The Supreme Court Rules: Parliamentary Privilege Not A Carte Blanche For Termination

In its October 5, 2018 judgment in Chagnon v Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec (Chagnon),1 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that parliamentary privilege does not blindly protect the National Assembly from judicial scrutiny with respect to the termination of employees. The Court narrowly interpreted parliamentary privileges in particular consideration of the right to meaningfully associate in the pursuit of collective workplace goals constitutionally guaranteed under s. 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


In the case at bar, three security guards employed by the National Assembly of Québec (the National Assembly) were dismissed by the president of the National Assembly for using their employer's cameras to observe activities inside the rooms of a nearby hotel. The guards were unionized, and thus their dismissal was contested by way of a grievance introduced by their union before a labour arbitrator.

The president of the National Assembly objected to the arbitrator's jurisdiction in deciding the grievances, arguing that his decision to dismiss the guards was immune from review since it fell within the ambit of the parliamentary privileges to manage employees and to exclude strangers from the National Assembly.

Arbitration Award

Arbitrator Pierre A. Fortin held that the decision to terminate the security guards did not fall within the scope of the privilege to exclude strangers from the National Assembly or to manage its employees. The arbitrator therefore called the parties to proceed on the merits of the guards' dismissal.2

Superior Court

The president of the National Assembly, however, moved for judicial review before the Superior Court. Bolduc J. sided with the president. While the judge agreed with Arbitrator Fortin's conclusion that the decision to terminate was not protected by the privilege to exclude strangers from the Assembly, he did find that it was protected by the privilege over the management of employees.3

Court of Appeal

The union brought the case before the Court of Appeal which granted the appeal in a 2 vs. 1 decision. In a judgment written by Bélanger J.A., the majority of the Court of Appeal held that the arbitrator had correctly set aside parliamentary privilege as prohibiting the review of the terminations, since the guards' tasks were not closely and directly connected to the National Assembly's deliberative and legislative functions4

Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme...

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