TORONTO – Canada’s embattled immigration minister, who once called herself the “minister of hopes and dreams,” resigned Friday amid allegations that she promised an Indian pizzeria owner asylum if he would feed her campaign workers.
Judy Sgro denied the charges, calling them “ridiculously false,” but said she had to quit her Cabinet post “to be able to defend myself vigorously.”
Sgro is the first Cabinet minister to resign since Prime Minister Paul Martin’s minority government came to power seven months ago on promises of transparency. The opposition has seized on the scandal, using it to blast Martin’s leadership as weak and ethically challenged.
Sgro’s ministry already was contending with allegations that a Romanian stripper was fast-tracked for Canadian immigration after she and family members volunteered to work on Sgro’s election campaign. Those allegations are being investigated by the federal ethics commissioner and have prompted conservative opposition leaders to demand Sgro’s resignation.
Sgro, 60, insisted the comments by Harjit Singh in a federal affidavit were lies made in an attempt to prevent his deportation.
Singh, a father of three who came to Canada in 1988, was slated to be deported next week on charges of forgery and perjury. He said Sgro approached him during her campaign last spring and asked him to supply her campaign workers with pizza.
In the affidavit, Singh claimed that when word of their arrangement leaked out, Sgro had him arrested and ordered his deportation to “save her job.”
Sgro insisted that she’d never spoken to Singh.
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