Quebec's former lieutenant-governor, charged with spending $291,000 in public money on personal expenses like birthday parties and fishing trips, says she's testifying in her own defence to prove she's been honest her entire life.

"The truth must be known," Lise Thibault told a group of reporters outside the Quebec City courthouse where her trial is taking place.

"I am 75 years old. All my life I've been a woman who has been socially involved and I don't at all want to leave an image of a woman who, after giving everything, has tainted an institution as important as the lieutenant-governor," she said during a break in the proceedings.

Thibault served as Quebec's representative to the Queen for 10 years between 1997 and 2007.

'I don't at all want to leave an image of a woman who, after giving everything, has tainted an institution as important as the lieutenant-governor.' - Lise Thibault

She is on trial on eight criminal charges, including fraud and breach of trust. The long-awaited proceedings got underway in June, years after allegations against her first surfaced in 2007.

Thibault denied the allegations at the time, but an auditor general's report later supported them.

An inquiry by Quebec's National Assembly then followed, as did criminal charges.

Royal immunity argument dismissed

Her lawyers have tried several times, unsuccessfully, to have Thibault deemed immune from prosecution because she was a representative of the Queen at the time.

The argument was based on the little-used legal principle that "the Queen can do no wrong" — in other words, the Crown cannot prosecute the Crown.

In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear Thibault's appeal, which also centred on the royal immunity claim.

On Monday, a Quebec court judge again dismissed two petitions she filed arguing royal immunity.

In her ruling, Judge Carol St-Cyr said that because all the evidence had not been heard during the trial, he could not grant Thibault's request to halt proceedings.

The judge also wrote that, according to constitutional law, the lieutenant-governor does not enjoy the same benefits as the Queen.

St-Cyr added that immunity applies only to actions that involve official state functions, not personal ones.

Details life before taking appointment

When Thibault was called to the witness box to testify at the trial for the first time Monday, she began by talking about her childhood in Quebec's Lanaudière region.

Often referring to herself in the third person, Thibault detailed how, after a tobogganing accident at the age of 10 and a difficult pregnancy that left her with occasional paralysis in her legs, she became reliant on a wheelchair. 

She also described her time working for CBC-TV from 1982 to 1984, her involvement in women's organizations and her work with the "No" side during the 1980 referendum.

She has not spoken yet about her time serving as Quebec's 27th lieutenant-governor, nor the allegations she faces.

During a break in testimony, Thibault told reporters that her vice-regal colleagues in other provinces admired the work she did because she was so active in public life.

She also said she was "forced into silence," for the seven years since federal and provincial auditors first wrote about her expenses, adding she's happy to finally have the opportunity to tell her side of the story. 

Her testimony continues.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story stated that Thibault was charged with misuse of $700,000 of public funds. Federal and provincial auditors found she had misspent $700,000, but the criminal case only alleges $291,000 in illegal spending.
    Jul 30, 2014 9:22 AM ET
With files from The Canadian Press