In a controversial decision, the Quebec Court of Appeal recently held that Quebec lawyers can criticize the legal system as long as it is done with dignified restraint, constructively and meets the public’s reasonable expectations of a lawyer’s professionalism.
But the appeal court decision has stoked fears that the ruling will engender a chilling effect, and prompt lawyers to think twice before voicing their concerns about the legal system in public for fear of being reprimanded by their law society.
A former Canadian student activist best known for his role during the 2012 Quebec student protests won an appeal reversing his contempt of court conviction after the Quebec Court of Appeal held that individuals have the right to hold strongly held convictions even in the face of a court order.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the former spokesman of the major student organization CLASSE, was found guilty three years ago of inciting students during a television interview to strike and ignore a court order that guaranteed students access to their classrooms during the student conflict in the spring of 2012 when thousands took to the streets to protest planned tuition fee increases. He was sentenced to 120 hours of community service, which was thrown out.
“Now we have a ruling which says that one of the things to be considered when it comes to verbal contempt of court is whether freedom of expression is threatened, and it is particularly important in matters where a person expresses disagreement with a judgment,” said Julius Grey, a leading civil libertarian and human rights advocate.
Lawyers can put pen to paper to criticize the legal system so long as it done with objectivity, moderation and dignity ruled the Quebec Court of Appeal
An exiled Senegalese journalist, now residing in Montreal, has been condemned to pay the son of the president of the Republic of Senegal $125,000 for defamation.
Québec media restricted from using cameras and conducting interviews except in designated areas of the courthouse.