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Dave L. May 2, 2012
The case of a judge who steps over the mandate for independence and impartiality that he himself had set.
The Chief Justice of the Québec Superior Court just committed a gaffe… Indeed, he who just a few months ago said that “a judge cannot, because of his obligation to be impartial, participate in public debate”, now states that Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier must intervene to support the injunctions ordering students back to the classroom. What happens when the lines blur between the judiciary, the executive and the legislative?
In collaboration with François-Samuel Fortin
The Chief Justice of the Québec Superior Court, François Rolland, just perjured himself by publicly supporting those students who, upset with going out on strike as the result of a democratic decision, are using the blunt instrument of injunctions to force classes to resume. Those injunctions are paralyzing the Québec justice system while forcing those who respect the democratic general assembly vote to defy the law .
However the same judge stated quite recently, for the sake of judicial independence, that “a judge cannot, because of his obligation to be impartial, participate in public debate”.
He stated also that “the judge must be serene when hearing cases, and unfounded media criticism about his impartiality could trouble his serenity. Should he lose this serenity, this independence to decide without concern for backlash, he must then withdraw from the case so that it may be heard by another judge”.
Rolland also argued that “courts can only accomplish their mission if they have the confidence public” . But does he really have the confidence of the public?
Earlier, during the establishment of the Charbonneau Commission, Rolland’s impartiality could already be challenged. “Did Minister Fournier contact the Chief Justice of the Québec Superior Court, François Rolland, to consult with him or inform him, on one hand, about the power to compel that the government is ready to grant to the commission, and on the other hand, on the fact that it’s Justice France Charbonneau who will be making the recommendation to the government? Recall that it was Justice Rolland who had named Justice Charbonneau to head this public inquiry on the construction industry” .
Along with his impartiality, the Chief Justice’s impartiality is also in question:
“The question remains: why did Chief Justice François Rolland agree so quickly to a judge presiding over a weakened public inquiry?”
“Yesterday, he stated to Le Soleil, to explain the naming of Justice Charbonneau: “Obviously, it’s a request that comes from the Premier and the Chief Justice, said François Rolland. It’s hard to say ‘well, no, I prefer these terms over those terms’.
However, judges are independent and take orders from no one. Maybe it’s ‘harsh’, but it’s allowed to say no” .
After the latest outburst from the judge who is now involved in the student strike, can we still speak of impartiality? And how about his independence? It’s now open to debate!
 Student Strike: Chief Justice Gets Involved (La Presse) (French only)
 Judicial Independence and the Integrity of Judges (Le Devoir) (French only)
 The Strange Ways of Mr. Charest (Le Devoir) (French only)
 Requiem for a Commission (La Presse) (French only)
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.