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Major inquiries

Rejected ballot papers – Unity Rally

Following the October 30, 1995, referendum, questions were raised concerning two situations that arose during this electoral event:

  • Abnormally high rejected ballot paper rates were observed in certain electoral divisions, namely Chomedey (11.61%), Marguerite-Bourgeoys (5.50%) and Laurier-Dorion (3.60%). There was reason to wonder if some electors suffered prejudice in the exercise of their right to vote, as a result.
  • On October 27, 1995, several tens of thousands of supporters of the No option gathered in Downtown Montréal for a "Unity Rally" . The question raised was whether all the expenses incurred to organize this rally had been authorized by the Committee of Quebecers for the No.

Considering the importance of these questions, the Chief Electoral Officer carried out two inquiries, one into the rejected ballot papers and the other into the Unity Rally. The results of these inquiries were made public on May 13, 1996, by Pierre F. Côté, Chief Electoral Officer:

  • In the case of the rejected ballot papers, the Chief Electoral Officer brought proceedings against 29 deputy returning officers and 2 official delegates before the courts. On January 28, 2000, Francine Barry, Chief Electoral Officer, announced that these proceedings had been abandoned following the successive judgments of the Court of Québec, Superior Court and the Court of Appeals of Québec. Six judges of these courts had ruled in favour of an acquittal of the persons charged. Indeed, these judges considered that the proof of fraudulent intent had not been made, despite the fact that the actions in question were in violation of the law. In his report of May 13, 1996, the Chief Electoral Officer concluded "that there was no provincial conspiracy concerning the rejected ballot papers".
  • As for the Unity Rally, the Chief Electoral Officer first found that certain stakeholders outside Québec had contravened the Referendum Act by incurring regulated expenses in violation of the applicable rules in Québec. Consequently, the Chief Electoral Officer announced that 18 penal proceedings would be instituted, namely 9 against presumed offenders in Québec and 9 against offenders outside Québec. Finally, on October 16, 1997, François Casgrain, Chief Electoral Officer, announced that 20 penal proceedings had been abandoned following the analysis of the decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Libman case. Indeed, this ruling invalidated provisions of the Referendum Act which served as a basis for the legal proceedings instituted by the Chief Electoral Officer.

The second finding made by the Chief Electoral Officer at the end of its inquiry into the Unity Rally was that the Committee of Quebecers for the No was not directly involved in the expenses incurred by third parties for this event.

To learn more about the inquiries of the Chief Electoral Officer concerning the rejected ballot papers and the Unity Rally, consult the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, made public on May 13, 1996. To obtain a copy of this report, please contact us.

The Grenier Inquiry into the activities of Option Canada during the referendum held in Québec in October 1995

In early January 2006, authors Normand Lester and Robin Philpot published a book entitled The Secrets of Option Canada, in which they made public a variety of information and opinions concerning the activities of this organization set up in the months preceding the 1995 referendum. The book notably addressed the question of certain expenses that were allegedly incurred to support the No option in violation, according to the authors, of the rules respecting the control of referendum expenses found in the Special Version of the Election Act for the holding of a referendum.

One aspect of particular interest to the Chief Electoral Officer was that Mr. Lester and Mr. Philpot had a large quantity of documents which had been used to prepare their book and a copy of which they had offered to the Chief Electoral Officer. After an initial examination of these sources, the Chief Electoral Officer launched an inquiry, which it entrusted to retired Judge Bernard Grenier. More than 10 years after the events, and considering the expiry of the time limits for instituting legal proceedings before the courts, Mr. Grenier’s inquiry sought to first shed light on the allegations of the book The Secrets of Option Canada and, if possible, on all of the activities of Option Canada as well as of the associated groups or individuals.

On May 29, 2007, Mr. Bernard Grenier tabled a first report based on his examination of the facts. A second report, made public on June 28, 2007, contained a number of recommendations based on his observations.