Canada pays millions to judge fighting suspension

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz speaks at the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto. (Reuters Photo)

A Canadian judge accused of having bought cocaine earned millions of dollars as he continued to be paid a government salary while waging a seven-year fight to keep his job, media said Thursday.

Quebec Superior Court judge Michel Girouard's purported drug use came to light when a police informant tipped off authorities that he had purchased cocaine from a client two weeks before he was named to the bench in 2010.

Girouard was a lawyer at the time.

Video surveillance showed Girouard slipping a wad of bills to a now-convicted drug dealer and getting back a small packet that he quickly put in his pocket.

Threatened with dismissal, the judge challenged the facts, saying there were no drugs in the packet.

"There's no proof this was an illegal transaction," his lawyer Gerard Tremblay was quoted as saying by public broadcaster Radio-Canada.

After initially rejecting the allegations, Canada's judicial watchdog recommended in 2017 that Girouard be tossed from the bench after finding that he misled an inquiry into the suspected transaction.

"The judge's integrity has been fatally compromised," the Canadian Judicial Council concluded in a report to the attorney general, calling for his dismissal.

Throughout the investigation and appeals that culminated on Thursday with the Supreme Court refusing to hear the case, the judge continued to earn a Can$330,000 (US$250,000) annual salary.

If by September 2020, ten years after his appointment, the case is still not resolved, he could in theory retire and become eligible for a pension of Can$155,000 per year.

The case, although isolated, has become a source of embarrassment for the judiciary, which is pressing the government to simplify and accelerate disciplinary proceedings against judges, according to Radio-Canada.

The government did not immediately reply to an AFP request for comment.

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