(Quebec) The damage caused by the leaks of the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC) is “irreparable”, considers the former Prime Minister Jean Charest the day after a judgment which gives him victory in his case against the Quebec government. The Liberal Party is always asking for an apology, and Premier François Legault is not ruling it out.

Mr. Charest on Tuesday won the lawsuit he filed against the Quebec government in connection with the disclosure of his personal information as part of a UPAC investigation. Quebec will have to pay him $35,000 in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

In a written statement, he recalls that he originally requested an apology “on the basis that he failed in his legal obligations and his duties to protect the privacy of his citizens”.

“For the price of a sheet of paper, an envelope and a stamp, I would have agreed to have this matter, however serious, settled,” he said.

But that request “was never acknowledged.” “That’s why I was forced to go to court to assert my rights. »

It also points the finger at the Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI) and the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP), which have still not found the police officers responsible for the “criminal acts” of leaking, “after more than five years of investigation”.

In his fight, Mr. Charest has the support of the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), which he led for 14 years. “No one in Quebec […] should not have to suffer such abuse from the state, here, in the first place, from UPAC. We believe that the government must recognize the fault which was itself recognized by the judgment and apologize to Mr. Charest, “said the party’s interim leader Marc Tanguay during a press briefing at the Assembly. national on Wednesday.

In his statement, Mr. Charest did not specify whether he wanted to continue his proceedings against the government. He could try 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 decided.

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.

Marc Tanguay is also targeting Deputy Prime Minister Geneviève Guilbault, who brandished the book PLQ inc. in the Blue Room of the National Assembly when she was Minister of Public Security.

Like Mr. Charest, Mr. Tanguay now wants the “bandits” responsible for the media leaks to end up “in jail”. Because this leak “had a devastating impact on the life of Mr. Charest, on a personal basis”, but it also harmed “on a reputational basis” the PLQ. “These leaks will have had an impact on people’s perception of the Quebec Liberal Party,” he lamented. They would have been one of the factors that led to the defeat of the party in the last general election, according to Mr. Tanguay.

He believes that UPAC will now have to “ensure” that these kinds of leaks “never happen again.”

For his part, Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette declined to comment on Mr. Charest’s victory. “We are analyzing the judgment, and I will not comment further,” he said.

Prime Minister François Legault, he does not rule out apologizing to Jean Charest, while describing such an initiative from a very particular angle. “What we must remember first is that there were leaks at UPAC under the management of Mr. [Robert] Lafrenière, who was chosen by the Liberal government.

“So the question that arises today is whether I should apologize on behalf of the Liberal government that appointed Mr. Lafrenière. I don’t rule that out, but we’ll analyze it properly,” he said. He recalled that his government had adopted a law for the boss of UPAC to be appointed by the National Assembly, with the support of at least two-thirds of the deputies.

Should UPAC apologize to Jean Charest? “Maybe, yes,” replied Mr. Legault. The Prime Minister considers that UPAC still has its place.

The head of Quebec solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, believes for his part that the UPAC must offer its apologies to the citizens of Quebec, and not to Jean Charest. “UPAC was created at the time to catch bandits and to put money back into state coffers. Then finally, we didn’t catch many people, then we put the money back in the pockets of Jean Charest, “he denounced.

“I understand the world being frustrated with the work of UPAC. I share their frustration. It is unfortunate that we have come to this. If there’s any apology that needs to be made, it’s to all Quebecers for not delivering the goods in the fight against corruption,” he said. He is now wondering about the future of UPAC.

PQ MP Pascal Bérubé believes for his part that the UPAC should lose its status as an independent police force to be reintegrated into the Sureté du Québec.