News  Former McGill Fellow presided over MUNACA injunction

Union concerned over potential conflict of interest

Brian Riordan, the judge who presided over the Superior Court of Quebec case that approved the recent injunction against the striking McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), is a McGill graduate and former McGill fellow in the Desautels Faculty of Management.

The injunction, or emergency court ruling, restricts the union’s picketing activities around campus by limiting their noise level, group size, and proximity to the University. It has been in place since September 23.

MUNACA President Kevin Whittaker told The Daily that the union was not made aware of Riordan’s involvement with McGill when the union was informed of the injunction.

In an interview with The Daily, Riordan explained that before he was appointed judge to the Superior Court of Quebec in 2004, he taught a class on partnership and shareholder agreements in Professor David Lank’s course on entrepreneurship.

Lank is currently the director emeritus of the Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies within the Faculty.

“[The fellowship] stopped when I was appointed judge,” Riordan explained.

According to the Desautels website, Riordan’s career as a Dobson Fellow was temporarily placed on hold when he was named a judge of the Superior Court.

Michael Di Grappa, Vice Principal (Administration and Finance) told The Daily that, although he could not confirm details of the case, “it’s not uncommon for someone to take a leave or put something on hold when they’re exercising other functions. It happens with faculty all the time.”

When asked whether his involvement with McGill represented a conflict of interest in the case, Riordan answered, “No, I didn’t consider it to be. I heard the case.”

McGill Law Professor Richard Janda explained that, in a case that risks a conflict of interest, “A judge can recuse herself or himself…so that’s usually how it will happen. But if the issue is going to be raised, if the apprehension of bias is going to be raised, it would have to be raised by counsel,” referring to the lawyers involved with the case.

According to Section 234 of the Quebec Code of Civil Procedure, “A judge may be recused in particular: (7) If the judge is a member of an association, partnership or legal person, or is manager or patron of some order or community which is a party to the suit; (8) If the judge has any interest in favouring any of the parties…or (10) if there is reasonable cause to fear that the judge will not be impartial.”

“The real question is whether there’s reasonable apprehension of bias – what I don’t know is whether MUNACA will seek now to raise that,” said Janda.

When asked whether MUNACA would pursue the issue, Whittaker stated that the union is “certainly going to look into the details to see if there is any form of conflict of interest, and if the lawyers feel that there is, then we will proceed to challenging that.”

“Right now nobody has enough information to say that this is a true issue,” Whittaker said. “We have no idea how deeply connected [Riordan] may or may not be to McGill… It’s just a matter of involvement, and if there was involvement, we should have been informed of that.”

The injunction expires this Monday, when MUNACA and McGill will attend court hearings to decide on whether to extend, amend, or drop the ruling.

-— with files from Henry Gass