Ottawa ordered to reinstate sovereigntist leader

Ottawa ordered to reinstate sovereigntist who was fired for her political activities.

The Department of Canadian Heritage has been ordered to reinstate a former employee who was fired because she belonged to a sovereigntist organization.

The Public Service Labour Relations Board has ruled that Edith Gendron was improperly fired two years ago.

Gendron may have been in conflict of interest when she was elected president of the group Le Quebec, un Pays in 2004, but the board found that Gendron's termination was an excessive reaction, and ordered the government to give her back her job.

Ottawa was also ordered to give Gendron back pay for the two years since she was fired from her position as a mid-level program officer.

The Department of Canadian Heritage can still appeal Thursday's decision.

The board's decision Thursday was praised by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which cited it as proof that public servants have a right to participate in politics.

"This decision allows people to put that lawn sign up, to join a political party, to participate in an election campaign," PSAC regional vice-president Ed Cashman said.

Gendron's firing became big news when she was fired in 2004.

The Heritage Department asked her to step down from her role with the political group, saying it would put her in conflict with her departmental job.

She refused to resign, saying the department had not demonstrated any such conflict. She was warned again and then fired.

Cashman never doubted that Gendron would be reinstated, given a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 1991 that said that civil servants have the right to get involved in politics.