Lu Chan Khuong has served a formal notice on the directors of the Barreau du Québec demanding that they they rescind the resolution ordering her suspension as bâtonnière.
Khuong was suspended last week following a special meeting Wednesday called as a result of an article in La Presse, in which the newspaper reported its discovery of a record of the shoplifting offence, which involved two pairs of jeans.
At the meeting, the board voted unanimously to demand Lu Chan Khuong’s resignation. When she refused to resign, the board responded by suspending her indefinitely.
“I intend to stay in office and to carry out the reforms desired by the 63 per cent of lawyers who democratically elected me on May 22. I intend to put an end to wasteful expenditures, reduce the dues paid by our members and work for our citizens, who deserve a simpler and more accessible justice system. I will not let myself be distracted by certain individuals who, through illegal and immoral means, are trying to sabotage the results of the election,” said Khuong in a statement this morning.
Khuong is asking the Barreau's directors to correct their error, which she says has already done harm to the image of one the most prestigious professional associations in Quebec.
In addition, Khuong, who is being represented by lawyer Jean-François Bertrand, wants a public apology and said she reserves the right to take action for defamation.
She said she received a wave of support during the last week from the bars of Longueuil, Laval, Arthabaska, Outaouais, Richelieu and Mauricie, as well as petitions and letters from lawyers and members of the public.
The Canadian Bar Association – Québec Branch issued a release earlier today saying it is “deeply concerned by the crisis that has been gripping the Barreau du Québec.”
It says the “reasons cited and made public to date by the Board to justify its decision are in our view insufficient and contrary to the principles of fundamental justice that underlie our profession.”
At this point, Khuong has not been charged with anything and the file on the case has been closed so the CBA-Quebec points out “she is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” like any other Canadian. It’s calling on the Minister of Justice to investigate who leaked the information on Khuong from its Diversion Program’s confidential files.
“CBA-Québec accordingly insists that [Khuong]., the democratically elected President of the Québec Bar by popular vote, be immediately allowed to resume the duties of her office, and that the Québec Bar's Board of Directors collaborate fully with her in ensuring the proper operation of the professional order of Québec lawyers.
Also speaking out against the Barreau’s board of directors is Claude Provencher, a senior federal bureaucrat and a former executive director of the Barreau. “It’s a settling of scores,” Provencher told Droit-Inc. “They were looking for a chance to act against the bâtonnière and they seized on the slightest pretext without doing any rigourous or reasonable analysis.
“It’s a vendetta,” he added, clarifying that he was speaking as an individual and not in his capacity as general counsel and regional director in Quebec for Justice Canada.
Speaking of the article in La Presse that led to the board’s decision, Provencher said, “They didn’t try to find out if it was true, because for them it was a gift fallen from heaven."
Khuong, he said, had promised major reforms at the Barreau, dealing with things ranging from the salary of directors to the number of hours of mandatory pro bono work required.
Update 2:40 pm: Comments from CBA-Quebec added.
Update 3:35 pm: Remarks from Provencher added.