The working climate was very toxic at UPAC

Police who spy on each other between colleagues, shouting, mistrust, resignations and sick leave; the working climate within the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit was very unhealthy, according to several witnesses.

The working climate was very toxic at UPAC

Police who spy on each other between colleagues, shouting, mistrust, resignations and sick leave; the working climate within the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit was very unhealthy, according to several witnesses.

• Read also: Allegations of misconduct: six shocking revelations about UPAC

These employees confided in the Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI) as part of Project Oath, which is investigating allegations of misconduct by former leaders of the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC).

Our Bureau of Investigation has consulted the summaries of their testimonies which are now public. We reproduce several excerpts below.

Initially, these documents were presented in 2020 to judge André Perreault, who took them into account when ordering the stay of proceedings in the case of former politician Nathalie Normandeau.

In January 2018, two reports were made public concerning the very difficult working climate at UPAC. Then-Minister of Public Security Martin Coiteux said improvements had been made, but there was still “work to be done.”

In May 2017, Robert Lafrenière, head of UPAC, described the climate at the Unit as "very good", an expression taken up in October of the same year by its director of operations André Boulanger.

No charges have been filed to date in connection with the Oath investigation.

Several investigators denounced to the BEI the fact that the investigation into the information leaks was “directed” and that it targeted individuals determined in advance and not crimes.

“There was a control of the directing head. The officers were too involved and did not trust their staff, ”summarizes the BEI from their interview with investigator Denis Pelletier.

Team leader Marie-Hélène Poulin explains to the BEI that André Boulanger had targeted Chantale Yelle as one of those responsible for the leaks. However, she had consulted the documents after the fact. “It did not hold up,” we can read.

Ms. Poulin mentions that as the investigation progressed, the RCMP, who had support duties, distanced themselves and that in the end, the federal police refused to get involved in the October 2017 operation [ the arrest of MP Guy Ouellette], because everything was not well enough organized.

Ms. Poulin was even suggested by an RCMP officer “to take notes, because this file” does not smell good and that the whole thing will end up in a commission of inquiry “”.

"Not impartial"

Investigator Denis Pelletier for his part said that the investigators "wanted to move forward with the investigation, but it was directed by management, they were targeting people, it was not impartial", notes the BEI.

Investigators were struggling to take their rightful place because Boulanger and Caroline Grenier-Lafontaine were interfering in the investigation, according to Mr. Pelletier.

In August 2017, Boulanger allegedly admitted in a meeting to having previously leaked. He then speaks of “controlled leaks”.

"We were investigating the leaks from UPAC and we learned that our inspector was leaking himself," lamented Denis Pelletier. According to him, Project A should have been carried out by “someone independent, another police force for the sake of transparency”.

The fact that Project A, to find the origin of the leaks, was led by Inspector André Boulanger and his wife Caroline Grenier-Lafontaine contributed to the unease.

Team leader Marie-Hélène Poulin noted to BEI investigators that there are decisions that are made on weekends by the couple and that on Monday the team must deal with what has been decided, can we read in his summary.

Between two superiors

Investigator Denis Pelletier explains in turn that Grenier-Lafontaine spoke about the file with Boulanger in the evening and “the next morning spread out his conclusions to us”.

Grenier-Lafontaine even goes so far as to “ventilate” with Marie-Hélène Poulin on what she is experiencing at home with her spouse.

She also apologizes for putting Ms. Poulin in a position where she finds herself between her two superiors.

Investigators disagreed with André Boulanger's management style.

According to Frank Côté, "he led things, alone" and if people didn't think like him, it didn't work.

Another investigator, Denis Pelletier, points out that during the meetings, Boulanger acted like a "little general", "it was not a way to speak to the world".

Team leader Marie-Hélène Poulin says that Boulanger told her that she had to expect the "game to be dirty and that he was going to play it dirty with the targets and whether to go through the spouses of the guys... it's going to play dirty".


She also says that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) recounted an event during which Boulanger arrived at the federal police office in "flip-flops" and very assertive.

In August 2017, Boulanger summoned investigators Claude St-Cyr and Denis Pelletier to a cafe in Montreal. Boulanger wanted to speak alone to St-Cyr and would then have questioned him about his loyalty.

After the meeting, St-Cyr told Pelletier that he was furious to be “questioned about his loyalty by an inspector who was leaking in a leak investigation”.

A few days later, Boulanger calls the duo in the car and again questions Claude St-Cyr's loyalty.

He shouts so loudly that Denis Pelletier struggles to understand the words.

The fact that UPAC was investigating itself created “an unpleasant climate in the office,” investigator Frank Côté told BEI.

Investigators go on sick leave, others are on the sidelines or ask to be assigned to another service.

Investigator Karine Vincelette, on sick leave at the time of her meeting with the BEI in May 2019, indicates that "Project A had repercussions on many people". She says investigators demonstrated that their bosses leaked and they were investigated, which "wasn't easy to live with" because she knew she would continue to work there. 'UPAC then.

Team leader Marie-Hélène Poulin recounts having told her superior Vincent Rodrigue that she was "loyal but not at the expense of integrity". At the end of the project, she asked to be loaned to another division so that she would no longer be around him.

Disappeared overnight

Investigator Denis Pelletier recounts that an investigator, Christine St-Laurent, would have been "stuck" because she was not comfortable investigating a colleague. The director of operations André Boulanger would then have suspended it. “She was appreciated by the team. The team did not see her again afterwards. »

Another investigator, Manon Thomassin, claims that people disappeared "overnight" without anyone knowing why. She herself, after learning of the suspension of "Christine", went on sick leave. “These events changed her forever,” write the BEI investigators. "It attacked my sense of justice and my integrity," she told BEI.

Investigator Mathieu Venne will tell the BEI investigators: "They are lucky that no one has snapped".

The numerous media leaks have greatly fueled the climate of internal suspicion.

Investigators have, among other things, suspected Martin Barabé, the strategic adviser to Robert Lafrenière, of having leaked information related to the Justesse project which targeted Liberal fundraisers. A UPAC investigator went "to do observation at Barabé's home". A warrant was drawn up to search his office.

One day when Barabé was shadowed, he even carried out “counter-spinning” maneuvers, as if he suspected that he was being shadowed.

In July 2018, two UPAC investigators even met their big boss Robert Lafrenière in a restaurant in L'Île-des-Sœurs to extract information on the leaks.

“Robert Lafrenière did not know and should not have known the reasons for the meeting”, indicates the BEI.

A document exhibited by Lafrenière during this meeting raised suspicions that it could be linked to a leak. The incident would have been described as a “smoking gun” by Frédérick Gaudreau, who would later become commissioner of UPAC.

A UPAC employee also denounced to Oath investigators "the spinning directed at a 60-year-old woman", who worked for UPAC during the hunt for leaks.