Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cheliak bilingual a year ago, but not any longer?

If it were not apparent that the Harper government does not believe in the independence and expertise of public servants, there is almost no doubt about it following the removal of Marty Cheliak from his post as acting Director General of the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP). The reason offered for his removal from the post, that he does not meet the bilingual requirement for the job, immediately arouses suspicion.

Cheliak was appointed Director General of the CFP in August 2009. It is safe to assume that he was no more bilingual then than he is now. After all, most people who are bilingual don't lose the ability to speak both languages in a year. Clearly, if Cheliak is not bilingual now, he was not bilingual then. It follows with undeniable logic that he therefore did not fulfill the bilingual requirements for the job.

The RCMP would have definitely known this a year ago. Unless the bilingual requirements for the job have been modified, which they have not because otherwise the RCMP would have said so in their press release. It appears that the RCMP was willing to overlook the bilingual requirement a year ago, if indeed it exists. The question thus becomes, who has brought the RCMP's attention to Cheliak's shortcomings? And if so why now?

The candidate that comes to mind is Stephen Harper. After all, there is the tell-tale sign of a classic Harper vs public servant duel, disagreement over a hot-button issue. Linda Keen disagreed with the Harper government over the handling of the Chalk River reactor. She was fired. Pat Strogan criticized Ottawa's handling of veterans' and he is now being shown the door. Cheliak was an advocate of the long gun registry, a system he said protected Canadians. He had also formed a coalition of various groups, including front line officers, in favour of the long-gun registry.

Now he is fired. Interestingly the final vote on the bill to abolish the long gun registry will be held when Parliament resumes in September and the outcome is by no means certain. With Cheliak organizing significant and telling opposition (who would know better than officers whether or not the long-gun registry is effective), the Conservatives had a formidable adversary.

This is the only possible reason for the timing of the decision. True, this firing looks subtler than that of others who have defied Harper. However, the point remains: Cheliak could not have been bilingual a year ago, but not be any longer.
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