Former Quebec justice minister Marc Bellemare has filed a $900,000 countersuit against Premier Jean Charest in Quebec Superior Court.
In documents tabled in court on Thursday, Mr. Bellemare claims that the $700,000 libel suit Mr. Charest launched against him last spring was abusive and in violation of the province's law against bringing lawsuits designed to silence critics.
Mr. Bellemare contends that his reputation suffered "important damages" as a result of Mr. Charest's lawsuit and the tough questions he faced this week under cross examination before the Bastarache Commission. The inquiry, headed by former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache, was set up to examine Mr. Bellemare's allegations of influence peddling in the nomination of judges.
Mr. Bellemare also contends that "Jean" is not Mr. Charest's legal first name and that it is really "John James."
"If the real name on the birth certificate is John James Charest, this would invalidate his procedure [the libel suit]" the court document stated, adding that that it would be in violation of the Quebec Civil Code.
A spokesperson for the Premier's office said birth certificate information is a private matter and underscored what he called a contradiction in Mr. Bellemare's lawsuit. "The person named in the lawsuit is Jean Charest," the Premier's press secretary, Hugo D'Amour said, emphasizing "Jean."
Mr. Bellemare's statement of claim says Mr. Charest was the "architect of his own misfortune" because the Premier challenged Mr. Bellemare last March to reveal all the information he had about the alleged influence peddling and then accused him of "lying" about it.
Mr. Bellemare states that this left him no choice but to defend his integrity and the truthfulness of his remarks.
Among the court documents filed on Thursday are stenographic notes taken during Mr. Charest's examination for discovery last July in his libel suit against Mr. Bellemare. Under questioning by Mr. Bellemare's lawyer, Mr. Charest had little recollection of meetings with his former justice minister, including those at which he was allegedly told of possible influence peddling and suspicious cash transactions involving a party official.
"You asked me: 'Are there irregularities, whether they be legal, illegal or otherwise?' No. There is nothing that comes to mind that was raised by Mr. Bellemare," the Premier said during the pretrial testimony, adding later that he "did not have a perfect memory."