The Canadian Judicial Council concludes its review of a matter involving the Honourable Jacques R. Fournier
The Canadian Judicial Council announced today that it has reviewed and disposed of a matter involving the Honourable Jacques R. Fournier, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Québec. Following a full review of the matter, the Council determined that it would take no further action. The review arose out of a 24 November 2020 news article and interview in the Journal de Montréal which revealed that Chief Justice Fournier was unaware of the Council’s Policy on International Judicial Activities.
Specifically, the article reported that in June 2019, at the invitation of the Université de Montréal and the Chinese government, Chief Justice Fournier spent a week in Beijing in the context of an educational program organized by the Université de Montréal. The article also reported that Chief Justice Fournier did not inform the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs of his participation in this program as contemplated by the Council’s Policy on International Judicial Activities. As a result, Chief Justice Fournier did not take the measures intended to assist in guarding against potential criticism for judicial involvement in an international activity concerning a country whose relationship with Canada is surrounded by some controversy.
The matter was reviewed by the Honourable Glenn D. Joyal, Chief Justice the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba and Vice-Chairperson of the Judicial Conduct Committee, in accordance with the Council’s Review Procedures. As the matter involves a member of the Council, it was also referred to an outside lawyer, Mr. Gabriel Poliquin, of the law firm of Caza Saikaley in Ottawa, who agreed with Chief Justice Joyal’s decision and reasons for dismissing the matter.
In his review of the matter, Chief Justice Joyal recalled the purpose of the Council’s Policy on International Judicial Activities and further noted that it is meant to ensure that judges and Chief Justices remain mindful of the risk as to whether a given international judicial activity could potentially lead to a negative perception of the judiciary and hence impact the public’s confidence towards the judiciary.
Chief Justice Joyal emphasized that the judiciary’s participation in what could be objectively seen as a beneficial educational program abroad represents, in most instances, a meaningful exchange of knowledge and an experience that is laudable and constructive. However, Chief Justice Joyal reiterated that in the circumstances, consultation with the Commissioner beforehand would have provided some cautionary views and assistance on the part of the Commissioner, particularly where political tensions between Canada and the country at issue may exist. Such assistance may notably have allowed a more proactive approach aimed at explaining to the broader public, as well as to the media, the nature and objectives of the projected international judicial activity.
Chief Justice Joyal also provided his views on the nature and tone of the interview granted by Chief Justice Fournier to the Journal de Montréal. Chief Justice Joyal noted that consulting the Commissioner beforehand would have yielded useful information about the educational program at issue, which could have potentially impacted the perception of Chief Justice Fournier’s statements that may have appeared glib and indifferent to concerns about the host country and judicial independence.
Chief Justice Fournier has since familiarized himself with the Council’s Policy on International Judicial Activities. Given the circumstances, Chief Justice Joyal has concluded that the matter does not warrant further consideration by the Council.
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