A controversy has shaken the legal world. The board of directors of the Bar has suspended the bâtonnière of its functions, it has responded by judicial proceedings to which the council responded. The superior Court of the district of Quebec has refused the application for interim reinstatement of the bâtonnière and hear the matter on merit. One can only hope that the judicial intervention in progress to shed light on the facts of this case, namely, whether the allegations that have been made public are founded or not.
The debate, however, gives place, in the margin of the procedures, in social and traditional media, to shortcuts, with little concern for factual details, and the net effect of which is to scratch seriously the credibility of the law society and the dignity of all its members.
If we intervene now, it is that, like our sisters and brothers, we would like to maintain the confidence of the public in respect of this fundamental institution that is the Bar, its members and their role as officers of the court. It’s like people attached to this profession that we would like to mention a few fundamental realities.
Invalid profession is, by vocation, more the guardian of democracy as ours. It is concerned, first and foremost, by the observance of the law and of the institutions, the primacy of the rules of ethics and professional conduct and by the obligation to the holders of public functions to embody in an irreproachable way, the values of which feeds a society of law.
It follows that the function of the chairman is charged a crucial responsibilities on the cutting edge of democratic requirements. The person who holds this office has charge of carrying out the mandate that the law entrusts to the Bar to protect the public. For example, it must meet with the citizens of the ethical standards which is required each of its members. Institutional interlocutor of the minister of Justice, the ultimate responsibility of the law society, among others, such as attribution, recommend candidates to the judiciary. The owner of the function is also called to appear before the elected representatives in the parliamentary committee, to preside over the trade between the profession and the judiciary, as well as to represent our Order with the other law societies in Canada and abroad.
It is evident that such responsibilities require, in reality as in the eyes of the public, those who must confront ethical behaviour is exemplary.
This is what probably had in mind the members of the C. A. when, in response to allegations of serious misconduct, they deemed it their duty to require of the applicant’s explanations specific to reassure the maintenance of public confidence in the institution and in the profession. After hearing the bâtonnière, the members of the C. A. are dissatisfied with his answers. Even as the allegations became widely disseminated, the members of the C. A. – unanimously – have asked him to abandon his duties.
Faced with a refusal of the bâtonnière, the 15 members of the C. A. (11 members of the Bar elected by their peers, and four other, non-lawyers, appointed by the Office des professions) have unanimously decided to suspend temporarily, and with balance. The directors have subsequently implemented a process of inquiry. To shed light on the situation as a whole, they formed a committee of people of impeccable reputation, independent of the C. A.
Some expressed surprise at the rapidity of the approach of the C. A., the other indicator of precipitation. Everyone can have their opinion on it and legitimately think that a bit of a breather in the process would perhaps look better in the eyes of third parties, less close to a situation certainly very tense for those who have experienced it up close. However, haste or not, nothing could exempt the C. A. his duty to go to the bottom of things, where the validity of the substance of the decision.
When it was temporary, pending the conclusions of an investigation, the suspension shall not departed in any way to the fundamental right to the presumption of innocence. In addition, the C. A. was not acting within the framework of the criminal law, but in the application of its own rules of ethics and professional conduct. By doing this, the C. A. does not breach any standard of confidentiality : forced to be concerned about the public nature of serious allegations, administrators should initiate a process of verification. No doubt, do nothing and close the eyes would have exposed to the very serious blame to have abdicated their responsibilities to the law society, its members and the public.
The bâtonnière would she have needed to, for the sake of removing the institution of the Bar and of itself a controversial harmful in all respects, to resolve to leave with elegance temporarily his duties and devote his energies to dispel the unease that gave rise to the allegations that it considers without merit? We will think.
Had agreed to recognize the legitimacy of the independent committee of its peers, the bâtonnière would have benefited from all of its rights to enforce its interpretation of the facts, to demonstrate his integrity and his respect for ethical behaviour essential to the performance of its function.
The bâtonnière has chosen the superior Court as the forum and it seems, therefore, that it is the Court that must rule on the veracity of the facts. It is to be hoped that the conduct of the current proceedings will result in the outcome of this crisis is deplorable.
The bâtonnière claims that she has no complaint to make : we strongly hope that this is so, both for his person, to the profession and to the institution of the Bar.
Beyond the accusations, conjecture, and diversions of all kinds, it is important to come to be critical to the truth of the facts. The justice and institutions would be better served.
Lucien Bouchard, Bar 1962
Bernard Landry, Bar 1964
Daniel Johnson, Bar 1967
Pierre Marc Johnson, Bar 1971