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Candidats en lice
Candidate for the bâtonnier position - 2 years
Member of the Barreau since 1989
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.
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.
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.
“Table de la justice”
2. Future of the profession
Protecting areas of practice
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:
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:
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