Chirac rescuer turns his hand to Canadian politics

17th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

VANCOUVER, Canada, Feb 17 (AFP) - A Canadian who helped save the life of French President Jacques Chirac two years ago has chosen now to enter politics himself.

VANCOUVER, Canada, Feb 17 (AFP) - A Canadian who helped save the life of French President Jacques Chirac two years ago has chosen now to enter politics himself.

Moh Chelali, a teacher, won the New Democratic party nomination this week to represent a Vancouver suburb in an upcoming provincial election.

In July, 2002, Chalali and two others subdued a gun-wielding would-be assassin during a Bastille Day parade in Paris while on vacation with his family.

Neighbours have chastised him for going into politics, "this dirty job," he quipped.

But he told AFP: "I am a person who cares about others. And, I want to serve.

"I'm not going to change the world or even the whole of this province, but maybe I can do something good to help the people in my little corner (of the world)," he said.

His detractors accuse him of using his celebrity to win votes. But, the current ruling party too has wooed high profile candidates such as Canadian Olympic gold medallist Daniel Igali. The wrestler turned down an offer from his native Nigeria to return and become the country's new minister of sports in order to enter Canadian politics.

"Everything is closed for ordinary citizens. This week, I've had several media interviews and each time, I was asked, 'What experience do you have in politics?'" said Chelali.

"You don't have to go to Harvard to serve people," he added, pointing to Ujjal Dosanjh, an Indian-born immigrant who became premier of British Columbia province and is now a top federal minister, as his inspiration.

If that does not satisfy sceptics, rubbing shoulders with politicians during the past two years, including Canada's former prime minister Jean Chrétien and an appreciative Chirac, Chelali has learned to speak like a politician.

He has echoed duly his party's campaign rhetoric about fighting for children, seniors and small businesspeople and accused the current government of making draconian financial decisions that destroyed public health care and education.

Otherwise, his life has changed little since being labelled a hero. People recognise him on the street and ask him to speak for various causes. Chirac sends him Christmas cards. Last month, a man asked him to mediate a custody dispute between himself and his French wife.

"People think I can just call up Jacques Chirac and ask, "Can you do something for me?'" he said.

His love affair with France is complicated. He speaks adoringly of the country and its people but admits he moved to Canada in 1992 because he could not find work in France and as a Muslim, he felt discriminated against.

His parents were killed when he was very young, accused of being French sympathizers during the Algerian independence war. But, he blames nobody and holds no grudges.

"This is history for me," the 48-year-old said.

He has received death threats from neo-Nazis in France and from unknown people while he worked in Beirut for a short time, but paid no heed to them.

"There is a lot of good that came out of that day in Paris. When you do something good, you help others, there are rewards," he said.

"If you give in to fear, you will do nothing in life. When you do something noble, people will protect you. Also, I believe in destiny. I believe in God."

Of course, he has no idea if he will win the election on May 17.


Subject: French News

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