Bouchard, Bélanger, Baudouin
Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court dismissing an application for judicial review of a decision of the Professions Tribunal that had quashed a decision of the Barreau du Québec Disciplinary Council. Dismissed.
The appellant, an attorney who pleaded guilty to sexual offences against a minor child, was the subject of a disciplinary complaint based on section 149.1 of the Professional Code (CQLR, c. C-26). The Disciplinary Council of the Barreau du Québec found that the offences were not related to the practice of his profession. The Professions Tribunal held that the Disciplinary Council erred in considering the question solely in light of the specific characteristics of the appellant’s practice in business law. It determined that, to establish whether or not the offence is related, the more general [translation] “qualities essential to the practice of the profession of attorney, regardless of the specific field of professional practice” must be taken into consideration, and that the latter factor should be considered only when determining the penalty. It concluded that the offences to which the appellant had pleaded guilty were related to the qualities essential to the exercise of the profession of attorney, including those of officer of the court and promoter of human rights and freedoms. The Superior Court, applying the standard of reasonableness, dismissed the appellant’s application for judicial review, finding that the Professions Tribunal’s interpretation of section 149.1 of the Professional Code was consistent with the general purpose of the statute, which is to protect the public, and with its own case law.
The appeal should not be allowed. The legislature has conferred on the Professions Tribunal the [translation] “broadest power of intervention”, namely, the power to confirm, alter or quash any decision submitted to it and render the decision which it considers should have been rendered in first instance (section 175 Professional Code). The Superior Court did not err in stating that the Professions Tribunal had the latitude it needed to alter the test applicable under section 149.1 of the Professional Code as long as it remained within the bounds of the reasonable. This statement is consistent with the judgment rendered in Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail c. Brevil (C.A., 2019-05-03), 2019 QCCA 796, SOQUIJ AZ-51593804, 2019EXP-1379, 2019EXPT-887. A specialized administrative tribunal, to which deference is owed, must not be prevented from altering its approach and modifying an analytical framework so long as the change can be justified according to the standard of reasonableness. In this case, it cannot be said that the Professions Tribunal disregarded its case law. On the contrary, it carefully reviewed and discussed the decisions brought to its attention, drew distinctions where it deemed it necessary to do so, and finally, when applying section 149.1 of the Professional Code, developed a two-stage test that has the characteristics of reasonableness. The point of view of the Professions Tribunal is equally defensible to that of the appellant. The Superior Court was right not to intervene.
Text of the decision: Http://citoyens.soquij.qc.ca