PELLETIER : VINDICATED
Canada lost a great public servant last week with the passing of Jean Pelletier at the age of 73. Pelletier was a highly successful and longtime Quebec City Mayor before becoming Prime Minister Chretien’s chief of staff. Later he served as Chairman of Via Rail. In whatever post he occupied, Pelletier served with honor, dignity and effectiveness. He made a tremendous contribution to both his city and his country.
Sadly, near the end of his career he became embroiled in the Adscam scandal and in the eyes of many fell from grace. The chief instrument of his downfall was former Canadian Olympic medalist Myriam Bedard.
Bedard was an Olympic medalist who had worked at Via Rail’s marketing department in the early 2000’s. On February 27, 2004 she made public allegations that she had been forced to leave her marketing job at Via Rail in 2002 after raising concerns about the company’s corrupt dealings with one of the Adscam scandal’s central players, Groupaction.
In response to Bedard’s allegations, Pelletier was quoted by La Presse as saying,
“I don’t want to be mean but this is a poor girl who deserves pity, who doesn’t have a spouse, as far as I know.”
He remarked further,
“She is struggling as a single mother with economic responsibilities. Deep down, I think she is pitiful.”
A public furor arose from Pelletier’s remarks coming from opposition politicians and women’s and sports organizations, all of which branded his words as sexist. On March 1, 2004, only two days after his statement about Bedard, the Martin government fired Pelletier for his remarks.
By late March 2004 it became clear that Pelletier’s remarks were not so much off the mark. Bedard, in testimony before the Public Accounts Committee alleged that Groupaction was involved in drug trafficking, that her companion had been the person who convinced Jean Chretien to keep out of the Iraq War, and that Quebec car racing icon Jacques Villeneuve had been paid 12 million dollars to wear a Canadian flag on his uniform. All of these allegations were hotly denied and widely regarded as ridiculous. Certainly none of them were ever proven. Later on, an Arbitrator concluded that Bedard had left Via Rail voluntarily.
In December 2006, Bedard was charged in Canada with abduction of her daughter. She was arrested in the U.S. and detained while awaiting extradition. During that time her daughter was placed in the care of the U.S. government. In January 2007 the child was returned to the father and Bedard returned to Canada to face her charges. In October 2007 she was found guilty of child abduction and violating a child custody agreement. She was sentenced to two years probation.
By March of 2004, Pelletier believed that not only was he wrongfully dismissed but that his reputation had been severely damaged as a result of his treatment by the Martin government. He sued Via Rail and the government for defamation and wrongful dismissal. The Federal Court ordered him reinstated to his job in November 2005. The government appealed, kept Pelletier off the payroll, and fired him again. In March of 2007 the second firing was ruled improper and once again set aside by the Federal Court.
In November 2007 The Quebec Superior Court ruled that in firing Pelletier the Martin government had acted in a “cavalier and precipitous” fashion and showed “a total lack of consideration” which did not “meet the standard of diligence expected from a contractor when a contractual relationship is ended.” It awarded him $335,000 in damages. And in June of 2008 a federal judge cleared both Pelletier and Chretien of any responsibility for the sponsorship scandal.
A few months ago and knowing that he was about to meet his Maker, Pelletier gave an interview to Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil. It was to be released only upon his death. A report of the interview appeared today in the Toronto Star. See: Chretien Ally fires Last Shot at Martin, http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/570603
The piece is worth reading.
A remarkable speech given by Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974 to his White House Staff upon his resignation and departure from public office is also worth reading in the context of the Pelletier tale.
It is a remarkable speech in many respects. But the words which will undoubtedly withstand all of the ravages of time and be remembered through the ages are:
"Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”