In a near universal rejection of his claims, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice – Divisional Court ruled in favour of the City of Brampton and the City’s Integrity Commissioner in a suit filed by Gurpreet Dhillon.
Dhillon, the city’s regional councillor for Wards 9 and 10, was contesting a report from the city’s Integrity Commissioner, as well as the subsequent resolutions passed by city council suspending his pay for 90 days, removing him from several city committees, restricting his official travel, and limiting his communication with members of the public except via email.
Following a virtual hearing on Dec. 16, 2020, the court dismissed all of Dhillon’s claims except the one regarding limiting his communication via email. In addition, the court ordered Dhillon to pay $20,000 each in court fees to both the City of Brampton and the integrity commissioner.
The cases stems from a city trip to Ankara, Turkey, in November, 2019. Dhillon went on the trip in his role as chair of the Economic Development Committee. A small business owner, whose identity remains protected, was also on the trade mission and met Dhillon at night. The complainant alleged Dhillon came to her hotel room and attempted to force himself upon her.
In its decision, the court referenced the Integrity Commissioner’s report that referred to a recording made by the complainant during the alleged assault. The report said the complainant could be heard saying “no” 74 times. “The audio recording makes it very clear how vigorously the Complainant was refusing Councillor Dhillon while he was trying to force himself onto her.”
Dhillon has remained steadfast in denying the charges and refused to co-operate with the Integrity Commissioner’s investigation.
He filed suit seeking to set aside the actions of the Integrity Commissioner and City Council as well as quashing the final report of the Integrity Commissioner’s findings Dhillon contravened the Code of Conduct.
Councillor Dhillon also sought an order quashing some of the resolutions passed by Council on August 5, 2020.
In the end, the court upheld the investigation, the recommendations in the report and the subsequent actions of Brampton city council. The only decision overturned by the court was the restriction of public communication to email. The court found this was too restrictive and penalized constituents who might not have email or might choose to communicate in another way.
Following Friday’s decision, the City sent out a press release.
“The City is pleased with the decision of the Divisional Court confirming the findings and recommendations of the Integrity Commissioner’s Report with respect to the complaint against Councillor Dhillon,” the release read.
“The Court’s findings support Council’s actions and decisions. The Court sent the limitation on Councillor Dhillon’s ability to only communicate with members of the public by email using his City email address back to Council for further consideration. Council may consider this recommendation at the earliest opportunity.”
In his own press release, also sent Friday, Dhillon said the decision “provides a measure of vindication. The Court’s ruling shows that Council overstepped its boundaries in a clear attempt to silence me.”
Dhillon said the court didn’t go far enough and should have quashed the entire report. “I maintain that the report was issued without jurisdiction and after an unfair process, which included a relationship between the Mayor and the Integrity Commissioner, and direct political interference by the Mayor and his staff. I will be exploring all my legal options.”