Head of Via Rail fired twice, wins two wrongful dismissal cases

Former Chrétien staffer was fired by Martin government for publicly insulting ex-employee and Olympic medalist Myriam Bedard after she testified in sponsorship inquiry

The former head of Via Rail has won a second wrongful dismissal suit against the federal government.

Jean Pelletier, 69, was initially fired from his post on March 1, 2004, for publicly insulting former Via Rail employee and Olympic gold medalist Myriam Bedard after she testified in the federal government’s sponsorship scandal inquiry.

Bedard claimed Via was part of the scandal which involved excessive sponsorship spending by former prime minister Jean Chrétien’s government to Liberal party supporters. Pelletier, who served as Chrétien’s chief of staff from 1991 to 2001 and is believed to have been involved in the sponsorship program, called Bedard a “pitiable” single mother trying to get attention. He was then fired by new prime minister Paul Martin, who was a bitter political rival of Chrétien’s.

In November 2005, a federal court ruled Pelletier’s firing was unjustified. The court said he deserved to know why he was fired and should have been given a chance to answer the charges.

However, the federal government disagreed with the decision and shortly after being reinstated as chair of Via Rail, Pelletier was fired again. He launched a second wrongful dismissal suit.

A federal court once again ruled in Pelletier’s favour on March 30, 2007, saying former transport minister Jean Lapierre was biased against Pelletier and didn’t follow proper procedures for firing him.

Pelletier was not reinstated by the second decision because his contract with Via expired in August 2006. However, his lawyer indicated it was still an important decision.

“The legal impact of this decision is that there is no longer any (cabinet) order-in-council firing Mr. Pelletier,” Suzanne Cote, Pelletier’s lawyer, told CP.

Despite the latest court ruling, the case is not over yet. Pelletier has a $3.7 million lawsuit against the federal government underway.

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