By Yvonne Sam
Political and Social Commentator
Just a few days after Quebec’s Premier Pierre Couillard, announced that he was sending reinforcements to the already beleaguered Human Rights Commission, Quebec Justice Minister, Stephanie Vallee, announced the resignation of Camil Picard, the interim head of the Commission, following a report of his involvement in a police investigation, regarding sexual relations with an under-aged teenager, whom he later paid $50,000 to settle a lawsuit in 2010.
Quebec’s French newspaper, La Presse, reported that, in 1983, Picard, while working at a home for troubled youth, engaged the underage youngster, Yvan Cote, in sexual relations, seven or eight times over a 10-month period, with the 16-year-old being offered a job, as well as being the recipient of wine, a leather jacket, cocaine, a watch and ski tickets.
Picard has categorically denied all allegations thus far, claiming that he finds them extremely troubling.
Of further ironic note, is the case that Picard, a trained psychologist, has been in the employ of Quebec’s Director of Youth Protection since the 1990’s, and in 2013, was named to Quebec’s Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse as Vice President responsible for youth issues.
The Quebec Youth Protection Act came into being in 1979 and, in addition to its already defined duties as per the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the Commission was also made responsible for taking action to ensure respect for the rights of children and adolescents, as defined in the Youth Protection Act.
The Minister of Youth Protection and Rehabilitation (Quebec) or Ministre déléguée à la Protection de la jeunesse et à la Réadaptation is responsible for the protection of youths and youth legal affairs in the province of Québec.
Responsibility now becomes relative to whosoever perceives it, as it is blatantly evident that might, monopolized right.
Records show that although appointment to the human rights commission is a government appointment, yet the hiring agency was not made aware of Picard’s past during his pre-nomination background check.
One is left with the disturbing reality that the chief representative of the principal agency, tasked with ensuring non-violation of youth rights, would himself be an alleged perpetrator.
What manner of intervention and decision-making could the public demand, when the very foundation shows evidence of corruption and moral decay?
Picard ‘s appointment as acting-president came at a time when the Commission was embroiled in a brouhaha, involving president, Tamara Thermitus, appointed in February 2017, but currently on medical leave in the wake of staff complaints to the Quebec Ombudsman of poor management, abuse of power and lack of respect, created under her leadership.
Several staff also took leave of absence, while others left the job on account of what they termed a “toxic atmosphere” with Thermitus going on a bonafide witch hunt.
With the resignation of Picard, Vice-president, Philippe-Andre Tessier, now steps into the position of interim Chair.
However, while things may appear to be mended at one end, the Quebec Human Rights Commission still does not send a clear message to the public, as recently, it was accused of too much brightness, and now, apparently, no trace of rightness. Who was set to guard the hen house? None other than the fox.
It stands to reason that if the Commission exists to promote and protect the rights of children and youth, then commencing from the head, all interventions and interactions should reflect this truth.
Or is this recent situation signaling the need for the creation of a Sub-Commission on Inspection for Detection of in-house predators.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.