Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford, faces allegations she intentionally inflicted mental suffering on an ex-ambassador.
The allegation is contained in a lawsuit filed by Vivian Bercovici, a former Canadian ambassador to Israel, who was appointed by the Harper government and fired by the Liberals.
Bercovici alleges she was terminated without being properly compensated for pension benefits, and that the government abused and harassed her.
On Monday, her lawyer will petition the Ontario Court of Justice to amend the lawsuit to have Telford and four senior officials of Global Affairs Canada added as defendants.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
The Justice Department said in a reply filed in court last month that Bercovici’s allegations should be dismissed.
Bercovici has been a source of controversy since Harper appointed her as his envoy to Israel in 2014. She faced internal opposition within the foreign ministry for being too pro-Israel.
Bercovici is Jewish and a supporter of Israel.
The Harper Conservatives faced frequent criticism that they were too pro-Israel in their Middle East stance, and vigorously rejected the long-held notion in Canadian diplomacy that Ottawa should see itself as an “honest broker” in the conflict between the Jewish state and the Palestinians.
Bercovici’s lawsuit alleges she was instantly un-welcomed by the bureaucracy . She was “not only unsupported in her role, but the individual named Defendants as well as countless others within the Public
After being fired in 2016, Bercovici alleges the government withheld almost $32,000 in pension benefits.
She is suing for that amount, as well as millions of dollars in punitive and moral damages.
Bercovici’s lawsuit alleges that she reached out to Telford repeatedly through emails and phone calls to deal with her pension issue, but was ignored each time.
In her lawsuit, she is seeking $250,000 in damages from Telford for the “intentional affliction of mental suffering.”
The motion to add Telford and four senior Global Affairs Canada officials as defendants was filed in December and is to be argued in a Toronto court on Monday.
On Jan. 9, the Justice Department filed its reply with the court, arguing that there was no merit to adding five new defendants to the lawsuit.
This comes at a bad time for Trudeau, especially amidst Butt’s resignation.
Natalie MacDonald, Bercovici’s lawyer, said the current controversy enveloping the Prime Minister’s Office has resonance for her client.
“Our client was given no choice but to sue. Given what has come to light in Ottawa in recent weeks, we now question to what extent did the PMO direct the Attorney General to withhold Ms. Bercovici’s pension monies” MacDonald said.