MONTREAL — A Canadian Judicial Council committee set to begin a second inquiry next week into alleged drug use by Superior Court Justice Michel Girouard will hear new evidence from a witness who claims her husband took drugs with the judge. The council, which is chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and which reviews the conduct of federally appointed judges, last year found Girouard fit to remain a judge despite the recommendation of an inquiry committee that he be removed.
In an unprecedented move, the federal and Quebec justice ministers then intervened to request a second inquiry, arguing that Girouard’s conduct during the first one raised serious questions about his credibility and integrity.
As a panel comprised of three judges and two lawyers prepares to begin hearing the matter in Quebec City on Monday, a list of the allegations made public this month reveals that fresh evidence has surfaced since the ministers made their request last June.
The document says the council received a “letter of denunciation” on July 25, 2016 ,from “Ms. L.C.,” described as the wife of a longtime friend and business partner of Girouard.
The letter contains “serious claims” that Girouard gave false testimony during the previous inquiry when he said he never obtained or used drugs as a lawyer, the document says.
The letter from L.C., who is expected to testify at the upcoming hearing, claims that beginning in 1992, Girouard obtained drugs and used them in the company of her husband. The contents of the letter have not yet been verified by oath.
In a motion asking the Federal Court to nullify the second inquiry, lawyers for Girouard state that the letter has no credibility. They further argue that the ministers’ request for a second inquiry after the judicial council decided against recommending his removal is an affront to judicial independence. They call the inquiry a “serious injustice” that risks damaging Girouard’s reputation.
At the initial inquiry, a panel heard evidence that when he was practicing law in Val d’Or, Que., Girouard’s represented a local businessman who controlled drug distribution in northwestern Quebec. A security video showed a suspicious exchange between Girouard and the businessman, which police said was drugs but Girouard maintained was a note related to a tax file.
The first inquiry committee was unable to establish on a balance of probabilities that the exchange involved illicit drugs, but it did find that Girouard deliberately misled them.
It’s an unusual case, but it warrants public scrutiny because the public expects the very best behaviour from their judges.
“A compromising of a judge’s integrity through the giving of false and deceitful evidence before a committee of his peers undermines the integrity of the judicial system itself and strikes at the heart of the public’s confidence in the judiciary,” the majority wrote.
Girouard, who was appointed to the bench in 2010, resumed hearing cases after the judicial council rejected the committee’s recommendation of removal last April. Since the ministers requested a new review, he has stopped sitting.
Girouard’s lawyers are arguing that it is unfair to subject him to a second hearing when the matter has been heard and decided.
Norman Sabourin, executive director and senior general counsel of the judicial council, said Girouard has filed more than a dozen motions seeking to stop the new inquiry from going ahead. “I certainly have never seen such an extensive list of allegations about the fairness of the process,” he said.
He said a new inquiry is warranted because Girouard is alleged to have misled the first committee.
“It’s an unusual case, but it warrants public scrutiny because the public expects the very best behaviour from their judges and we need to get at the truth,” he said.
By Graeme Hamilton