UPAC head grilled by MNAs before public security committee

CBC reporter Ryan Hicks blogs about the much-anticipated appearance by the head of Quebec's anti-corruption squad, UPAC, at the National Assembly today.

Robert Lafrenière faced questions about corruption investigations, allegations of political interference

The head of UPAC, Robert Lafrenière, testifies before the public security committee of the National Assembly on May 4. (CBC)

Robert Lafrenière, the head of Quebec's anti-corruption squad (UPAC), said he is not controlled by the Liberal government — despite being appointed by it.

Lafrenière made a much-anticipated appearance at the National Assembly today, just days after an allegation from the head of the police brotherhood that two Liberals had not been charged because of their political connections.

MNAs on the public security committee questioned Lafrenière about UPAC's corruption investigations.

The appearance by Lafrenière and the head of Quebec's provincial police, Martin Prud'homme, comes as UPAC faces calls to delve into political financing activities by former premier Jean Charest and ex-Liberal Party organizer Marc Bibeau.

Quebecor media reported recently that both men had been under investigation until last year as part of a broader operation dubbed "Mâchurer."

UPAC had Charest and Bibeau on its radar in 2013 for fundraising activities dating back a decade earlier, before Charest became premier, according to Radio-Canada.

Opposition parties have expressed frustration that the investigation has yet to produce results and have raised questions about UPAC's independence from political influence and pressure.

Pascal Bérubé, public security critic for the oppostion Parti Québécois, repeated those concerns Thursday.

Both the PQ and the Coalition Avenir Québec want the head of UPAC to be named by the National Assembly and approved by a two-thirds vote.

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About the Author

Ryan Hicks is in his final year as a law student at McGill University and is a former Quebec political correspondent for the CBC. In 2018, he won the Amnesty International Media Award for his reporting from Guatemala about the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States.