Three former security guards at the Quebec legislature who were fired after they were caught using a camera to spy on guests at a neighbouring hotel can grieve their dismissals, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday.
The guards were dismissed in July 2012 by Speaker Jacques Chagnon after an investigation revealed a legislature surveillance camera was being used to peer into hotel rooms in search of intimate scenes.
When their union filed a grievance on their behalf, the Speaker objected that a labour tribunal has no jurisdiction because of his parliamentary privilege to manage employees.
Decisions went back and forth as the case moved through the courts, with the Quebec Court of Appeal ruling in the union’s favour in 2017, saying the guards were entitled to due process.
In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court has upheld that decision, saying the legislature cannot evade labour laws by invoking parliamentary privilege. The court, which refers to Chagnon as the legislature President, examined the type of work done by the legislature security guards, who are unarmed and provide support for special constables and police officers.
“The President has failed to demonstrate that the management of the security guards is so closely and directly connected to the Assembly’s constitutional functions that the Assembly requires immunity from the applicable labour relations regime in order to fulfil these functions,” Justice Andromache Karakatsanis wrote on behalf of six of the seven judges in the majority.
“Obviously, the President is entitled to exercise his management rights and dismiss security guards for a just and sufficient cause. However, parliamentary privilege does not insulate the President’s decision from review under the labour regime to which the security guards are subject.”
The three men will now be able to have their case heard by a labour tribunal to determine if the firings were merited.
The Supreme Court noted that while the case involved Quebec’s legislature, the conclusion will be far-reaching, affecting all other legislative bodies in Canada.