Victory of the Log against a city and four school boards
Photo MARTIN ALARIE
Lawyers Bernard Pageau (left) and Eric Miller, who represented The Newspaper in this judicial saga against public agencies that refused to disclose their attorneys ‘ fees, welcomed the victory in the Court of appeal of Quebec, on Tuesday.
Tuesday, 22 August, 2017 19:55
Tuesday, 22 August, 2017 19:55
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The Newspaper has won the appeal of his battle against school boards who refused for years to reveal the sums of public money spent on legal fees in a folder.
“Overall, it is a victory for access to information, taxpayers will have access to the information “, commented Bernard Pageau, the lawyer who has led the with Eric Miller to The Newspaper.
Since 2010, four school boards, including the Grandes-Seigneuries, had done everything to keep secret the legal fees generated in a folder of collective action initiated by parents. They invoked the privilege, adding the fear of ” revealing the scale of the means implemented “, one can read in the judgment.
But to invoke the secret, it must be checked whether the information ” is within the sphere of the secret “, explain the judges, Paul Vezina, Robert Mainville, Denis Jacques, erecting of beacons in order to examine each case.
“Otherwise, there is no secret, the question of exceptions to the privilege does not arise, the restriction of the right of access is non-existent,” said they.
In the same judgment, the Court of appeal of Quebec also gives reason to the Journal which sought to know, since 2011, the magnitude of the legal fees spent by the City of Terrebonne in a case against a citizen.
The City invoked the privilege to conceal the information, but it has been completely unsuccessful.
“The privilege allows the City to fully defend themselves against those who pursue justice, but it does not relieve him of his responsibility vis-à-vis its citizens, reminds us of the highest court of the province. The total fees will not reveal anything confidential. “
Unless the school boards, and that the City acquire the supreme Court of Canada, they need to deliver the requested information within the next 10 days.
In making this decision, the Court of appeal explained that the objective of the law on access to information is to ” inform, to encourage informed debate “.
“It is common sense. What we asked not breaking any confidentiality, and yet The Journal has had to fight for seven years to obtain the amounts that taxpayers have spent “, commented the director of information of the Newspaper, George Kalogerakis.
He laments, moreover, that it is with public money that the school boards have attempted to block the road to the Newspaper, which has never released the song.
“The Newspaper takes seriously its responsibility to be the watchdog of our politicians and people in power,” he added.
The Commission scolaire des Grandes-Seigneuries did not wish, at this stage, comment on the case.
It is a big decision, writes an expert
Pierre Trudel. Law Expert
The judgment, forcing a school board to disclose to the Journal the amount of attorneys ‘fees in a folder it creates a precedent,” says a law expert.
“It’s going to be a great decision that will decide what goes into the professional secret “, believes professor of law at the University of Montreal, Pierre Trudel, adding that it was a ” step forward “.
Change the law
But the length of the proceedings in this case demonstrates that it is necessary to amend the Law on access to information.
“It became a common practice to multiply the proceedings in order not to give the information,” said Mr. Trudel.
However, an individual who is denied access to public information does not necessarily have the funds needed to challenge.
“The ordinary citizen will almost mortgage his house… the right of access is available to those who have the means, for example, the big companies “, said Mr. Trudel.
He concluded by saying that the Law on access to information, it needs a ” severe update “, among others, to expedite the processing of applications and for the Commission to have access ” plays the role that it should play “.
Mp pq Nicole Léger has also raised the victory of the Newspaper on Tuesday to the parliamentary Committee on access to information, seeing it as a solution to the “entrenched refusals” of requests for access to information by invoking the privilege.
The lawyer of the Bar of Quebec, Raymond Doray, however, has pointed out that this decision of the Court of appeal may be not “the last step” in this folder.