Boreal

Lucette and that Damned Firing

Bernard & LucetteI was sitting at my computer, an early Compaq portable, thinking about who to write to—after the Right Honourable Chief Justice Robert George Brian Dickson dismissed the appeal of my dismissal for alleged insubordination with a curt, cold "not a question of national interest"—when she came up the stairs, put a hand on my shoulder, and softly said: “You’ve done enough; time to move on.”

I was not ready to give up. I was not ready to move on, even if two and half years without a paycheck had taken its toll. All our savings were gone and we were deeply in dept.

“Ross said he has talked to a consultant he knows from Montréal who is looking for someone to manage some of his people here in Ottawa.”

I ignored her, not something I usually did.

“Don’t you understand? We are broke,” she said. “We have no more money. The bank won’t lend us any more; you have to get a job.”

I still ignored her. I am sorry about that.

“Won’t you at least meet with the person who is willing to give you a job?” she pleaded.

I had not looked for a job thinking it pointless! Who would hire someone who had been fired from the Public Service, especially with the Appraisal From Hell as a reference. Someone was actually willing to overlook all that. If I was not at least willing to talk to such a person, I risked losing more than mere possessions.

I only referred to Lucette twice, and not by name, in my whistleblower’s tale for fear that the government would do to her what they did to me. Her security clearance was somewhat more impressive than mine. If the RCMP, as the diplomats wanted them to, had declared me to be a security risk, as my spouse, she would have lost her security clearance and her job along with it.

I met my future partner in life while working at Communications Canada. She was a professional translator on temporary assignment at the agency.

We had been seeing each other for almost seven years when she decided it was time. We were playing backgammon at my place—I think I was winning—when she said “If I win this game, you have to marry me.” She liked to talk about how she won me in a game of backgammon. I like to think I let her win because I would have been a fool not to.

About a year after we first met, she joined the elite of government translators/interpreters: the fifty or so professionals who provide translation services and simultaneous interpretation to the House of Commons, the Senate of Canada, Parliamentary and Cabinet Committees and Party Caucuses.

It was not her Master’s in Linguistics, and later, her Master’s in Business Administration, that made for the most interesting dinner conversations, but her interest and knowledge of the Classics (literary works of Ancient Greece and Rome) and Renaissance literature, art and history.

It was a good thing that we had a wide variety of subjects to talk about because, many an evening, there was no point in asking about her day; she would not tell me, not even a hint. She had taken an oath to respect the confidence of the people she worked for, and that was that.

As part of her job, she often found herself in the same room as government Ministers and sometimes even the Prime Minister. The hardest thing for her during my confinement, with an impossible task to perform and a promised loss of employment no matter what I did, was stopping herself from walking up to a powerful Minister, or even the Prime Minister, and pleading with them to help me.

She had promised me she would never do that. She did, however, confront an aide to Joe Clark in Montréal and pointedly ask what had they done to her husband. She also recommended David Kilgour, a Member of Parliament whom, in her opinion, my former employer could not bribe or otherwise influence, to plead my case with the Right Honourable Joe Clark; but that was the extent of her involvement outside the home.

I did not want her to plead my case with any of the powerful people with whom she rubbed shoulders, not only because if she inconvenienced the wrong Minister she was out of a job, but because this was my fight and it would be won or lost on its own merit. My concern for her job was also why I did not want her at my hearing before Thomas W. Brown, or at my appearance before the Federal Court of Appeal and later, the Supreme Court of Canada.

My opponents had revealed themselves to be people without honour. Her presence could only inspire further acts of reprisal with her as the means. I would not take the risk, even if her counsel at my hearing before the Federal Court when Judge Marceau stated the obvious would have been invaluable.

In some ways, my firing had more of an abiding, deleterious effect on her than on me. She actually blamed herself for not having taken better care of me. As if any other woman could have done more, before, during and after! In any event, I would not let her, so she should not have felt bad. But still she did.

In the spring of 2015, I drove Lucette to her job on Parliament Hill for the last time; her chronic lung condition now made it impossible for her to work as a Parliamentary interpreter. Her doctor told her there was only so much time left and to do what she always wanted to do before it was too late. One thing she loved to do was travel and meet new people.

One evening, we talked about regrets. She had few, I had many—one being that losing my job and having to start over meant she had not travelled as much as she would have liked; something that was no longer possible. 

At the worst of times, and even as her world was closing in, she never complained about our life together, and that night was no different. She placed one hand on top of mine, looked at me with those soft blue eyes, and said, "Don't be sad; that doesn't matter. What matters is that during my life with you, I have always felt loved. What more could a woman ask for?"

Bernard Payeur, June 30, 2016, Updated Jan 17, 2020

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