Photo: Jacques Boissinot The canadian Press
The minister of Agriculture, André Lamontagne
A complaint for libel was filed against the minister of Agriculture, André Lamontagne, in the case of Louis Robert, this agronomist fired by the government in January for speaking out against the undue influence of the pesticide industry in the research.
The canadian Press has learned Tuesday that the Syndicat des professionnels du government du Quebec (SPGQ), which defends its member, has initiated this procedure without precedent. The minister could be called to testify.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time that a minister is sued in a complaint for defamation by one of its employees, and even in the civil courts “, said the president of the SPGQ, Richard Perron, in a phone interview. He recalled that the adjudicator who will investigate the grievance has the same powers as a judge.
Mr. Robert complaint is precisely that the minister to have said that there were other reasons for his dismissal than what was indicated in the letter of dismissal.
The letter made specific mention of two reasons, either lack of loyalty ” for having passed a document to a journalist, as well as having contravened the obligation of discretion of the policy of relations with the media ministry.
“No other reason is mentioned,” said Mr. Perron.
The minister was initially targué to have fired personally by the employee and even the prime minister François Legault was expressed on this issue. In addition, in the interview, Mr. Lamontagne had suggested that his “intuition” suggested that there was something else in the record of Mr. Robert.
“Not based on any fact, it is defamation pure, said Mr. Perron. He dug his hole. “
“The conduct of the employer and the government in the media management of my dismissal constitutes an abuse of rights and violates my dignity, my honour and my reputation, one can read in the complaint. I am claiming damages for defamation and damage to my reputation. “
The SPGQ is that the employer does not take the “hard line” and finds that he has interest to resolve the grievance before going any further, to avoid the minister to be called personally to testify.
The objective is to reintegrate as quickly as possible Mr. Robert in his function, he gets an apology, and that he is fully compensated.
This approach of grievance can take several months, or even up to two years and more, said Mr. Perron. As to the value of the damage that could be fixed by the arbitrator, the union refuses to speculate.
Louis Robert has already filed two grievances, challenging her dismissal and request to be reinstated with full compensation, and another to seek redress because of a suspension that exceeded 30 days, contrary to the collective agreement.
Mr. Robert could also file a civil suit for defamation, but the union wants “the government to reflect and change” quickly, before going to the courts.
Moreover, the petition in favour of the reinstatement of Mr. Robert has recently passed the milestone of 50 000 signatures.
The president of the SPGQ will meet in the next few days the Confederation of national trade unions (CSN), the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec (FTQ) and the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), to extend the mobilization in favor of his member.
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