Canadian Judicial Council recommends Quebec judge’s removal from bench

The Quebec Superior Court is seen in Montreal, Wednesday, March 27, 2019. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The Canadian Judicial Council recommended Monday that a Quebec Superior Court judge be removed from the bench for what it called serious misconduct.

The council concluded that the conduct of Justice Gérard Dugré undermined the public’s confidence in the judiciary and that he cannot continue in his role.

In July, an inquiry committee recommended Dugré be removed from office due to “aggressive and disagreeable” attitudes toward lawyers and parties and to chronic delays in rendering decisions. Following that report, the council also considered submissions from Dugré’s lawyer before it released its ultimate recommendation.

A judicial council quorum of 25 members confirmed the committee’s finding and recommended to federal Justice Minister David Lametti that the judge be removed for conduct that was “manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of impartiality, integrity and independence.”

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Under Canada’s Constitution, the justice minister must seek the approval of both the House of Commons and the Senate before removing a federally appointed judge.

Dugré, appointed to the bench in 2009, did not testify during 38 days of hearings in 2021 but presented evidence that he had a unique style on the bench. More than 60 witnesses appeared at the inquiry. Dugré’s clerk, who testified on his behalf, told the committee that the judge used humour and anecdotes to put people at ease. Other witnesses said he was compassionate, courteous and a great conciliator.

The council noted that Dugré had made positive contributions to the administration of justice and resolved a number of cases through judicial conciliation. But it also said his in-court behaviour was “unacceptable.”

In a custody case, Dugré threatened to have a father sent to a cell for failing to disclose documents, telling him the court had cells for women with hungry mice in them, and separate cells filled with starving rats for men.

In a conciliation case, Dugré suggested that former spouses get back together and give their child up for adoption or place him with a foster family. The couple was trying to settle whether their son should switch schools. The council agreed with the committee that while those remarks were not to be taken at face value, someone could reasonably conclude they reflected a type of bullying.

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Other complaints included allegations Dugré made inappropriate and demeaning comments in court, repeatedly interrupted lawyers and created a chaotic atmosphere by opining during proceedings about issues such as transgender persons, the Montreal Canadiens and a lawsuit against Montreal comedy festival Just for Laughs.

“Justice Dugré’s in-court behaviour was unacceptable,” the council said, repeating the inquiry committee’s terms such as “shocking,” “bullying” and “unpleasant and often aggressive.”

“It demonstrates a significant lack of respect for parties and counsel and, in some cases, demonstrated a lack of objectivity,” the council said.

The council said a pattern of unreasonable delays in rendering judgments — with a significant number taking more than six months and some more than a year — was another reason that made him unfit for the post. It said unreasonable delays in issuing decision negatively impacts the public’s confidence in the judiciary, adding that parties are entitled to timely rulings.

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“The evidence establishes a consistent pattern, for almost the entirety of his judicial career, which was unresolved despite the involvement of two chief justices, an associate chief justice and a mentor,” the council wrote. “This demonstrates either an unwillingness or inability to address a chronic problem.”

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