’An impossible position’

Alex Himelfarb, formerly the highest ranking civil servant in Ottawa, reflects on the resignation of Munir Sheikh.

Let me be clear about what this was not. This was not a public servant substituting his own judgment for that of the government or in any way being disloyal. Quite the contrary: in the face of criticism from colleagues, Statistics Canada seemed poised to implement the voluntary approach and, in the traditions of public service, Munir was and continues to be publicly silent about his advice. Nor was this an instance of a public servant fighting for turf or more resources. This is not about defending big government or public service jobs as some critics of government and public service will immediately assume … No, it was none of these things. This was about the integrity of Statistics Canada and of the public service. The decision to replace the long form census with a voluntary version put the Chief Statistician in a difficult position. The way the decision was handled put him in an impossible position.