Toronto police dispute PC candidate's claim of volunteer work with force

Toronto Police officers are questioning the extent of the volunteer work that the Progressive Conservative candidate for Scarborough Centre says she did with the force, CBC Toronto has learned.

'I stand by my volunteer experience,' says Thenusha Parani, who won Scarborough Centre nomination

Thenusha Parani is the Ontario PC candidate for Scarborough Centre. (Twitter)

Toronto police officers are questioning the extent of the volunteer work that the Progressive Conservative candidate for Scarborough Centre says she did with the force, CBC Toronto has learned. 

On official documents submitted to the Ontario PC Party, obtained by CBC Toronto, candidate Thenusha Parani said she has been a volunteer with Toronto Police 41 Division since 2012 and that she works closely with the division's Community Police Liaison Committee as an advisor. 

Insp. James Mackrell, the second-in-command of 41 Division, said there is no record of Parani doing any such volunteer work with the station or the liaison committee. 

'She certainly hasn't advised us'

"She's never advised us on anything," said Mackrell in a phone interview with CBC Toronto. "I have people in the community that I can go to for advice, she's not one of them."

Minutes show Parani did attend five of the liaison committee's monthly meetings since May of 2015 as an observer. "Anybody can do that," said Mackrell. "At those five meetings she was not a presence. She certainly hasn't advised us." 

CBC Toronto spoke to Parani on Wednesday and requested an interview about her volunteer experience. She said she would check her schedule and call back, but did not. Instead, she responded to questions by email.

Thenusha Parani (centre), with the PC candidate for Markham-Thornhill, Logan Kanapathi (left), and PC party president Rick Dykstra (right), in a photo posted to Twitter on July 19. (Twitter)

"I stand by and am proud of my volunteer experience," Parani said in an email.

Parani said she advised Raja Kanaga, a longtime civilian member of the Toronto Police South and West Asian Community Consultative Committee. 

"I helped Raja Kanaga sign up youth leaders into the youth leadership outreach program for numerous years," said Parani.  "It was a very successful youth program. I would identify and was notified of issues on a grassroot level particularly around the youth and community issues in the surrounding area."

She said Kanaga introduced her to the Community Police Liaison Committee at 41 Division.  

"I volunteered my time and went to the CPLC meetings and gather information and pass it along to the community members," Parani said. 

Kanaga later confirmed Parani's description of her volunteer work with him.

"All of the answers I have provided in the attached Questionnaire are truthful and complete," Parani says in the Ontario PC Party's "Candidate Questionnaire and Agreement," a copy of which was obtained by CBC Toronto. 

"I understand that a false or incomplete statement may, in the sole discretion of the Ontario PC Party or its Provincial Nominations Committee, disqualify me as a candidate," Parani says in the signed document.  

Parani writes "Community Police Liaison Committee — 41 division" in the questionnaire under the heading "elected and/or practical experience" in government. 

"I have been volunteering with the local police department (41 division) since 2012," Parani writes on the form. "I work closely with the CPLC, advising them on issues with regards to the South Asian community in the riding. I also work closely with the CCC, which is the Chief's Consulting Committee, and we come up with action plans to resolve issues pertaining to the South Asian community."

Officials at Toronto Police Service headquarters told CBC Toronto that they have no record of Parani working closely with its consultative committee for the South and West Asian community.

The revelations raise questions about the Ontario PC Party's vetting of its candidates. Parani's nomination papers show they were received by the party on May 26, one month ahead of the Scarborough Centre nomination meeting. The document authorizes the party to conduct a background check on her credentials. 

Announcing Thenusha's Parani's selection as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Scarborough Centre, PC leader Patrick Brown said in a statement: "Thenusha has an incredible track-record of giving back to her community as a volunteer. (Paul Smith/CBC)

Mackrell said no PC party officials contacted him in May or June to verify Parani's resume. He said the first he heard of Parani was earlier this month, when another member of the liaison committee questioned her involvement after reading about her nomination in a Scarborough community newspaper.

Mackrell has been stationed at 41 Division for seven years. He said he attends all meetings of the liaison committee, except when on vacation, and he co-chairs them unless the division superintendent is present.

The Ontario PC Party's rules governing candidates specify that its provincial nomination committee is responsible for "making all inquiries which they consider to be necessary or appropriate in order to assess the suitability of a Potential Contestant, including ... determining the veracity of any statements contained in the Nomination Forms."  

'Incredible track-record as a volunteer'

CBC Toronto asked Ontario PC president Rick Dykstra and executive director Bob Stanley whether the party tried to verify Parani's statements about her volunteer work. "You have received or are in possession of personal confidential information that is privileged," Dykstra replied in an email.  "We can not comment on it." 

"Thenusha has an incredible track-record of giving back to her community as a volunteer," said PC leader Patrick Brown in a statement announcing Parani's nomination win in June. "She has worked with Scarborough's Newcomer Summit, Scarborough's Police Liaison Committee, the Hellenic Hope Center Addressing Disability Issues, and the South & West Asia Consultative Committee."

An administrator at the Hellenic Hope Centre said Parani registered as a volunteer in 2012. The administrator, who oversees volunteers, said she couldn't recall when Parani last came to the facility, but said she hasn't been there recently. 

Some PC members in Scarborough Centre are already appealing to the party to revoke Parani's candidacy, with allegations that many of the 26 people who signed her nomination papers were not qualified to do so under the party's rules. 

About the Author

Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C.