The mayor of St-Rémi, Michel Lavoie, has been relieved of his duties by a Quebec Superior Court judge.
In a historic ruling — and a test of Bill 10, the recently passed provincial legislation that allows the suspension of municipal politicians accused of criminal acts — the court has declared Lavoie temporarily unfit to hold office.
Lavoie, who faces charges of fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust following an investigation by Quebec's anti-corruption unit, UPAC, has refused to leave office since his arrest last December.
An outraged citizen, Sylvie Boyer, took him to court, arguing allowing Lavoie to keep his job while the criminal case was pending sullied the image of the agricultural community on Montreal's South Shore.
Lavoie, in turn, argued the law passed by the national assembly is vague. He said he still had the trust of St-Rémi's citizens, and he argued that — with municipal elections just over two months away — the electorate will have an opportunity to weigh in on the question soon.
However, the judge says it was not his job to sift through those political arguments, but to apply the law.
"I think it's the citizens who have won," said Municipal Affairs Minister Sylvain Gaudreault. "It's the citizens of St-Rémi who took this step, and today a Superior Court judge has sided with them."
"What we have always been concerned with is the preservation of municipal institutions, democracy and respect for citizens."
The president of the Civic Action League, Frédéric Lapointe, welcomed the ruling — congratulating Boyer for taking on the mayor.
"From now own, mayors accused of serious crimes related to their duties will have to quit or will be forced to quit," he said.