The mayors of Pointe-Calumet and Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac interfered in the legal process to have a parking ticket canceled, even going so far as to put pressure on a police chief and seek to talk to the prosecutor about the case.
Our Bureau of Investigation has traced the line of speeches of the two elected officials since the issuance of a $ 150 violation notice in July.
The ticket was given to the spouse of an acquaintance of the mayoress of Pointe-Calumet, Sonia Fontaine.
The efforts of the two mayors of neighboring towns bore fruit as the man in question, a police officer from the Régie intermunicipale de police Thérèse-De Blainville, was finally acquitted in November by the Municipal Court of Deux-Montagnes.
We tell you opposite the sequence of events during which:
- Mayor Fontaine asked the director of the Régie de police du Lac des Deux-Montagnes to cancel the ticket;
- The mayoress of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Sonia Paulus, joined the Municipal Court to try to get in touch with the prosecutor assigned to the case;
- The Municipality of Pointe-Calumet adopted a resolution to the municipal council to ask the Court to withdraw the said finding.
We contacted the two mayors, who admitted part of the alleged facts.
According to our information, this story has seriously shaken both the police and the judiciary in the region in recent weeks. Uncomfortably, the management of the Deux-Montagnes Municipal Court even tried to transfer the case to another jurisdiction this fall.
“My only concern was to prevent the Municipal Court and the Régie de police du Lac des Deux-Montagnes from being accused of favoritism, because Mr.me Sonia Paulus, mayor and lawyer, contacted the clerk of the Municipal Court regarding a file where the mayoress of Pointe-Calumet was likely to be assigned as a witness ”, confirmed in writing to us the clerk and director of legal services of Deux-Montagnes, Me Jacques Robichaud.
According to several observers, the principle of separation of powers between the judiciary and the political has been flouted in this case.
“Just because it is a municipal court does not mean that this principle ceases to exist. Would it occur to an elected official to contact a DPCP prosecutor just to inquire about a case? »Says Jacques Robichaud.
“We remember that a man named Jean Charest, then Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport in Brian Mulroney’s cabinet, was forced to resign from his post as minister because he had contacted the office of a judge in a dispute between an athletics trainer and a sports federation, ”recalls the clerk.
“This specific case of political intervention in the judiciary is so serious” that the Commission municipale du Québec could begin an investigation immediately, believes Rémy Trudel, former minister of municipal affairs and professor at the National School. public administration.
“It’s more than an ethical issue. It is a matter of illegality. It is an illegal action to intervene with a police officer or a court of law to have a ticket canceled, “he notes.
“Very serious offense”
From a strictly legal point of view, interference by an elected official in a judicial court is a criminal offense, says the lawyer specializing in municipal law and partner at Lavery Daniel Bouchard.
“These are sections 121 and 122 of the Criminal Code. It is an abuse of power. […] Clearly we can’t do that. […] When a mayor intervenes with the municipal court to withdraw a statement of offense, he is not performing a municipal function. He abuses his power for personal gain, ”he said.
“This is a very serious offense. The separation of powers in our system is a gem. The courts are very picky on this and very strict on these issues. It’s no small thing. “
– With the collaboration of Andrea Valeria and Sarah Daoust-Braun
The thread of events
1er july 2020
Philippe Legault receives a ticket of $ 150 for parking at the Pointe-Calumet marina without a sticker.
Mayor Sonia Fontaine is on site. She is questioned by the spouse of Mr. Legault, Linda Labelle, an acquaintance and Facebook friend.
July 14, 2020
Mr. Legault enters a plea of not guilty. During the same period, Mayor Fontaine contacted the director of the Régie de police du Lac des Deux-Montagnes to ask for explanations and have the statement of offense canceled. The latter refuses, according to our sources. According to the Régie, the director directed the mayoress to the Municipal Court “so that she can go through the normal route in order to contest this contravention”.
- The mayoress of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Sonia Paulus, contacts the registry of the Municipal Court of Deux-Montagnes.
Joined by our Bureau of Investigation, Chief Clerk Josée Maurice explained that the mayor wanted to speak to the prosecutor assigned to Mr. Legault’s file.
Mme Maurice told us that he was surprised and asked the mayoress of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac why she was contacting her about a file concerning Pointe-Calumet.
- This intervention created unease within the Municipal Court. The decision is then made to transfer the file to the municipal court of the City of Saint-Jérôme.
- The Pointe-Calumet administration contacts the Deux-Montagnes administration to find out how to have the statement of offense withdrawn.
The City of Deux-Montagnes first recommends letting justice take its course, before indicating “that a solution would consist in withdrawing a finding, which is authorized by the Code of Criminal Procedure”.
November 3, 2020
At a special meeting, the Pointe-Calumet municipal council passes a resolution asking the Municipal Court to withdraw the statement of offense. No reason or explanation appears in the minutes.
November 4, 2020
The next day, Mr. Legault’s case returned to court. Normally, it must then be transferred to that of Saint-Jérôme. But since the prosecutor (the City of Pointe-Calumet) no longer wants to continue the case, the prosecutor tells the judge that he has no more evidence to offer and Mr. Legault is immediately acquitted.
They admit to having intervened
The mayors of Pointe-Calumet and Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac admit to intervening on a finding of offense, but deny any improper attempt to interfere with the judicial process.
The mayoress of Pointe-Calumet, Sonia Fontaine, chaired the board of directors of the Régie de police during her appeal to the director of the Régie.
In an interview, she formally denies having put pressure on him, claiming to have simply asked him for “explanations”.
She also told us that she intervened in this case only because she was there, by pure chance, in the parking lot of the marina when the statement of offense was given to Philippe Legault, the spouse of an acquaintance and Facebook friend. .
“Unfortunately, I was there. I noticed that the sticker was present and that a report had been issued in error. At some point, we have to go with our common sense. This lady had no business having a ticket, ”she explained, pleading that she would have acted the same way for any other citizen.
Mayor Fontaine, whose city council finally canceled the contravention by resolution, said she had acted as she feared having to go and testify in court in this case “against” her police department.
Checks made, however, she never received a summons to testify.
Sonia Fontaine also denied having asked her colleague Sonia Paulus, mayor of Sainte-Marthe-sur-Lac, to intervene in this case.
However, when our Bureau of Investigation contacted her, Mr.me Paulus admitted to having intervened “at the request of Mr.me Fontaine “to help him with his administrative procedures.
Sonia Paulus says she contacted the registry of the Municipal Court of Deux-Montagnes only to obtain the contact details of the prosecutor in the file.