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Carnival organizers have hired a law firm after the Maclean's flap. ((CBC))

Quebec City's Winter Carnival has hired lawyers to defend its beloved Bonhomme Carnaval, whose iconic image is gracing newsstands across the country this week after Maclean's magazine used it to illustrate an explosive cover story about corruption in la belle province.

"For the past 57 years, the Carnival has invested considerable energy and resources into protecting Bonhomme Carnaval's outstanding reputation," said the event's CEO Jean Pelletier in a statement released Monday afternoon. "We are therefore examining the options available to us to enforce our intellectual property rights."

The Oct. 4 Maclean's edition shows Bonhomme, festooned in his traditional ceinture fléchée, or sash, swinging a suitcase overstuffed with cash to illustrate the article's thesis that Quebec is the most corrupt province in Canada.

The provocative piece prompted Quebec politicians across the spectrum to tear a strip off the magazine editors — and the story's author. Demands for an apology echoed among Quebec columnists, talk shows and call-in programs.

Carnival organizers have already demanded a public apology, requesting the latest issue be withdrawn.

Maclean's lawyers have rejected that demand, stating the magazine didn't infringe any trademark or tarnish the figure's reputation.

The Carnival holds intellectual property rights to all graphic and three-dimensional representations of the Bonhomme, and "unauthorized or defamatory use of such representations is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," the statement said.