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Suspended SQ director blasts ‘sick’ system ahead of possible dismissal

Prud’homme was suspended from his duties in March 2019 after the head of the province’s office of criminal prosecutions filed an ethics complaint against him concerning a telephone call he made to her 16 months earlier.

“After a year of investigation concerning the telephone call, I was cleared of any infraction of a criminal nature without any of the investigators ever meeting with me, though I offered to collaborate fully,” wrote Prud’homme.

“The true intention behind this investigation was not the telephone call, but rather to conduct a vast fishing expedition aiming to associate me with leaks to the media and based only on the assumption of my friendship with (Quebec MNA) Guy Ouellette and my family ties with ex-UPAC commissioner Robert Lafrenière.”

Prud’homme’s name repeatedly surfaced in a 2017 affidavit used to obtain a search warrant for then-Liberal MNA Ouellette. Quebec’s anti-corruption unit (UPAC) arrested Ouellette, a former SQ sergeant, in connection with allegations that he leaked confidential information to reporters. Lafrenière — UPAC’s director at the time — is Prud’homme’s father-in-law. The search warrant targeting Ouellette was ultimately invalidated, and Lafrenière resigned his post in 2018 amid criticism over his handling of the investigation.

In Friday’s statement, Prud’homme complained that “at no time was I informed of the true motive for my suspension and never was I met with to obtain my version of the facts, which goes against the principles of fundamental justice.

“The government is about to make a decision based on erroneous, incomplete facts that contain a multitude of shortcuts.”

A few hours after Prud’homme’s statement was made public, Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault announced that the province’s public service commission would examine Prud’homme’s case and recommend whether he be dismissed or suspended without pay.

Guilbault told reporters that an administrative investigation of Prud’homme found he had committed a sufficiently serious breach of ethics for the investigative process allowed by law to continue.

The report of that administrative investigation had been provided to Prud’homme in June and would be kept confidential unless he consented to share it publicly, Guilbault said.

Opposition parties wasted little time criticizing how the government had handled Prud’homme’s case.

Quebec Liberal public security critic Jean Rousselle complained that Guilbault had not been sufficiently forthcoming with the details of what, precisely, Prud’homme’s offence had been.

“We’re talking about the No. 1 person at the SQ,” he said. “Given the information we have right now, it seems this is a settling of scores and grudges.”

For Québec solidaire, Prud’homme’s case showed “it is time to end the petty politics within police forces. It tarnishes our police institutions, which are already lacking in (public) trust.”

QS MNA Alexandre Leduc said it was time to introduce civilian leaders into police forces “to break this unhealthy dynamic that has existed within these institutions for years.”

Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said: “We are very concerned that Mr. Prud’homme will not have the chance to present his point of view. We ask once again to meet Mr. Prud’homme in camera and to have access to all the reports.”

Prud’homme said he intends to defend his rights and reputation before “a just and impartial body” since the political system “has already decided my career is finished.”

Finally, in his statement, Prud’homme reached out to all Quebec police officers, urging them to “keep your heads held high and continue to believe in the justice you defend daily.”

“Certainly, a part of the system is sick, but the public needs your integrity and your values.”

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Coronavirus live updates: Quebec reports 933 new cases, 16 deaths and 13 hospitalizations

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11:10 a.m.

Quebec reports 933 new cases, 16 deaths and 13 hospitalizations

Quebec has recorded 933 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.

That’s the biggest one-day caseload increase since early May.

Montreal reported the most cases: 319.

The province has now passed the 75,000 mark, with a total of 75,221 cases confirmed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Sixteen new deaths were reported – two over the past 24 hours, 12 between Sept. 24 and 29, and two more before Sept. 24

That’s the highest number of deaths reported in one day since July 3.

The number of hospitalizations increased by 13 to reach 275.

Among those in hospital, 46 are in intensive care, an increase of three.

“Community transmission has an impact on people of all backgrounds, ages and regions,” Health Minister Christian Dubé said via Twitter. “We must stay at home to protect the most vulnerable.”

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Quebec puts four more regions under alert as Legault warns of lockdowns

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QUEBEC — Premier François Legault hardened the tone Tuesday, slapping a COVID-19 pre-alert status on four more regions and warning parts of Quebec are close to the next more critical level, which will mean closing bars and restaurants.

Warning there is a now “a real risk” of a second wave that would mean the return of various levels of lockdowns, Legault said he does not understand why some people are still ignoring warnings — even holding fall barbecues and corn boils with large groups or gathering in restaurants.

In the long run, the community virus spread that ensues will mean more hospitalizations, more overcrowding, more disruptions in people’s lives and ultimately more deaths.

“The situation is critical, it is worrisome,” Legault said at a pandemic news conference as the National Assembly resumed sitting.

“Today I am making an appeal for the solidarity. Please think of vulnerable people, think of those waiting for surgery, think of those working in the health system, think of our children.

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Analysis: CAQ minister plans to reinforce French language

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QUEBEC — It was Simon Jolin-Barrette’s summer reading in 2019: a biography on the life of Camille Laurin, the man considered to be the father of the Charter of the French Language.

Written by former journalist Jean-Claude Picard — who recently died — the book describes Laurin as a man who saw the charter and protection of French as a tool toward the social liberation of Quebec’s francophones.

In other words, Laurin was a staunch nationalist (who as a member of the Parti Québécois also favoured independence).

Camille Laurin, who served as Cultural Development minister in the first Parti Québécois government and is considered the father of the Charter of the French Language, is seen here in a 1977 photo.
Camille Laurin, who served as Cultural Development minister in the first Parti Québécois government and is considered the father of the Charter of the French Language, is seen here in a 1977 photo. Photo by Garth Pritchard /Montreal Gazette

Today, 43 years after the adoption of the charter by the PQ, Jolin-Barrette finds himself in the same job, the Quebec minister responsible for language. He, too, plans to unveil his own vision, a new “action plan” that he says will reinforce French in Quebec.

How far will he go and when? The pandemic and economic downturn may affect the timing and scope of the plan, particularly if it implies slapping more red tape on struggling small-business owners. The Legault government may want to hold off before launching a new controversy.

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Old Brewery Missions’s Matthew Pearce will retire in September

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Matthew Pearce, president and chief executive officer of the Old Brewery Mission since 2008, will retire from his post and step down in September, the organization announced on Thursday.

In a statement, Eric Maldoff, chair of the Mission’s board, praised Pearce for having “led the Old Brewery Mission through a period of significant growth and phenomenal transformation that have inspired other organizations to adopt the Mission’s approaches to end chronic homelessness. … He will be missed.”

During Pearce’s time as executive director, the Mission underwent significant changes that included:

Establishing new supportive housing models and programs adapted to the needs of specific homeless populations.

• The creation of  a research department in partnership with McGill Universityto gain greater knowledge of the root causes of homelessness.

• Opening a triage and referral centre for first-time shelter arrivals to shorten their homelessness experience and ensure they are adequately housed and reintegrated into the community.

• Transforming the emergency shelter into a 24/7 resource centre that allowed residents to remain onsite and fully connected to counselling staff and services.

Pearce will be replaced by James Hughes, who was the Mission’s director-general from 2004 to 2008.

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A COVID-quiet summer will cost Montreal’s economy hundreds of millions

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Industry figures for 2009, the last year that the Grand Prix didn’t take place, show Montreal hotels suffered a $25-million revenue shortfall compared with other race weekends, Paré said.

Occupancy rates in Montreal typically average 96 or 97 per cent during Grand Prix weekend. City hotels double their room rates to coincide with the event, allowing them to offset slower winter bookings.

“If you convert that $25 million into 2020 dollars, and if you consider that additional seats have since been installed at the racetrack, the shortfall this year is going to be even higher,” Paré said.

As more events in and around Montreal get cancelled, those lost weekends — and weeks — look set to multiply well into the summer. On Tuesday, event promoter Evenko officially cancelled this year’s edition of the Osheaga and ÎleSoniq electronic music festivals. Both events will be back in 2021, Evenko said.

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Projections show spike in COVID-19 deaths in Montreal if confinement lifted

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“It’s not a free-for-all at all at this point,” she said.

Hankins said it was too soon to say whether schools and non-essential stores should reopen in Montreal on May 25.

“It’s prudent to watch and see what happens,” she said.

“I know it’s unsettling not to have firm dates, but on the other hand we want wisdom to prevail here,” she added.

On Thursday, Premier François Legault again delayed the reopening of schools, daycares and non-essential retail outlets in the Montreal region.

Sixty-three per cent of Quebec’s 2,928 deaths from COVID-19 have occurred on the island of Montreal, as have 51 per cent of diagnosed cases of the disease, according to the latest statistics unveiled by the Quebec government on Sunday.

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