend council meetings. Further, Dhillon may only be in touch with the public via his city email address and no other means, such as phone calls or face-to-face visits.
The 268-page report also indicated that Sheikh was first made aware of the allegations against Dhillon by Mayor Patrick Brown in late November, after the complainant contacted him and told him what happened.
Sheikh’s report contained evidence ranging from interviews with the complainant and others, text messages and an audio recording made on the complainant’s phone. The transcript of this recording is in the IC report, and it shows that the complainant can be heard saying “no” to Dhillon 74 times over the course of the playing time of 2 minutes and 57 seconds.
According to the IC report, Dhillon didn’t participate in the investigation because of what he cited as “procedural irregularities.”
During Wednesday’s council meeting, Mayor Patrick Brown said, “I know the recommendations of the integrity commissioner are extensive, but I think by adopting the recommendations, we show very clearly we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in our city.”
Dhillon denies all the allegations and says he will not be stepping down.
He said in a statement on Wednesday, “I am deeply troubled by city council’s politically motivated decisions today in response to the integrity commissioner’s flawed report. I have and continue to vehemently deny all allegations against me and have commenced legal action.”
He continued, “As noted many times in today’s council meeting, this investigation began without a formal complaint and has been tainted from the start. The numerous inconsistencies in the complainant’s story have never been reconciled. Nor was I afforded due process.”
Nader Hassan, Dhillon’s lawyer, said the councillor applied for a judicial review last week. It names the city and Sheikh and makes the claim that the investigation is flawed in both the process itself and the report.
At this time none of Brampton City Council’s decisions affect Dhillon’s position, pay or duties on the Region of Peel Council.
The Integrity Commissioner report can be found here (opens as a PDF).