June 15, 2021
This report presents the findings of my inquiry under the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons (Code) into the conduct of Ms. Yasmin Ratansi, Member of Parliament for Don Valley East, in relation to the employment in her constituency office of Ms. Zeenat Khatri, from January 23, 2017, until November 2, 2020. Ms. Ratansi publicly referred to Ms. Khatri as her sister.
The inquiry focussed on section 8 of the Code, which prohibits Members, when performing parliamentary duties and functions, from acting in any way to further their private interests or those of a member of their family, or to improperly further another person's or entity's private interests.
I determined that Ms. Ratansi had furthered Ms. Khatri's private interests within the meaning of the Code by employing Ms. Khatri in her constituency office. As Ms. Khatri was not considered a family member for the purposes of the Code, I had to determine whether those private interests were improperly furthered.
The Code does not set out the circumstances that constitute an impropriety when considering actions that may improperly further another person's private interests. I have determined, however, that an impropriety could include circumstances where a Member acts contrary to a rule.
In this case, I considered the Members By-law (By-law) of the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy, which governs the use of the resources provided by the House to Members for the purpose of carrying out their parliamentary functions. The By-law prohibits a Member from hiring members of their immediate family, including a brother or sister.
The evidence gathered during this inquiry shows that while Ms. Ratansi had always considered Ms. Khatri as her sister and publicly referred to her as such, Ms. Khatri is in fact her foster sister. However, the public perception of Ms. Ratansi's family relationship to Ms. Khatri, based on Ms. Ratansi's own public statements and actions, led nonetheless to the strong appearance of an employment relationship that was contrary to the By-law.
I used my discretion under section 3.1 of the Code to take into consideration the purposes and principles of the Code in making a determination as to whether the rules of conduct had been contravened in a particular case. Principles 2(b) and (c) state that Members are expected to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interests and to perform their official duties and functions in a manner that bears the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that may not be fully discharged by simply acting within the law. Taking these principles into account, I found that the appearance that a Member has contravened a rule outside the Code can, in certain circumstances, lead to an impropriety for the purpose of section 8.
Having found that Ms. Ratansi furthered Ms. Khatri's private interest by hiring her in her constituency office, and that she did so improperly because of the appearance of an employment relationship that contravened the By‑law, I found that Ms. Ratansi contravened section 8 of the Code.