Quebec Premier Francois Legault took illegal action to remove French actor Gérard Depardieu from the National Order of Quebec without taking into account the presumption of innocence or applicable regulations that limit the penalties imposed, lawyer Julius Gray said Thursday.
Mr. Gray stressed that no legal decision had been made against Mr. Depardieu, whose statements in a documentary led the Quebec government to strip him of his honorary honours.
“It is completely illegal,” he said in an interview. duty. Even if there is a power of suspension or something like that, it cannot be done without the rules of natural justice. »
Mr. Gray, who has defended many cases based on the protection of freedom of expression in recent decades, considered that the government could not punish Mr. Depardieu without knowing his version of the facts. For this reason, the actor would “technically” have grounds to sue the state of Quebec.
“If he got angry, he could say: Here you have a regulation and the regulation is part of the law.” “You didn't follow your own rules,” the lawyer explained.
duty The bylaws of the Quebec National Order only provide for disbarment if one of its members is convicted after a legal proceeding, it was revealed Wednesday.
Mr. Legault announced Mr. Depardieu's expulsion in mid-December after receiving a recommendation from the Council of the National Order of Quebec, relying on its bylaws.
The Quebec government explained that this decision was made due to “degrading and offensive comments made by the actor against several women and a young girl” in a documentary shown in France.
Mr. Depardieu has also been targeted in recent years by allegations of sexual assault.
Mr Gray was concerned to see the government choosing to impose a penalty when no legal conviction had been issued against the actor.
He added: “It appears that the accusation itself amounts to a loss of capacity, which is unacceptable.”
According to the lawyer, this decision undermines the principle of the presumption of innocence, which has been enshrined in law over the centuries.
He added: “It is an example of this moral panic, where everyone, when they hear accusations of this kind, is so eager to show their anger that they act without thinking.”
Mr. Gray believes that Mr. Legault was under no obligation to intervene, given the regulations in place under the Order of the National of Quebec, for which Mr. Depardieu was knighted in 2002.
He added: “It was not his duty to comment.” Under the current settlement, he had to wait for the outcome of the trial. If there had been a trial, a decision, there would have been a discretionary decision where the pros and cons had to be weighed. »
As for Mr. Depardieu's comments, the lawyer believes that there is a danger that they will be taken out of context.
He added: “You usually have to wait and see what happens, along with the obvious question: Was the other person angry or not? »
Conservative leader Eric Duhaime also considered that Mr. Legault had violated the French actor's presumption of innocence. He should have respected the rules and waited to see if he would be subject to legal conviction.
“Imagine for two seconds that the court acquitted Mr. Depardieu,” he said. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. The presumption of innocence exists in our judicial system. »
Mr. Duhem stressed that Mr. Legault was right to condemn the “scandalous statements” made by Mr. Depardieu and contained in the documentary broadcast by France Television.
“Everyone was surprised and disappointed when we saw Mr. Depardieu's comments,” he said. These were unacceptable comments, and I think there's a consensus on that. Where there is a problem with the wheel. »
Mr. Duhem expressed concern when he saw that Mr. Legault had personally asked the union council to make a recommendation following Mr. Depardieu's statements, which he linked to political interference.
He added: “This clearly puts undue pressure on members who are supposed to make their decisions in a non-partisan manner.”
Mr. Duhem believes Mr. Legault's decision reflects a weak public opinion, which is damaging Quebec's image.
“We seem to have an amateur government,” he explained.
The Parti Québécois did not want to take a position on the government's decision. Quebec Solidaire also indicated that it does not have a position on this matter at this time. The Quebec Liberal Party did not respond to his demands duty.
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