Quebec’s anti-corruption unit blames media coverage for recruiting troubles

Quebec’s anti-corruption unit blames media coverage for recruiting troubles

MONTREAL — Seven years after it was created, Quebec’s anti-corruption unit is having difficulty recruiting members and filling a number of positions.

Frederick Gaudreau, the interim head of the agency known by its French acronym, UPAC, admits unflattering coverage in the media hasn’t helped.

“Yes, it’s a reason, I don’t want to deny it,” Gaudreau said at a recent news conference during the presentation of the unit’s annual report. “I won’t hide from you that it’s a challenge to recruit people.”

The report also revealed that there was a 30 per cent rate of voluntary departures among permanent employees at UPAC.

The unit, which has about 350 employees, was created by former premier Jean Charest in 2011 amid allegations of corruption in Quebec’s construction industry and the alleged illegal financing of political parties.

Gaudreau recently took over as the unit’s director after his predecessor, Robert Lafreniere, tendered his resignation on Oct. 1 — the day of the last provincial election.

No reason was given for Lafreniere’s decision to step down. He had been at the head of the unit since it was created. He was reconfirmed in the job in 2016 and his mandate was supposed to end in 2021.

However, Quebec media have been reporting on turmoil within the anti-corruption unit for months, and the reports suggest the unit has a difficult work environment with low morale.

Documents leaked to the press also revealed UPAC has for years been investigating Charest and Liberal party treasurer Marc Bibeau on illegal electoral financing suspicions.

No arrests have been made in either investigation and Charest has denied any wrongdoing.

Gaudreau was coy when asked on Thursday if the two men are still being investigated.

“If we talk about an investigation that’s underway, we could put the investigation at risk,” he said. “It’s important not to comment on an investigation that’s underway.”

A Liberal member of the Quebec legislature, who says he was “destroyed” after being targeted by UPAC, is suing the provincial government for $550,000.

In October 2017, Guy Ouellette was arrested by the anti-corruption unit on suspicion he was responsible for leaking sensitive information about the investigation into Charest and Bibeau.

Ouellette, a former provincial police officer, denied the claims and was never charged.

Gaudreau admitted that the negative media coverage has affected the recruitment of officers to join the unit, but it’s something he hopes to change.

“My objective, I would say, is to assure the population that the work is being done properly in the field (and) remove any uneasiness and any preoccupation that people have had in the past,” he said.

An internal report in December 2017, which was leaked to the media, talked of palpable tensions and a lack of confidence in management among the unit’s employees.

Quebec’s public security department announced in October that the province’s independent police watchdog, known as BEI, will investigate leaks of confidential information apparently coming from UPAC.

Gaudreau said about a dozen positions for investigators and several support staff positions now need to be filled.

He noted that there’s little interest among the younger generation of police officers to fight against corruption because of the complexity of the inquiries, which take a lot of time.

“People who have a tendency to work on short-term dossiers are not necessarily motivated by our inquiries,” he said.

Gaudreau said that, while he didn’t have exact figures, a large portion of the police being hired by UPAC don’t have any experience handling investigations.

“It’s clear to me that we need to evolve the model into UPAC 2.0,” he added.

Gaudreau also said he hasn’t excluded the possibility of going outside Quebec to look for investigators.

“We’re open to considering anything,” he said. ”What we are looking for are highly-motivated people who are best qualified to do this type of an inquiry.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The body of 25-year-old Kyler Corriveau was discovered near Red Deer on Sunday. He was missing since Dec. 15. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contrinuted photo).
RCMP are investigating the death of missing Red Deer man as a homicide

The body of Kyler Corriveau was discovered on Sunday

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 456 new cases of COVID-19 over Tuesday afternoon. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

Community Futures Central Alberta, in partnership with the Central Alberta Regional Innovation Network (CARIN), is behind the SMARTstart initiative for budding entrepreneurs.
New program aimed at helping entrepreneurs succeed

Program offers mentorship, business advice and networking opportunities

A Red Deer man, who has been declared a dangerous offender, lost his appeal of an aggravated assault conviction from 2017. Advocate file photo
Red Deer man who chomped on remand centre inmate’s ear loses aggravated assault appeal

Inmate lost part of his ear in attack at Red Deer Remand Centre in August 2017

Red Deer’s Wiklund vs. Wiklund is celebrating a burst of songwriting creativity during the 2020 lockdown by releasing a new tune to YouTube and multiple digital music platforms in each month of 2021. (Contributed image).
Pandemic lockdown fuels a flurry of songwriting for Red Deer music duo

Wiklund vs Wiklund will release a new single monthly in 2021

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A Subway fast food restaurant's sign is shown in New York on Oct. 24, 2016. A defamation lawsuit by the world’s largest fast-food operator against Canada's public broadcaster over a report on the chain's chicken sandwiches can proceed, Ontario's top court has ruled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mark Lennihan
Subway can press $210-million defamation suit against CBC for show on chicken content

Subway can press $210-million defamation suit against CBC for show on chicken content

 A man watches the financial numbers on the digital ticker tape at the TMX Group in Toronto's financial district on Friday, May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
Energy pushes S&P/TSX composite up as TC Energy shares rebound after Keystone worries

Energy pushes S&P/TSX composite up as TC Energy shares rebound after Keystone worries

AltaLink seeks to refund extra $350 million over three years to Alberta customers

AltaLink seeks to refund extra $350 million over three years to Alberta customers

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage speaks during an event to mark the start of right-of-way construction for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in Acheson, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. A government lawyer says decisions about environmental policy should be made by elected officials, not courts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta lawyer argues coal policy decisions belong with politicians, not courts

Alberta lawyer argues coal policy decisions belong with politicians, not courts

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

A medical team of the new Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital apply a fiberoptic bronchoscopy to a patient inside a COVID-19 ICU in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. As the coronavirus curve of contagion turned increasingly vertical after Christmas and New Year's, the Zendal has been busy. On Monday, 392 virus patients were being treated, more than in any other hospital in the Madrid region. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Panel: China, WHO should have acted quicker to stop pandemic

GENEVA — A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization… Continue reading

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, holds a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
COVID-19 vaccines: Canadians torn between helping the world and helping themselves

MONTREAL — The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is highlighting the disconnect between the… Continue reading

Most Read