The former premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, wins the lawsuit he brought against the Quebec government, which will therefore have to pay him $385,000 for the disclosure of his personal information as part of an investigation by the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC).
In his decision on Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Gregory Moore condemns Quebec to pay $35,000 in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages to the former prime minister.
The latter is also authorized to continue his proceedings against the government, in order to prove that he was the victim of an abuse of process since the Attorney General of Quebec would have unnecessarily complicated the holding of his trial, which remains to be to slice.
“My lawyers and I are currently in the process of hearing the judgment on the lawsuit I have brought against the Government of Quebec for violation of my privacy,” Jean Charest said on Twitter, adding that he will make “a statement in this regard tomorrow”.
Recall that Jean Charest had filed a lawsuit against Quebec in October 2020 for violation of his privacy. He said he had suffered significant harm due to the leak of confidential investigation documents from the UPAC Mâchurer project on the financing of the Liberal Party of Quebec, obtained by the Quebecor group and published from April 2017.
It included information on the travels of the former prime minister and an organization chart where his photo appeared. The information came from Project Mâchurer which was officially shut down last February without leading to any charges to date.
At his trial, the former Liberal leader expressed “shock” at his revelations, humiliation “by inference” that he is a criminal and frustration that ensued, for which he demanded compensatory damages. “He feels guilty for bringing his family into embarrassment and humiliation,” the decision reads.
Without disputing the harm suffered by Jean Charest as a result of the disclosure of his personal information, the Attorney General of Quebec defended himself by asserting that it was “mundane” and that “public figures in a way renounce the protection of their privacy”.
However, Judge Moore ruled that this was not the case. “The disclosure of personal information contained in a UPAC investigation file cannot be trivial if it is prohibited by a series of laws […]”, writes the magistrate, in his judgment.
What’s more, Jean Charest had already left public life for two years when the Mâchurer investigation was launched in 2014 and there is no evidence that he consented to be the victim of an “illegal disclosure” of his personal information, underlines the judge.
As for the punitive damages of $350,000 awarded to him, Jean Charest proved before the court that he had been wronged because UPAC did not respect its obligations under the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and on the protection of personal information.
The latter provides that the infringement of rights must be intentional, which is the case in this case, according to the judge, since “the person who disclosed Mr. Charest’s personal information acted deliberately so that it would be communicated to the audience. Why else would she leak them to a reporter? “, he explains.
Given the “intentional” and “heavy” nature of this information of “undeniable political nature”, a large sum was granted to the former Prime Minister “in order to denounce the behavior of the member or members of UPAC who disclosed his personal information”.
Note, an injunction requested by Jean Charest to oblige the Attorney General of Quebec to secure his personal information held by UPAC was however rejected. This is because the Anti-Corruption Act prohibits issuing such injunctions against UPAC.