Ethics probe launched into Quebec justice minister's appointing of friend to bench
Quebec's ethics and professional conduct commissioner has launched an investigation into the province's justice minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, concerning a possible conflict of interest in his appointment of a judge to the Quebec court.
The Liberal Party's Monsef Derraji requested the investigation under Section 91 of the code of ethics and professional conduct for members of the National Assembly.
Derraji's complaints allege that "the ties of friendship between the Minister of Justice and Judge Charles-Olivier Gosselin are proven and known," according to a news release issued Monday afternoon by the Commissaire à l'éthique et à la déontologie.
His complaint "raises questions of an ethical nature as to the role of the minister in the final phase of the appointment process," the release says — among them, whether Gosselin's appointment to the bench was influenced by his friendship with the minister "to the detriment of other candidates."
Jolin-Barrette was informed of the investigation in writing, the news release states.
The commissioner says no comments will be made during the investigation, and a report will be released once the investigation is complete, setting out the reasons in support of the commissioner's conclusions.
The report, along with recommendations, will be sent to the chair of the National Assembly, who will table it in session.
Minister to co-operate fully
Élisabeth Gosselin, Jolin-Barrette's spokesperson, said the judicial appointment process, which is "strictly governed by the Courts of Justice Act and by the regulation respecting the procedure for selecting candidates for the office of judge, was followed and respected in every respect."
She said the ethics commissioner can count on the minister's full co-operation.
When he came under fire last week for the appointment, Jolin-Barrette said his friendship with Gosselin was no secret and insisted that it did not influence the nomination process.
He said Gosselin was the best candidate and was selected based on his competence after an independent committee recommended him and two other people.
However, Jolin-Barrette did not warn Premier François Legault nor his cabinet colleagues that he was about to appoint a close friend.
Gosselin was the lawyer who defended the Quebec City mosque shooter, Alexandre Bissonnette, winning his challenge of the constitutionality of consecutive sentences before the Supreme Court of Canada.
In that historic decision, which will affect sentences for the most serious crimes across the country, the Supreme Court ruled that the gunman who killed six people will not have to wait more than 25 years before being eligible for parole.