Arrest of journalist Antoine Trépanier: two police officers blamed for ethics

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Arrest of journalist Antoine Trépanier : two police officers blamed for ethics

The headquarters of the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau (archives)

The Police Ethics Committee believes that two of the three police officers of the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau (SPVG) who arrested journalist Antoine Trépanier in 2018 for violating the Quebec Police Code of Ethics.

The [Police Ethics] Committee finds that Constable [Mathieu] La Salle Boudria and Lieutenant [Paul] Lafontaine did not respect the authority of the law or cooperate with the administration of justice by carrying out an incomplete investigation , following Ms. Dubé's complaint. The resulting arrest of Mr. Trépanier constitutes an abuse of authority, concluded administrative judge Benoît McMahon, who chaired the Committee, in a decision made public on Tuesday.

Three Gatineau police officers were the subject of proceedings by the Police Ethics Commissioner following a complaint made two years ago by a CEGEP professor in the Montreal region, Vania Atudorei. The professor considered Mr. Trépanier's arrest to be an attack on democracy.

The Commissioner had to determine whether the conduct of Sergeant Mathieu La Salle Boudria, Sergeant Gabriel Gagné and Lieutenant Paul Lafontaine constituted a derogatory act to the Code of ethics of Quebec police officers.

While he was a journalist for Radio-Canada at the time, Mr. Trépanier was investigating the general manager of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Outaouais (BBGSO), Yvonne Dubé. As he was preparing to broadcast an unflattering report about him, we recall in the Committee's decision dated December 6, 2022, he requested an interview with Ms. Dubé to offer to give her point of view in publication of this investigation.

Ms. Dubé then filed a complaint against Mr. Trépanier for harassment.

Journalist Antoine Trépanier as he enters the Gatineau police station to sign his pledge to appear, in 2018. (Archives)

The journalist was then arrested the same evening by Gatineau police, then released after signing a promise to appear with conditions, including that of not communicating with Ms. Dubé.

Two days later, Mr. Trépanier published his report in which he revealed that Ms. Dubé had practiced law for several months without being a member of the Bar of Ontario before being hired by the BBBSO and that she did not never notified the committee in charge of analyzing his candidacy.

The SPVG had forwarded the file to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions. A few days after Mr. Trépanier's arrest, however, he had concluded that after a review of the investigation report produced by the Gatineau police, no criminal act had been committed by the journalist. Consequently, no criminal charges had been filed against him.

The SPVG, for its part, had admitted having made a mistake.

The Committee criticizes Sergeant La Salle Boudria for having botched his police investigation, taking no steps to clearly understand the context.

So Constable La Salle Boudria did not better, than suspicions about Mr. Trépanier when he made the decision to arrest him, can we read in the decision. Officer La Salle Boudria's conduct is therefore characterized by his numerous omissions, and by his ignorance of legal rules that are clear and known to the police.

“The misconduct of Constable La Salle Boudria is all the more serious here, because we are talking about an arrest of a journalist who , for all intents and purposes, was just doing his job. ”

— Excerpt from the decision of the Police Ethics Committee

As for Lieutenant Lafontaine, he is accused of having, among other things, approved the arrest of Mr. Trepanier.

Lieutenant Lafontaine knew exactly everything that Constable La Salle Boudria himself knew about the file, as well as everything that it did not contain. He also testified that he was not interested in the nature of the report that Mr. Trépanier was preparing to do, can be read in the decision.

If the work of Sergeant La Salle Boudria and Lieutenant Lafontaine is singled out, Sergeant Gagné, on the other hand, did not commit the ethical faults for which he is accused, believes the Committee, however, since Sergeant Gagné's role was limited to arresting Mr. Trépanier and to release him after receiving instructions from Constable La Salle Boudria.

However, the Committee orders a conditional stay of proceedings for two of the four counts the two policemen. For the time being, no sanction has been rendered against the two police officers blamed by the Police Ethics Committee.

At the time of publication of this text, neither Antoine Trépanier nor the SPVG had not responded to requests for comment.

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