Quebec Premier Jean Charest responds to questions over striking government lawyers and Crown prosecutors on Monday in the national assembly. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))

Quebec's Liberal government has pushed through special legislation forcing 1,500 striking Crown prosecutors and government lawyers back to work. 

The 61-50 vote Tuesday morning came after a marathon debate that lasted almost 24 hours at the national assembly in Quebec City.

Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said the government had to impose the legislation to get the justice system moving again.

Quebec government lawyers have been off the job for two weeks.

They have been instructed to report back to work Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after the vote, Premier Jean Charest prorogued the session of the national assembly.

Law includes raise, hiring spree


Crown prosecutors association president Christian Leblanc ponders a question at a news conference Monday. ((Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot))

The special legislation imposes a five-year collective agreement on the lawyers.

They will get a six-per-cent salary raise, far short of the 40-per-cent wage hike the Quebec Crown Prosecutors Association had been asking for during negotiations.

Quebec government lawyers are paid less than their counterparts across Canada, with salaries topping out at $102,000 a year compared to $196,000 in Ontario.

The government has also agreed to hire more lawyers in order to reduce the workload of prosecutors who say they cannot properly prepare for cases.

Eighty more Crown prosecutors, 40 support staff and 25 ministerial lawyers will be hired, the government announced.

Individual lawyers who defy the back-to-work legislation face daily fines from $100 to $500 each.

Dark day for legal system: QBA head

Quebec Bar Association Gilles Ouimet president described Tuesday as a dark day for Quebec's legal system.

He said forcing prosecutors back to work is a grave mistake.

"They're there to protect the public and defend the public interest, and if they don't have confidence in the government, it's a major crisis," said Ouimet, whose association represents all of the province's 23,000 lawyers.

He said many prosecutors may quit as a result, leaving lasting consequences.

The government agency dealing with prosecutors has confirmed that 28 chief prosecutors and their assistants have asked to be reassigned because of the law.