Rentrée judiciaire

September 06 2018, from 10:00 to 20:00


A Rentrée on the leading edge
By Johanne Landry

Again this year, the Rentrée judiciaire on September 6 was divided into two parts: the morning at the Courthouse, with a change of venue in the late afternoon to the Centre Mont-Royal.

Opening of the Courts

The Honourable Nicole Duval Hesler, Chief Justice of Quebec and honorary presider at the event, shared in particular the good news about the project to restore the former courthouse to its judicial vocation. “We have received approval from the Ville de Montréal, the owner of the property, a pre-Confederation building that is a jewel in our judicial heritage.”

In relation to the theme Un barreau d’avant-garde (A leading-edge bar association), the Chief Justice of Quebec mentioned a list of historic legal debates conducted by leading-edge lawyers, including Roncarelli v. Duplessis on the right to protection against abuse of power by the state; Daigle v. Tremblay, on a woman’s autonomy over her reproductive functions; and the Anselem case on declarations of co-ownership that infringe freedom of religion. 

“A leading-edge bar association serves justice, which changes and evolves along with the society it serves. If the past is any indication, then in the future, the Bar will contribute inspiration, confidence, understanding and conviction as society evolves,” she concluded.

The Honourable Marc Noël, Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal, discussed the desire to make the federal courts more accessible to Quebec litigants, whereas a good number of Quebec lawyers do not feel comfortable when called to appear before them. “Not being familiar with our rules may be an obstacle to access to justice,” he said.

In order to facilitate access by creating a more user-friendly framework for proceedings, the federal courts are looking at the possibility of allowing the use of rules, in certain disputes, that would be based more on the Code of Civil Procedure. “We must ensure throughout this exercise that procedure continues to serve substantive law. The results will be worth it,” added the Chief Justice.

The Honourable Jacques P. Fournier, Chief Justice of the Superior Court, was pleased about the reduction in delays for hearing cases, which had gone from 30 months in 2016, to 12 or 18 months today. “I can state that the crisis of delays in criminal matters is not entirely resolved, but it is well on its way,” he said. Among the actions taken, the Chief Justice mentioned the moving of resources from other divisions to the criminal division, as well as the use of retired judges in settlement conferences, thereby freeing up sitting judges to preside over trials.

Mr. Justice Fournier wanted to express his opinion on legal aid and its essential role in assuring public confidence in the justice system, and asked for an examination of its impact on the judiciary. Quoting figures and studies, he said that he felt strongly that the government would save a considerable amount of money by increasing access to legal aid.

The Honourable Lucie Rondeau, Chief Judge of the Court of Quebec, pointed out that the theme chosen by the Bar of Montreal made her think of being on the leading edge as it related to accountability for helping citizens achieve a greater understanding of the justice system and highlighting the practical and positive effects of living and growing under the rule of law. “My words are therefore a call to begin the next judicial year by constantly thinking of ways we can enlighten the public and guide it in its consumption of legal information,” she said.

In the same vein, the Chief Justice touched on several successful projects that had made a positive contribution, and announced the broadcast of the documentary series Les coulisses du palais (The corridors of justice) starting October 12 on Canal D, consisting of 11 episodes filmed at the courthouse in Quebec City. “While waiting for greater openness to the public through a modern and user-friendly website, the judges of the Court of Quebec agreed to take part in a fairly unusual exercise for the judiciary to practise transparency,” she explained.

Louise Otis, a former Judge of Appeal at the Court of Appeal of Quebec, a mediator and arbitrator, quickly related the history of legal mediation and how it went from an idea to a pilot project, and then to current practice in civil and commercial law; and, several years later, to become a pilot project in penal law. “We were the first jurisdiction in the world to integrate mediational law into decisional law in every sphere of legal activity, and it was done smoothly and returned synergies,” she said. This year, legal mediation is celebrating 20 years of existence.

A large number of legal aid lawyers were in the audience wearing badges calling for parity, and when Stéphanie Vallée, Quebec Minister of Justice, took the floor, they all stood up in order to draw attention to their presence.

This was the last Rentrée for Stéphanie Vallée, who recently announced that she would be retiring from active political life. She mentioned, in particular, the historic investment of $500 million in the next five years, which would make the system more innovative and more effective, benefiting not only litigants but all parties involved in the justice system as well.

After thanking the legal community and noting the improvements made in recent years, the Minister added that “The work that the Supreme Court called us to in July 2016 is not over yet. We must successfully complete the change in our culture. We do not have the right to return to our old habits.”

This portion of the day was led by Mtre Michel P. Synnott, Bâtonnier of Montreal.

The Rentrée judiciaire ceremony

The Rentrée continued in the late afternoon at the Théâtre Symposia of the Centre Mont-Royal, in a ceremony officiated by Mtre Mélanie Dugré.

The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, shared his reflections on the theme of having a leading-edge bar association, mentioning in particular that, today, we associate being leading-edge with visionaries who use their intelligence and boldness to play a role as trailblazers. “We must be prepared to take the lead in things, not be afraid of new ideas and always be ready to innovate,” he said.

“History is full of examples where lawyers had to show they had the courage of their convictions and the determination to forge new pathways and dare to innovate, no matter who they upset,” he also added, while tying into the day’s theme.

Mtre Paul-Matthieu Grondin, Bâtonnier of Québec focused the core of his speech on legal aid, recalling that in the 1970s in Quebec, “we had decided that no one would be sent to prison because they did not have a lawyer to represent them, and that we would help the underprivileged to navigate through an impartial but sometimes complex system.” If this ideal is still alive today, he added, it is nevertheless jeopardized by outdated rates.

The Barreau du Québec has two ways of eliminating obsolete rates: by publicly calling on politicians and by forming coalitions to explain to people what legal aid actually is. “Our determination to make it a public issue will pay off, for sure. We will be here next year to tell you about it. Together, we can continue to make things change,” he said in closing.

Mtre Jonathan Pierre-Étienne, Young Bar of Montreal President, said that the association was celebrating its 120th anniversary, recalling that you have to have the wisdom to know where you came from to be able to know where you are going, especially at a time when technology is revolutionizing procedures and young people need to be more creative and constantly innovating because of the precarious job situation, while citizens’ access to justice is undermined by complexity and soaring costs.

Mtre Pierre-Étienne mentioned some of the major initiatives taken by young lawyers over the 120 years of history of the association. “Together we need to take stock of the situation and then go forward and change the profession in our own way,” he said for the benefit of the newcomers who had been sworn in since September 2017.

Presentation of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal to Pro Bono Québec

Mtre Mélanie Dugré invited the former Chairs of Pro Bono Québec, its Board members as well as the former and current Executive Directors on stage. They were warmly applauded by the audience.

The Honourable J. Michel Doyon, Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, explained that the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Exceptional Merit is awarded to individuals, organizations and institutions that, through their actions, have made an outstanding contribution to the well-being of society culturally, socially and economically.

Pro Bono Québec, he pointed out, helps mobilize the legal community so that it can generously offer its time and expertise to less fortunate individuals and not-for-profit organizations in need of legal services. Pro Bono Québec responds to major needs; the active participation of numerous lawyers shows their concern about taking concrete action for the development of our society, the Lieutenant-Governor said, before awarding the prestigious medal to Mtre Christine Carron, the current Chair of Pro Bono Québec, while the musicians on stage performed O Canada. Mtre Carron expressed her thanks and briefly outlined Pro Bono Québec’s mission and work.

Mtre Guy Pratte awarded the Medal of The Bar of Montreal

Mtre Michel P. Synnott then introduced the musicians on stage who had played background music for each of the stages in the ceremony, members of the Fusiliers Mont-Royal regiment which he had selected because he had previously belonged to it, hence accounting for the military theme. The vanguard, as he explained, is the leading edge that goes out ahead to carry out a reconnaissance patrol and ensure protection. In civilian life, being “avant-garde” is to be someone who is ahead of his or her time.

If the “avant-garde” are those who dare, then Mtre Synnott also made the connection with Mtre Guy Pratte, who dared to carry out a landmark initiative in 2005 by heading a work group that presented a completely innovative project for the period to the Barreau du Québec, which through a resolution of the Barreau’s General Council while J. Michel Doyon was President became Pro Bono Québec in September 2008. Mtre Synnott traced the journey and commended Mtre Pratte before awarding him the 2018 Medal of The Bar of Montreal. “Because he took the lead in a project promoting access to justice, Mtre Pratte was the ideal candidate to receive the Medal of The Bar of Montreal, a distinction awarded to highlight an exceptional contribution to the cause of justice,” said Bâtonnier Synnott.

Mtre Guy Pratte humbly thanked him for this honour, saying that he came from a family “that had no other talent than that of practising law.” In fact, he recounted how he is the great-grandson of Adjutor Rivard, the lawyer, writer and linguist; the grand-nephew of Ernest Lapointe, who was Minister of Justice; the grandson of Garon Pratte, who was a Superior Court judge and Dean of Law at Université Laval, and had participated in the revision of the Code of Civil Procedure in 1960; the nephew of Louis Pratte, who was a Federal Court of Appeal justice; and the son of Yves Pratte, who was the Chairman of Air Canada and Dean of Law at Université Laval, and was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. According to Mtre Pratte, this list shows the passion for justice that runs in his family, to which he could not be immune.

“My family heritage made me realize that justice, and especially access to justice, was not only other people’s business, but my own as well because of the privileges that life had bestowed upon me.”

The Rentrée judiciaire ceremony was also an opportunity to remember members who had died in the past year and to pay tribute to the one woman lawyer and eight male lawyers who are celebrating their 60th anniversary of being called to the Bar this year, as well as the two women lawyers and 47 male lawyers who are celebrating their 50th anniversary.

Thanks to our partners :
La Financière des avocats and Montpetit Recrutement | Ressources humaines.


Anniversaires d'admission au Barreau (50-60)
Les avocats célébrant leur 60e ou 50e anniversaire d'admission, présents lors de la cérémonie de la Rentrée judiciaire,
se sont réunis autour du bâtonnier Michel P. Synnott pour une photo immortalisant cette journée anniversaire.


60e anniversaire 
Me Harold W. Ashenmil, c.r., Me Trevor H. Bishop, Me John G. Chamberland, avocat à la retraite, Me Jean-G. Chenevert, avocat à la retraite, Me William N. Gagnon, Me Gilles R. Hébert, c.r., Me Luc Plamondon, avocat à la retraite, et Me Lise Saintonge-Poitevin.

50e anniversaire
Me Martin Aaron Aster, Me Jean-Claude Bachand, Me Ezra Beinhaker, Me Daniel Bellemare, c.r., Me Michel Bolduc, avocat à la retraite, Me Jean-François Boulais, Me Marc Cantin, Me J. Brian Cornish, avocat à la retraite, L’honorable Irwin Cotler, O.C., O.Q., Me Michel Décary, c.r., Ad. E., Me Pierre Dozois, Me Michael L. Garonce, Me David C. Gavsie, avocat à la retraite, Me Victor H. Glazer, Me Colin A. Gravenor, avocat à la retraite, Me Martin Green, Me William Hesler, c.r., Me John T. Keenan, Me Melvin S. Kronish, Me Peter Robert Lack, Me Paul Lacoste, avocat à la retraite, Me John LeBoutillier, C.M., avocat à la retraite, Me Harold C. Lehrer, Me George F. Lengvari, c.r., avocat à la retraite, Me Jacques A. Letellier, c.r., avocat à la retraite, Me André Loranger, avocat à la retraite, Me Michel Marchand, Me James E. Marunzak, Me Pierre Morneau, Me Paul Nadler, Me Monique Parent, avocate à la retraite, Me Douglas Pascal, avocat à la retraite, Me Pierre J. Perrault, avocat à la retraite, Me Richard W. Pound, C.C., O.Q., C.O.M., c.r., Ad. E., Me Vincent M. Prager, Me Frédéric Raymond, avocat à la retraite, Me André Rousseau, Me Médard Saucier, Me Raphael H. Schachter, c.r., Ad. E., Me Norton H. Segal, c.r., L’honorable Joël Avery Silcoff, Me Joseph Silver, avocat à la retraite, Me Arthur H. Steckler, Me Myer Stern, Me Gilles Touchette, Ad. E., L’honorable Anne-Marie Trahan, c.r., avocate à la retraite, M. le bâtonnier Gérald R. Tremblay, O.C., O.Q., c.r., Ad. E., Me Robert Vineberg, et Me Michael D. Worsoff.



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Allocutions prononcées lors de la Rentrée judiciaire :

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