On June 5, 2008, in Bouchard c. Syndicat des
salariées et salariés de General Dynamics (CSN) usine
de St-Augustin,1 the Court of Québec allowed
in part an action for $50,000 in damages brought against the
Syndicat des salariées et salariés de General
Dynamics (CSN) usine de St-Augustin (the "union"),
ordering the union to pay $10,000 in moral and exemplary damages
for intentional injury to the plaintiff's reputation, dignity
Determined to challenge a new management policy seen as
impinging on the work of the vice-president, occupational health
and safety and representative of the union in prevention matters,
the members of the union executive chose to vent their wrath on the
plaintiff Cyril Bouchard, a foreman perceived as authoritarian whom
they considered responsible for the new policy.
Their personal rebuke directed at the plaintiff began with the
issuance of a memo portraying him as "a little (Hitler
Bouchard)". The memo was posted on the union's bulletin
boards for a period of about twenty-four hours. Then, cartoon-style
images of a character dubbed "Cyril Rictus" were put up
in the same locations. The images, complete with captions
containing coarse language attributed to the subject, remained
posted for close to a week. Lastly, some twenty self-adhesive
stickers depicting the same character, this time without the
captions, were distributed to some of the union members. The
stickers subsequently appeared in various places, such as on a tool
box, a personal vehicle, a directional sign on the company's
industrial site, and the door of the union office.
The Court found that the actions directed at the plaintiff by
the union officials were taken in a deliberate attempt to cause
injury to the plaintiff's dignity, honour and reputation,
rights which are protected by section 4 of the Charter of Human
Rights and Freedoms.2 It ordered the union to pay
the plaintiff $3,000 in moral damages, a modest amount in keeping
with the fact that the actions had not resulted in the plaintiff
being off work or having to consult a health professional and that
the distribution of the memo and the cartoon images had been
limited to the workplace. However, an amount of $7,000 was also
awarded by the Court as exemplary damages, in an effort to deter
the union from future personal attacks on employer
This decision reaffirms that the immunity from civil prosecution
enjoyed by union leaders and representatives only goes so far.
While union officials, in their dealings with an employer, are
afforded a certain protection against disciplinary or other
measures needed to allow them to discharge their duty to defend the
interests of the employees who are union members, that immunity
cannot be used to justify the deliberate infringement of
fundamental rights. The decision is also a reminder that
disciplinary action is not the only solution that can be envisaged
when it comes to ensuring that the fundamental rights of the
employer's representatives are respected. A damage suit,
commenced by the individual who has been the target of a union
attack, may also be an appropriate way of proceeding.
1. 2008 QCCQ 4717 (CanLII).
2. R.S.Q., c. C-12.
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