Catherine Claveau
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Candidats en lice

Catherine Claveau

Candidate for the bâtonnier position - 2 years

Member of the Barreau since 1989

Background

I was born in Chicoutimi, where I lived until beginning studies at Laval University’s Faculty of Law. I became a member of the Barreau in 1989, and Quebec City is where I decided to practice. At first, I was a staff lawyer, and then my partners and I founded a law firm in Old Quebec in 1997, the Cabinet d’avocats Saint-Paul, where I continue to practice.

At the beginning of my career, I practiced family, youth and civil law and quickly became interested in alternative methods of conflict resolution. I’m a certified mediator and have handled numerous civil, commercial, labour-relations and family law cases. Since 2004, I’ve developed special expertise in psychological harassment in the workplace and have conducted investigations in various workplaces, and I provide training in this area. I also taught at the École du Barreau between 2004 and 2017.

In addition to my professional activities, I’ve always been committed to volunteering by sitting on several boards, within the Jeune Barreau, the Barreau de Québec and the Barreau du Québec, as well as a nonprofit and a tennis club. My interest in governance led me to obtain university certification in corporate governance (ASC) in 2008.

Experiences

My involvement with the Barreau du Québec began 20 years ago. I was on the board of the Fonds d’assurance responsabilité professionnelle du Barreau du Québec (FARBQ) for eight years. In 2014, I was elected “première conseillère” of the Barreau de Québec and from 2014 to 2015 I sat on the Barreau du Québec’s executive council and general council.

From 2015 to 2016 I was bâtonnière of the Barreau de Québec’s and as such I also sat on the section council of the Barreau du Québec. Since June 2017, I’ve been on the board of the Barreau du Québec, where for three years I was the senior vice-president, while also sitting on the governance and ethics committee (president), the human resources committee (president) and the finance and audit committee (member). 

I have also chaired and been a member of working groups for our bar’s priority files, including contribution mutualization, strategic planning and the future of the profession. I currently sit on other working groups whose mandates are not yet completed and I will mention them when presenting my program below. In addition, I represented the provincial bâtonnier in parliamentary commissions, investigative commissions, swearing-in ceremonies for judges, legal re-entries and general assemblies in several sections.

Objectives

Given my experience, knowledge of current issues and established connections with our bar’s stakeholders, I believe I’m in the best position to be at the helm of our professional order in the next two years. 

The files that are particularly important to me and how I plan to handle them are as follows.

1. Modernization and transformation of the legal system

COVID-19 made it possible to speed up the implementation of measures to modernize the legal system. However, the new standards of practice vary from district to district and even from judge to judge, including those related to virtual hearings. As the Bâtonnière of Québec, I believe my role will be to guide the representatives of each section in their claims, so they can offer the same services to litigants throughout Quebec. 

LEXIUS project 

  • This Justice Québec project is underway and aims to completely dematerialize legal files in all our courts as of April 3, 2023. This will have a huge impact on our practice and on some deontological rules. The bar is currently in discussions and we know that there will be much work to be done in a short period of time. As bâtonnière, I’ll make sure that all of our members, whether they practice in large firms or individually, in city centers or outlying regions, receive training and have the tools they need to meet this challenge.

“Table de la justice” 

  • The bar is represented in three subcommittees (civil and small claims; criminal; and family and youth) that propose solutions to improve effectiveness of the legal system and reduce delays. I’m closely following this work on the board and, as bâtonnière, I’ll make sure that our members’ concerns are heard.

2. Future of the profession

Artificial intelligence 

  • In recent years we’ve seen the emergence of initiatives involving artificial intelligence and innovative projects about the future of the legal profession. I took part in a working group where we set up a monitoring system (illegal practice and the Bureau du syndic) and support for these new entities (“Sandbox”). As bâtonnière, I’ll make sure that we continue to monitor all initiatives in the legal field as well as our own guidance, so that we’re consistent with the regulatory and legislative governance that apply to practicing the legal profession, with the mission of protecting the public and having access to justice.

Protecting areas of practice

  • Our mission of protecting the public requires that the bar be more vigilant—more proactive—in protecting certain areas of practice, while other professional orders such as the Chambre des notaires and the CPHR increasingly seek to expand theirs. As bâtonnière, I’ll make sure that we’re prudent and that we take the measures necessary to fight such initiatives.

3. Psychological wellbeing of lawyers

COVID-19 completely uprooted our lives. On the bar’s board, we acted quickly to help our members handle the crisis (contribution relief measures, free training, information updates on the website). Even before March 2019, we added a “psychological wellbeing space” to our website with links to resources for assistance, expert opinions, member testimonials and more. We also added online training on mental health, including some free training. We plan to enhance this component in the coming weeks and months. I’ll oversee the implementation of new initiatives and their sustainability. Here are some examples:

  • RÉPIT program
    • Continue work to extend this program to all our members. This initiative from the Jeune Barreau de Québec offers financial aid to self-employed lawyers to cover their office expenses during the period when no disability benefits are collected by the beneficiary.
  • PAMBA program
    • Review the range of services offered by this organization and set up a system to increase the number of sessions and the amount reimbursed by session, based on the member’s level of distress.
  • Establish a support system to help lawyers with mental health issues (mentoring and pairing).
  • Offer free workshops on stress management and anxiety.

4. Support and guidance of young members

Since the beginning of the health crisis, the three young bar associations have come together to propose concrete actions to support the next generation of lawyers. When I’m bâtonnière, I’ll maintain the board’s support of such initiatives. I’m also committed to taking concrete actions to help our young members during the first years of their careers. Here are some examples:

  • Starting out
    • I’d like to increase the support offered by the Service de l’inspection professionnelle, which is too often perceived by young lawyers as a surveillance body to find fault with them. I’d like to set up a system in which newly sworn-in members pursuing their career individually or in a small firm (self-employed workers) are paired with an employee from the service who supports them and provides the tools they need to start their practice.
  • Maternity and parental leave
    • Young lawyers who are self-employed and starting a family are often obliged to take a shorter leave than that allowed by law for financial reasons. They also worry about losing their clients if they’re absent too long. Since the Jordan Decision, an additional challenge for young female criminal lawyers concerns postponing hearings, because some judges were pressuring them so the case could advance without them. I’d like to work with the associations affected by this situation, to make judges aware of the negative impact that this pressure is having on our young members (mental health and financial uncertainty).  
  • Jobs
    • Along with the bâtonnières and bâtonniers of each regional section, I’d like to promote the added value of practicing in nonurban areas by participating in a variety of “seduction operations” for students of law faculties and the École du Barreau. 
  • Internships
    • I want to work with the young bar associations in their activities and efforts to promote the contribution of law interns in the smallest firms and the importance of offering them fair compensation. 

5. Development and influence

Access to justice is difficult for many litigants, to the point where they no longer dare to use the services of a lawyer to assert their rights. At the beginning of my term, I want to launch a major promotional campaign to promote our profession and publicize the full range of services that our members can offer litigants.

During our strategic planning for 2019-2022, we identified that one of our challenges was to position the bar as an influential leader in the advancement of society’s debates. In my opinion, we were not fully able to assume our power to influence in the past year. I therefore intend to ensure that the bar regains its proper place in the public arena, especially in promoting the rule of law.

6. Racism and harassment

Racism and psychological and sexual harassment are issues that are particularly important to me. I’m part of two working groups we set up this year to discuss these issues, especially those affecting members of our professional order.

I believe that the bar should be a model of inclusiveness, but unfortunately some of our members from diverse backgrounds still do not feel understood and represented in our proceedings. We must intensify our efforts, especially by increasing the diversity of staff at the Bureau du syndic and the Service de l’inspection professionnelle. I’m also committed to taking action to promote candidates from Indigenous and diverse-background members, so that they sit on committees and on the board of directors.

We’ve just published a report on sexual harassment and violence following a survey of the bar’s members. The report discloses that a large percentage of our members, especially women, were subject to sexual harassment or violence in the practice of our profession. The report reveals that few members dared to denounce the harassment they experienced, for fear of reprisals. Some people did speak out, but the firm chose to protect the aggressor.

Racism and harassment should no longer be tolerated, and we should prioritize protecting and supporting our members who are victims. On the board, we began to act, but there is still a lot of work to do. I advocate for a neutral resource like an ombudsman that our members can contact confidentially when faced with racism or harassment.

7. Continuous training

Virtual training has become the norm due to the pandemic. To help our members who are struggling, we’ve offered some free webinars. For the next few years, I’ll make sure that the bar increases virtual training in quantity and quality, at competitive costs. More specifically, I’d like to see that webinars in ethics and deontology and professional practice prepared by our bar be improved and offered free of charge to all members. I’m also committed to studying the possibility of relaxing the current rules, so that training in ethics and professional conduct that is not on the list of activities offered by the bar can be considered in the three hours of mandatory training.

8. Annual contribution

Since 2018-2019, we’ve managed to maintain a contribution reduction, which has kept the Fonds général du Barreau contribution at $855.25. We also lowered the contribution to the FARBQ, from $950 in 2018-2019 to $800 in 2020-2021, and to $750 in 2021-2022. The FARBQ’s excellent financial results in recent years made it possible to accumulate significant surpluses and would allow a further reduction in the contribution. I will also ask the fund’s actuaries to present various scenarios to further reduce the contribution while respecting our obligations.

Other important files

Reform of the École du Barreau and justice in Indigenous communities are issues that are particularly close to my heart.

For more information, go to catherineclaveau.com, and follow me on:

Pour un Barreau modernisé avec humanité