Politics

Quebec judge accused of buying cocaine back under investigation despite being cleared to work by watchdog

A Quebec Superior Court judge returned to the bench after being investigated for allegedly buying cocaine is once again under investigation after the federal and provincial justice ministers jointly requested that the case be reopened.

Questions over Michel Girouard's testimony during initial inquiry prompted reopening of case

Justice Michel Girouard was accused of buying cocaine two weeks before his nomination as a judge. He was returned to the bench after investigators decided "on the balance of probabilities" that the claims could not be proven. The case has recently been ordered reopened. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec Superior Court judge returned to the bench after being investigated for allegedly buying cocaine is once again under investigation after the federal and provincial justice ministers jointly requested that the case be reopened. 

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée jointly wrote to the Canadian Judicial Council, a federal watchdog tasked with improving the work of Canada's superior courts as well as reviewing allegations made against judges, asking it to take a second look at the case. 

Justice Michel Girouard is alleged to have bought cocaine numerous times prior to being appointed to the bench.

In 2010, video evidence tying him to a convicted drug dealer led François Rolland, then chief justice of the Superior Court of Quebec, to ask for a review. 

The council's inquiry team determined that on the "balance of probabilities," the cocaine allegations could not be proven. They argued, however, that Girouard's testimony in the case was not credible and said he should be removed from the bench for that reason. 

"If Justice Girouard were to continue as a judge of the Superior Court of Quebec, this would, in our opinion, undermine public confidence in the entire judicial system," the report advised. 

Regardless, the watchdog returned Girouard to his position. 

'Serious findings'

Both justice ministers — who are also the attorneys general for Canada and Quebec — highlighted the questions around Girouard's testimony in their letter ordering that the investigation be reopened. 

"In our view, allowing such serious findings about a judge's integrity and credibility to go unresolved would run the risk of compromising the public's confidence, not only in the judicial discipline process, but in the judiciary and justice system as a whole," the letter said. 

The letter goes on to say that the "inquiry will determine whether Justice Girouard is guilty of misconduct" and in "doing so, it will dispel any doubts that the members of the public and participants in the justice system may have about him."

According to an unofficial translation provided by the council, Girouard's lawyers fired back at both ministers, arguing any further inquiry into the judge's actions are unjust. 

"By challenging the unanimous conclusions of a report issued by the highest Canadian judicial authorities, the ministers risk undermining public trust in our institutions and interfering with judicial independence," the lawyers' letter read. 

The council has started the process of naming investigators to the inquiry team. According to the council, other than in rare circumstances, all inquiries are held in public.

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