$12M lawsuit: Arcand, Séguin and their employers will be heard on appeal

$12M lawsuit: Arcand, Séguin and their employers will be heard on appeal

The animator Paul Arcand

The Court of Appeal agrees to hear star host Paul Arcand and journalist Félix Séguin, as well as their employers Cogeco Média and Groupe TVA, in particular, who are seeking to obtain documents for their defense in margin of a $12 million defamation lawsuit filed against them in 2019.

The ruling was handed down Monday by Court of Appeal Judge Michel Beaupré, who allows the province's highest court to review the trial's decision that denied them access to certain court documents. #x27;police investigation.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Me Guy Bertrand presented the formal notice filed by former UPAC investigators, André Boucher and Caroline Grenier-Lafontaine.

The lawsuit is brought by the former head of operations of the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC) André Boulanger and the investigator Caroline Grenier-Lafontaine, who are claiming these sums as compensatory damages and punitive, because they believe they have been defamed by the media and journalists targeted.

This lawsuit stems from the publication and dissemination of information relating to police leaks, an initial investigation by UPAC into those leaks titled Project A, and an investigation by the Office of Independent Investigations (BEI) into Project A. .

Paul Arcand, Félix Séguin and their respective employers have requested access to numerous documents from UPAC, BEI, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP ) to defend them in this lawsuit, which has dragged on for almost three years.

According to them, these documents would demonstrate that their journalistic work was done rigorously and that the facts they revealed in connection with the police leaks were accurate.

Last May, we learned that the trial of former ministers Nathalie Normandeau and Marc-Yvan Côté and four co-defendants had been derailed because of these leaks. The reasons given by Judge André Perreault in 2020 to order a stay of proceedings, reasons which had until then been redacted, were based on the Oath investigation of the BEI.

Nathalie Normandeau addresses the media.

This directly pointed the finger at the former big boss of UPAC, Robert Lafrenière, as well as Mr. Boulanger and Mrs. Grenier-Lafontaine, in particular, as being themselves at the x27;origin of the leaks they were investigating.

It is this information and others related to it that the journalists and media prosecuted had reported.

On April 5, however, Judge Clément Samson, of the Superior Court, denied the journalists and media sued access to the investigation documents.

The magistrate believed, in particular, that the upcoming trial would not focus on the veracity of the suspicions or insinuations conveyed by the media, but rather on the way in which they handled the information obtained.

Judge Samson thus affirmed that the reports should be analyzed according to information held by the media and not those held by the police, adding that it is not up to the media to prosecute him; police investigation to determine whether or not the plaintiffs are the source of the leaks that occurred.

According to him, the documents in question were therefore irrelevant and akin to a fishing trip more likely to delay the debate than to enlighten it.

In addition, the judge argued that the information obtained by the media was illegal, given the confidentiality of police information. According to him, they had to know the illegal nature of this information and know that its dissemination could have a negative impact on the Oath of the BEI investigation.

In contrast, Justice Beaupré believes that the Court of Appeal has a duty to consider these issues.

He is of the opinion that x27; by rejecting their request for communication of documents […] the judgment causes them irremediable prejudice. As a result, he continues, the judgment is affected by an error of a nature, potentially, to lead to an intervention by the Court.

In this case, Judge Beaupré was above all against Judge Samson's reasoning according to which it does not matter whether the information is true or false as to the plaintiffs' involvement in the disclosure of information. confidential, what matters is the defendants' adherence to journalistic standards.

However, recalls Justice Beaupré, as argued by the media and ruled by the Supreme Court, it is recognized that the veracity of allegedly defamatory information and its disclosure in circumstances where the interest public is at stake are defences. The veracity of the information, in fact, is a factor that they have the right to submit in defense to the judge who will be seized of the merits.

In the end, Judge Beaupré agrees with the applicants that the general background to the case and the issues raised by the proposed appeal merit the Court's attention. […] Notably because in the background, the debate on the right to communication of the documents in dispute by third parties BEI and UPAC is situated in more than one respect in the confluence of the protection of journalistic sources, on the one hand, and the right of journalists sued for defamation to make full answer and defense, on the other.

Finally , the magistrate considers that it would be appropriate for the parties to make this detour before the Court quickly, in order to be able to move forward on the merits of the dispute once the question of whether or not to hand over the documents is resolved. settled.

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