Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, September 13, 2019 10:33PM EDT
A former high-ranking provincial police officer is suing the Ontario government for wrongful dismissal, alleging he was fired for speaking out against attempts to hire a friend of Premier Doug Ford’s family as the province’s top cop.
Brad Blair also called for a public inquiry into what he alleged was a string of “corrupt” appointments in the Progressive Conservative government.
In his lawsuit, the former deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police also accuses Ford, his former chief of staff and other government bureaucrats of breaching his charter rights and abuse of public office — allegations that have not been proven in court.
Blair was terminated in March after speaking out publicly against attempts to hire Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner as OPP commissioner.
“I have served the OPP faithfully and honourably since 1986 and due to my efforts in safeguarding the independence and credibility of the province’s largest service from improper political interference I was fired,” he said Friday in a news conference.
Blair’s statement of claim further alleges the veteran officer spoke out to prevent anyone from “co-opting the country’s second-largest police service for political and/or personal advantage to the premier.”
Earlier this year, Blair asked the courts to force the provincial ombudsman to investigate that hiring, which was eventually abandoned by the government. He has also launched a defamation suit against Ford himself, alleging the premier damaged Blair’s reputation when he accused him of breaking the Police Services Act.
A spokeswoman for Ford declined to comment on the wrongful dismissal suit.
“As this matter is before the court it would be inappropriate for us to comment further,” Ivana Yelich said in a statement.
Blair said Friday he needed to challenge his “unlawful” firing because of the message it has sent to officers across Ontario. He likened the loss of his career to the death of his father.
“If you’ve ever lost a parent, you’ll know the incredible amount of sadness and loss that you feel,” he said. “That’s what it feels like to me. The OPP was my family.”
Blair’s wife, Danielle, said her husband’s termination has been traumatizing.
“We’ve moved across this province four times in the service of the OPP,” she said. “He’s put his life on the line, he’s put his well-being on the line. But if there’s one thing he’s always done, he’s always done the right thing.”
Blair also called for a commission of inquiry to investigate what he called a string of “corrupt” government appointments. The Ford government has been embroiled in a scandal involving a number of appointees after close links to the premier’s now former chief of staff Dean French were revealed.
That controversy prompted the dismissal of a number of appointees, French’s resignation and triggered a pair of government probes.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said he supports Blair’s call for a public inquiry into the appointments process, calling Blair’s dismissal “deeply concerning.”
“Even the appearance of improper interference by the premier’s office in firing a whistleblower undermines public trust,” he said in a statement. “A public inquiry would shed light on what happened, and enable the government to move forward with changes to improve the appointments system to ensure fairness and accountability.”
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