After almost two years since allegations were first raised, members of an inquiry investigating the conduct of Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Déziel has decided he should not be removed from the bench.
On Monday, the inquiry committee formed in late 2013 to investigate the conduct of Justice Déziel submitted its 59-page report to the Canadian Judicial Council.
The allegations date back to the 1997 municipal election campaign in Blainville, Que., when Déziel was a lawyer and organizer for the sitting mayor. Charbonneau Commission witness Gilles Cloutier alleged Déziel gave him $30,000 with instructions to find people to pose as donors to the campaign, converting the money into contributions of $750 each.
Cloutier, who worked for an engineering firm, made the allegations in 2013 during testimony at the provincial inquiry into widespread municipal corruption in Quebec.
Déziel denied the allegations but said he acted as an intermediary in transferring the money to an engineering firm.
The committee, chaired by New Brunswick Chief Justice Ernest J. Drapeau, outlined how they answered the question of whether Déziel’s conduct was “so manifestly and profoundly destructive to the concept of impartiality, integrity and independence that public confidence would be so undermined as to render the judge incapable of remaining in office.”
In a statement, a spokesman for the CJC said:
Having considered the matter fully including that the infractions were non-criminal and sanctioned by a fine of $100, the time elapsed since their commission, and numerous other mitigating factors including Justice Déziel’s irreproachable career as a judge, his apology and the unequivocal support expressed by the judge’s chief justice and associate chief justice, the Inquiry Committee concluded that Justice Déziel’s conduct was not so serious as to warrant removal.”
The report states: “In the present matter, the Independent Counsel is convinced that there is no risk of reoffending and that Justice Déziel’s sincere apologies are sufficient to reassure the public in this regard.”
The committee also noted that some of the events put forward in the allegations were found to be “incompatible with the facts and the credibility of certain witnesses in doubt.”
Therefore the inquiry committee found a recommendation for removal was not warranted. The report and its recommendation that Déziel be returned to his position will soon be considered by the CJC.
The CJC will report its conclusions and submit the record of the inquiry to the federal minister of Justice.
Déziel was appointed in November 2003 to the Superior Court to preside in Laval. He could not be reached for comment.