Quebec's anti-corruption squad considers rebrand

The head of Quebec's anti-corruption squad says he still believes there's a need for his police unit but feels it may be time to rebrand to help salvage its reputation.

UPAC commissioner says changes are needed to regain public confidence

Frédérick Gaudreau, the head of Quebec's anti-corruption unit, UPAC, says he's looking to rebrand his police force to regain public confidence and move on from past mistakes. (Radio-Canada)

The head of Quebec's anti-corruption squad says he's considering a name change and a rebrand to try to get his troubled police unit back on track.

Frédérick Gaudreau told media today he's ready to make whatever changes are necessary to salvage UPAC's reputation, after a series of high-profile setbacks and embarrassing failures.

The unit was formed about a decade ago to investigate corruption, mainly among Quebec's political and business elite.

Among UPAC's struggles is an investigation into alleged illegal party financing within the Quebec Liberal party that was launched in 2014 and continues to drag on with no end in sight.

More recently, a judge shut down the corruption trial of the former mayor of Terrebonne, Que., north of Montreal, citing the poor conduct of the UPAC officers who investigated him.

Gaudreau, who released the unit's annual report today, says despite its shortcomings, the investigative team is still needed to carry out independent corruption inquiries.

"Against all odds,'' the unit still has a role to play, Gaudreau said.

Earlier this year, Gaudreau was forced to apologize to Guy Ouellette, an Independent member of the legislature, for wrongfully arresting him in relation to the Liberal financing investigation in October 2017.

Last year, former Liberal premier Jean Charest launched a lawsuit against the government for violating his privacy in connection with the same probe.

A separate investigation led to criminal charges against former Quebec deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau. Those charges were stayed in September 2020 because legal proceedings took too long.

Gaudreau says he understands the impatience of people wondering why investigations remain open for years without charges being laid.

He said the investigation into former members of the provincial Liberals is "extremely complex,'' and did not set a deadline for when it would be completed.

Gaudreau promised to restore public confidence when he took over as director of UPAC in 2019 .

Dominique Anglade, the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, said a name change would be nothing more than a "cosmetic'' gesture.

Anglade says "much stronger action'' is needed to improve the way the unit operates.

Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault says UPAC needs more time and Quebecers should be patient. (Radio-Canada)

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault also weighed in on Tuesday.

"I read the bad news too," she said, "but still we have to see [the bigger picture]. UPAC is a real police for [only] three years now."

Guilbault says UPAC didn't have the same tools as other police forces until three years ago and new training requirements for its officers weren't finalized until last August.

"We have to be a little more patient, to wait for Mr. Gaudreau to be able to apply those new tools and get back the confidence of the public," she said.