Norma Greenaway, Calgary Herald: December 11, 1998
The federal government has dug in its heels against two public servants who have filed a $36-million lawsuit alleging rampant abuse of taxpayers’ dollars and relentless harassment by their superiors for refusing to keep quiet about it. A federal response to the suit characterizes the accusations as “mischievous and irrational” and argues any physical and emotional distress suffered by the two employees had nothing to do with their treatment by supervisors in the Foreign Affairs Department.
The statement, filed in the Ontario Court, says the case should be thrown out because the allegations are unwarranted and unsubstantiated.
The lawsuit, launched last June, charges there have been at least $2 billion of unnecessary and unacceptable spending at diplomatic facilities abroad since 1986.
The government statement, a lengthy point-by-point denial of the allegations, signals it is prepared to put up a vigorous defence if the case isn’t dismissed before it gets to trial.
John Guenette, one of the public servants, said he and colleague Joanna Gualtieri, 37, are braced for battle despite mounting legal costs, adding they have no shortage of evidence of wrongdoing and are organizing documents for court.
Guenette and Gualtieri, who are on unpaid leave from the department, say they their efforts to expose abuses met a brick wall. Management ignored the information and “deliberately chose a pattern of conduct that degraded, marginalized and demeaned them, stripping them of their duties,” they say in their statement of claim.
The federal government replied that if the duo suffered harm it was caused by their “failure or willful refusal to recognize and follow the lines of authority and decision-making’ and “their failure or willful refusal to avail themselves of available avenues of recourse.”
The government rejected charges the employees were sidelined after they started to make waves.
The lawsuit names the federal attorney general, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and eight department officials. At a pre-trial hearing last month, the government failed to have the defendants reduced to just the attorney general.
Copyright Calgary Herald 1998 All Rights Reserved.