Madelaine Drolet-Savoie v. Tribunal des professions, et al.

(Quebec) (Civil) (By Leave)


Canadian charter (Non-criminal) - Freedom of expression (s. 2(b)), Administrative law, Judicial review, Standard of review, Law of professions, Discipline, Barristers and solicitors - Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Freedom of expression –Administrative law – Judicial review – Standard of review – Law of professions – Discipline – Barristers and solicitors – What is the standard of review for a disciplinary condemnation for remarks by a lawyer critical of a court which are neither vehement nor impolite? – What is the role of the lawyer with respect to bringing to the public’s attention perceived flaws in the system of justice or the court? – Is it reasonable to require that critical remarks by lawyers be “constructive” or “effective”?.


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The applicant, a lawyer and member of the Barreau du Québec, practised particularly in the field of youth protection. In a case relating to a client’s son, the applicant obtained a judgment in the Superior Court setting aside various orders for foster care made by the Court of Québec, Youth Division. The Superior Court’s reasons for judgment were critical of the Court of Québec judge. When questioned about this by a member of the press, the applicant made the following remarks, which were reproduced in an article published in February 2008: [TRANSLATION] “It operates in a vacuum. There are always the same judges, the same counsel for the DYP, the same legal aid lawyers representing the children. The result is that the DYP gets what he wants in the vast majority of cases. It’s not just David against Goliath. It’s David against two or three Goliaths.”

Hearing a disciplinary complaint against the applicant, the disciplinary council of the Barreau du Québec found her guilty of a breach of professional ethics for expressing a [TRANSLATION] “value judgment on the judicial process, whose credibility and integrity she impugned” through her “negative criticism”. It fined her $2,000. The applicant appealed to the Professions Tribunal, which upheld the conviction but, in a separate decision, replaced the penalty with a temporary striking off the roll for 30 days. The applicant then applied to the Superior Court for judicial review of the Professions Tribunal’s decisions.