Quebec’s anti-corruption squad says negative press is making it difficult for the organization to recruit new investigators.
UPAC interim commissioner Frédéric Gaudreau says the organization has changes to make and he envisions a new model: UPAC 2.0.
Gaudreau said investigating corruption is not every police officer’s cup of tea. The cases are complex and can take years to solve — and then there are the headlines.
Allegations of intimidation, the high-profile arrest of a sitting MNA and a toxic work environment within the anti-corruption unit itself have deterred potential investigators from applying.
“Yes, this is a reason. I don’t want to deny it,” Gaudreau admitted during a press conference on Thursday in Quebec City.
Since taking over from Robert Lafrenière, who suddenly stepped down on election day, Gaudreau has found himself with the task of filling about 10 vacancies. He wants to assure potential applicants that things aren’t as bad as they may have heard.
“There’s no toxicity; I can assure you that,” Gaudreau said.
In October 2017, UPAC arrested Liberal MNA Guy Ouellette (now an Independent) for allegedly working with former UPAC officers to leak information to the media about an investigation involving former premier Jean Charest. Ouellette was never charged and has always denied the claims.
Last month, he filed a $550,000 lawsuit against the Quebec government, saying the whole ordeal destroyed his reputation.
On Thursday, Gaudreau would not say whether arresting Ouellette was a mistake but said the case lead to a reflection about how to investigate any future leaks to journalists.
“We won’t investigate on our own members,” Gaudreau explained. “I will call another police service.”
The public safety minister believes public faith in UPAC can be restored.
“Last year, we saw that we had the greatest number of condemnations that were the results of the work of the UPAC so this is great news,” said Minister Geneviève Guilbault.
Guilbault said a new commissioner needs to be nominated as soon as possible. Her bill, which would see future heads of UPAC nominated by two-thirds of the National Assembly, is expected to pass before the end of the spring session.
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