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In an internal note, they criticize ministers for trying to change their legal opinions.

Quebec lawyers denounce political pressure

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There are 1,367 lawyers and notaries employed by the Quebec state.

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The association of lawyers of the government of Quebec affirms that the civil servants it represents are more and more often targeted by attempts at influence and political pressure, Radio-Canada has learned. In an internal message addressed to its 1,367 lawyers and notaries, the management office sounds the alarm.

The file is very delicate. It is extremely rare to see Quebec State lawyers and notaries (LANEQ) take a critical position vis-à-vis the government.

The message to members, which we obtained, was not intended to be made public and LANEQ management did not wish to grant us an interview.

LANEQ is informed of an increase in interventions by authorities which aim to influence or to modify certain acts of a legal nature carried out by lawyers and notaries deployed in different ministries and organizations.

A quote from Extract from the internal press release addressed to lawyers and notaries of the Quebec state

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The lawyers and notaries of the Quebec State (LANEQ) is formerly known as the Association of State Jurists. (File photo)

As of August 31, 2023, there were 1,367 lawyers and notaries employed in Quebec ministries and organizations, 70% of whom were women. It is the Ministry of Justice which employs the most (513), but they are then deployed in all ministries. For example, there are around thirty at the Ministry of the Environment.

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Civil service lawyers and notaries act as legal and forensic advisors to high authorities, ministers and presidents of organizations and support them in virtually all major government files.

Ministers often rely on legal advice to justify a decision or policy direction. The lawyer who writes the opinion must give an opinion based on the rules of law and his conclusion is final.

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Lawyers receive requests to change the findings of legal opinions. (Archive photo)

LANEQ's internal press release does not give any examples and does not target anyone in particular. According to our information, the message concerns, among others, certain ministers of the Legault government with behavior considered more cavalier.

Among the pressures denounced by civil service lawyers, there are requests to modify the conclusions of legal opinions which did not suit the authorities.

Our status as actors who participate and ensure that the affairs of the State are administered in accordance with the law, requires that our independence cannot be compromised.

A quote from Extract from the internal press release addressed to the lawyers and notaries of the Quebec State

In its message to members, LANEQ reminds that no disciplinary measure can be imposed on a lawyer who has refused to sign a professional document which in all professional conscience he cannot approve.

The Board of Directors adds that no lawyer is required to sign a professional or technical document that he cannot in all professional conscience endorse, nor to modify a document of a professional or technical nature. ;professional or technical order which he has signed and which he believes to be correct from a professional point of view.

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The Minister of Justice Simon Jolin-Barrette is responsible for the lawyers deployed in the various ministries. (File photo)

Invited to comment on the message from the association of state lawyers, the office of the Minister of Justice referred us to the Ministry's communications. The latter wanted to reaffirm his full confidence in the expertise of the State’s lawyers and notaries.

They perform reserved legal acts every day, including the drafting of legal opinions and contribute to government decision-making processes, the director writes by email communications Jean Métivier. We will not comment further on the statement made by the union.

It is unacceptable to ask to modify a legal opinion, it should not be done, explains former Quebec minister Benoît Pelletier, who was also a lawyer for the federal government.

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Benoît Pelletier has been a minister and state lawyer. (File photo)

Benoît Pelletier, who is a professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, recalls that if a minister is not satisfied with a legal opinion, he can request one. ;others and he can also ignore the opinions he has received from lawyers.

So why would a minister want to do edit a review? -be to convince other colleagues of the merits of the minister's position or to convince the Prime Minister himself, or, finally, to feel that he has a legal basis.

A quote from Benoît Pelletier, professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa

It's difficult for a minister to go against legal opinions he has received, adds Benoît Pelletier.

His colleague at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, John Mark Keyes, hypothesizes that there is pressure when the government wants to release a legal opinion that supports its decision. /p>

It is valid that the minister informs the lawyer about the circumstances surrounding the legal opinion, but to put pressure to change the conclusion, it This is interference, says Professor Keyes.

If the lawyer no longer has confidence in the government that employs him, the relationship with the client, he believes, which means: look for another job.

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