Guards fired for voyeurism: the independence of the national Assembly is in play, according to Jacques Chagnon

News 15 March, 2018
  • File Photo, Simon Clark
    Jacques Chagnon

    Maxime Huard

    Thursday, march 15, 2018 14:36

    Thursday, march 15, 2018 14:36

    Look at this article

    OTTAWA – If a court challenged the dismissal of three security guards of the national Assembly in a case of voyeurism, this threatens nothing less than the independence of parliaments across Canada.

    This was argued Thursday morning, the lawyers of the president of the national Assembly, Jacques Chagnon, to the supreme Court of Canada.

    In July 2012, Mr. Chagnon, who is still today the president of the national Assembly, dismissed the three guards who spied on their working hours, the rooms of the Hilton hotel nearby with the help of a security camera.

    The lawyers of Jacques Chagnon argue that it has acted in the exercise of its privileges enshrined in the canadian Constitution, which includes the power to manage its way to the staff of the assembly.

    “If we do not recognize parliamentary privilege, it would be detrimental not only to the national Assembly, but for all legislatures in Canada”, has been argued by Me, Siegfried Peters, because it would violate the principle of separation of powers of the State.

    Essential to the work of the national Assembly

    The lawyer believes that the fate of the guardians falls under the exclusive competence of the president, because their work is essential to the functioning of the national Assembly, citing the attack of corporal Lortie in 1984, or the irruptions of Femen that have occurred in the last few years.

    The judges Side and Gascon have several times put in doubt the claims of mr. Peters, noting that his argument implied that the guardians have no recourse available to them and that the president is a sort of demiurge and no one can question the decisions.

    Last February, the Quebec Court of appeal has ruled in a split decision that Mr. Chagnon had not the right to dismiss the guards without submitting to the arbitration process union.

    The three employees involved had filed a grievance to challenge their dismissal. However, during the hearings before the arbitrator of the work in 2013, Jacques Chagnon has relied on his parliamentary privilege in order to challenge the jurisdiction of the referee to judge of the case.

    Too broad

    For its part, the Union of the public service and parastatal du Québec (SFPQ) and does not question the existence of parliamentary privilege. However, he believes that the application of the privilege should be the exception, not the rule.

    “The simple fact that the guardians are part of the security apparatus is not sufficient to say that they fall within the parliamentary privilege”, said Geneviève Baillargeon-Bouchard.

    The security guards shall perform, according to her, tasks, devices, while useful and necessary, which are not intrinsic to the functions of the national Assembly.

    “If the safety of the place is not respected or that the ventilation does not work, there is a chance that the Assembly is not sitting,” and this, without the maintenance employees are seen as essential for the progress of the work, has reminded Me Baillargeon-Bouchard.

    The cause was taken under advisement by the judges and a decision is expected in the coming months.