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The struggle for press self-regulation in contemporary South Africa: charting a - page 40 / 51





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(Gisèle Lalande c. La Société Radio-Canada, 1986). Pierre O'Neil, director of information for Radio-Canada, was not pleased with the decision. He wrote a letter appealing the decision. His May 28, 1986, letter was ominous in tone: "Par certaines de ses pratiques d'une part, par certaines de ses décisions d'autre part, le Conseil a révélé récemment une tendance à se prendre tantôt pour un tribunal de travail, tantôt pour un tribunal des droits de la personne. Je m'étonnerais que les entreprises de presse continuent de tolérer encore longtemps cette évolution du Conseil. Je puis vous assurer que ce ne sera pas notre cas."

Radio-Canada was (and remained) one of the major funders of the chronically underfunded QPC. Nonetheless, the QPC's Commission d'appel unanimously rejected Radio-Canada's appeal.

By the late 1980s, the QPC tended to take a narrower view of its jurisdiction. A journalist who was fired because of a dispute with his boss over how to deal with a source complained to the QPC. Although the QPC acknowledged that "la plainte soulevait d'importantes questions d'éthique," it decided that the complaint dealt more with labour relations than with ethics, and declined to consider its merits (Eddy Verbeeck c. Michel Matteau, L'Hebdo du Saint-Maurice, 1988).

A third important difference between courts and press councils is rigidity of procedure. Lawsuits are governed by the complex rules of civil procedure. Press councils, on the other hand, have more relaxed procedures. The QPC, in fact, takes pain to note: "Tout juridisme ou formalisme doit être évité dans les procédures, l'analyse, l'étude ou l'audition des cas soumis à l'attention du Conseil" (Règlement général 3.1.2).

Because the rules are more complex and the stakes often higher in courts than before press councils, the parties to a lawsuit are almost always represented by lawyers. Parties to press council cases generally represent themselves, without the aid of a lawyer. An important exception to that general rule, however, is Quebecor, the conglomerate that owns three daily newspapers (Le Journal de Montréal, Le Journal de Québec, and the Sherbrooke Record) and many weekly newspapers throughout Quebec. All of Quebecor's cases in recent years have been handled by a lawyer who works out of the corporation's headquarters in downtown Montreal.

Despite the QPC's requirement that "tout juridisme ou formalisme doit être évité," its rules also say that it will respect the rules of equity and the fundamental principles of justice. J. Serge Sasseville, who by 1990 had been Quebecor's lawyer in QPC cases for several years, believes that procedure is a large part of the "fundamental principles of justice" (Sasseville interview, 1990). He often made detailed procedural arguments and demands that protracted cases for months.

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