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Quebec premier leaning toward forming committee to monitor anti-corruption unit

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard comments on MNA Guy Ouellette, who was recently released after being arrested last week in connection with the disclosure of confidential documents, during a news conference at the National Assembly in Quebec City, Tuesday, October 31, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
November 01, 2017 - 1:27 PM

QUEBEC - The stormy debate over the arrest of a member of Quebec's legislature continued Wednesday as Premier Philippe Couillard said he is leaning toward the creation of an independent committee to monitor the province's anti-corruption unit.

He told reporters it's time to have a discussion on what kind of supervision society should have over its police forces, especially those with investigative mandates.

"How can a democratic society like ours ensure proper surveillance or framework for a police body like UPAC that is going to become an independent police institution?" he said, referring to a bill that would broaden the powers of the anti-corruption group.

His comments came a day after the unit resisted a call to fully clarify why Guy Ouellette was arrested without charges last Wednesday.

Ouellette, 65, was detained in connection with a UPAC investigation into an important information leak to the media last April.

Ouellette told the legislature Tuesday he's being intimidated and muzzled by UPAC in an attempt to keep him quiet.

Later that day, the head of UPAC told reporters the arrest was just one step in a broad investigation and that any charges will be laid only when it is complete.

Robert Lafreniere added he does not intend to allow anyone to dictate his unit's conduct or how he runs his investigations, even if they involve a member of the legislature.

On Wednesday, Couillard recognized that UPAC has probably said all it can say about Ouellette's arrest, but said he was still "strongly" considering the surveillance committee.

Couillard also did not reinstate Ouellette into the Liberal caucus on Wednesday, despite expressing admiration for him.

"We love Guy, he's a friend of ours, he's a colleague of ours, he wears the same jersey as we do," he said.

Couillard said it was Ouellette himself who made the decision to remove himself from caucus last week until the Crown decides whether to lay charges in the case.

Many legislature members have come to Ouellette's defence in the wake of the arrest.

On Tuesday, Speaker Jacques Chagnon said it is "intolerable" that police arrested a parliamentarian without any charges having been laid a week later.

In a swipe at UPAC, Chagnon used the French words "accuse ou s'excuse" to say it should either charge Ouellette or apologize to him.

But on Wednesday, Natural Resources Minister Pierre Moreau came out against his fellow Liberal's position, choosing to abstain from voting on a motion in support of Chagnon's speech.

He noted it wasn't even possible for UPAC to charge Ouellette, since such decisions are the sole responsibility of the Crown.

"Saying 'charge or apologize' makes for a good clip, but it's not consistent with the workings of our justice system," he told reporters.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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