Shooting the Messenger

17 - Ambassador Chrétien

Shooting the MessengerIt was in my nature, if things got rough, to seek the coward’s exit. Why did I not take that way out this time? I quit the government when they wanted me stay; now that they wanted me to go and I decided to stay. Why? One reason was that I loved my job.

I though they would come to their senses and let me do the Currency Fluctuation Report (remember, the monthly report included more than 300 pages of supporting calculations). Tens of millions of dollars were at stake, or so I thought.

It was much later that I would find out that they did not care for the report at all. It was all an excuse. They were not risking a penny.

The request that I manually produce the Currency Fluctuation Report was just a means to an end — the end being my departure; on my own, on a gurney or in a hearse, they did not care.

How could I have been so stupid?

Maybe I wanted to stick around long enough for the Commissioner of Official Languages to complete his investigation; an investigation which was taking forever and about which I was kept much in the dark.

The Commissioner's investigation had been on-going for almost four months when I decided to write to the Deputy Minister, Marcel Massé.

Under ordinarily circumstances I would have written to Gordon's boss Director General of Finance and Management Services Bureau, Dan Bresnahan, but not this time. There was no point. I had filed a number of formal complaints (grievances) about my changed working condition and my first official reprimand for failure to produce the impossible report. Bresnahan had batted them all back, all stamped GRIEVANCE DENIED. He obviously approved of what his underlings were up to.

In my letter to Massé dated October 19, 1984 it is obvious that I have lost some of my perspective despite protests to the contrary. My letter contains a litany of lesser evils such as questioning the lack of tender for large purchases when regulations at Foreign Affairs allowed manager to do this; and greater evils, such as a disregard for French-languages rights which the Department was now taking much more seriously since my intervention.

After receiving what was really a cry for help, Massé arranged for me to meet with Ambassador Extraordinaire Raymond Chrétien.

Ambassador Chrétien was the first of a handful of high-ranking diplomats on temporary assignment in Ottawa who would become actively involve in what was happening to me.

Why Ambassador Chrétien?

Raymond Chrétien, the nephew of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was Canada's Ambassador Extraordinaire. His assignments included Ambassador to Zaire, Ambassador to Mexico, Ambassador to Belgium and Luxemburg, Ambassador to the United States of America. Ambassador Chrétien capped a stellar career in the Canadian Foreign Service as Canada's Ambassador to France.

When I met Raymond Chrétien he was between ambassadorial assignments and was keeping busy as Director General of the Management Review and Audit Bureau. Every department of the Federal Government, like large corporations, has someone in charge of ensuring that the keepers of the public purse are not tempted to help themselves. Between 1983 and 1985 Chrétien was that someone.

I met with Chrétien and his Director of Internal Audit, a Mr. M. G. MacDonald on November 30, 1984 in Chrétien's office.

In notes about my meeting with Chrétien and MacDonald there is no mention of the currency exchange fraud yet I distinctly remember telling Chrétien about the misappropriation of funds, after which he asked his Director of Internal Audit to confirm my findings:

Chrétien: Is this true?

MacDonald: Yes!

Chrétien: Are they allowed to do this?

MacDonald: No!

Chrétien: Are they still doing it?

MacDonald: Correct!

My letter to Massé guided the discussion between Chrétien, MacDonald and myself; maybe that is why that part of the discussion was left out of my notes.

I am telling you this because wherever official documentation or my notes do not conform to my recollection of events I assume the official documentation or my notes to be correct.

I also thought that when I met Chrétien I was starting to lose it, that my lengthy solitary confinement had started taking its toll, but not according to Chrétien. In his report to Massé, Chrétien writes:

During the interview, Mr. Payeur came across as an intelligent, self-possessed and articulate young man. He gave a clear, objective and cogent presentation of his views on the issues without in any way personalizing them or criticising his superiors (italics mine).

In the Federal Court of Appeal, Court No: A-399-86, page 139.

Towards the end of our meeting, MacDonald asked me: “Do you think that what is happening here simply has to do with a Director wanting to get promoted to Director General?"

I declined to speculate about Gordon’s motivation.

The reason for MacDonald's question may have had something to with Gordon's refusal to co-operate with Internal Audit. Gordon had once bragged that he had given one of MacDonald's auditors the "bum's rush".

The meeting with Chrétien and MacDonald ended with the Ambassador warmly shaking my hand (grabbing it with both hands) while thanking me profusely for bringing these matters to his attention.

Chrétien, a gifted diplomat, understood instinctively that all that was needed to diffuse this potentially explosive situation was to treat the person before him like a human being, and provide some assurances that something would be done.

It might have worked had he not asked the Director of Non-Rotational Personnel Division, a S. M. McGahey, to see what could be done about my rapidly deteriorating situation. McGahey would promptly relight the fuse.