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City's ethics bureau reports
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Laval’s integrity and ethics bureau (BIELT) had a pivotal year in 2020.

With the arrival of a new head, ethics and compliance, an ethics expert and the development of a new five-year plan that will run until 2025, the bureau, which operates jointly with the city of Terrebonne, has made a sustained effort to raise awareness and information has also continued to encourage ethical thinking and appropriate action in the face of situations that raise ethical issues.

“The data clearly demonstrate the importance of staying the course in the future, of establishing strategic directions that will inspire future years and that will allow the City to continue to gain the confidence of citizens,” said Laval Police Director Pierre Brochet.

Operated by the respective police departments, the BIELT represents a unique partnership between the two cities, with the aim of establishing an honest and ethical culture within their respective organizations and fostering citizens’ confidence in the municipal apparatus. BIEL’s mandate is to prevent collusion, embezzlement and political interference for any purpose, including reprehensible behavior in the administration and management of public funds by all municipal services.

Last year the bureau with 10 employees, including three detectives and two auditors, received 645 requests for security clearance investigations, and received 79 reports; launched (and completed) 18 police investigations and 45 administrative investigations; and made 80 recommendations. According to the annual report, 54% of the reports were made internally, that is, by city employees, and 48% were made by email.

Administrative investigations included two allegations into collusion (unfounded), five into conflict of interest, and 16 regarding irregularities in the awarding and execution of contracts. The number of security clearances requested for city employees as well as partner organizations has risen 104% since 2015.

Terrebonne joined the BIELT in April 2019. “A concrete example of the benefit of our partnership with Laval is the opportunity offered to us by the working group on Bill 26” said Terrebonne Police Chief Marc Brisson. “Invested in the recovery of money paid unfairly in public contracts, the group’s assistance allowed us to evaluate the possibility of bringing civil suits under this law, for the benefit of our citizens and our communities.”

To report an ethical or integrity situation, email biel@laval.ca or bielt@terrebonne.laval.ca or by telephone at 450-575-BIEL (2435). BIELT ensures that each report received is treated confidentially and anonymously and ensures the protection of the whistleblower. The telephone line also allows direct contact with UPAC to report any act of corruption and embezzlement.

Quebec may use notwithstanding clause on Bill 101 expansion

There is a “good chance” Quebec will use the notwithstanding clause for an expanded and “robust” Bill 101 language law, especially after the province’s Superior Court struck down parts of Bill 21, Premier François Legault said.

“I think that, with the judgment we have this week about the Bill 21, it’s clear that the interpretation of the Canadian Constitution, that Quebec didn’t sign, is sometimes giving us some answers that are not representing what the majority of Quebecers want,” Legault told the media.

Bill 21, which demands that some provincial employees in positions of authority not wear religious clothing or symbols, was upheld last week, with the exception of English school boards and MNAs.

The notwithstanding clause, brought in as part of the Canadian constitution in 1982, allows provincial governments to temporarily override the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Bourassa government did that with Bill 178 in 1988, when it limited the presence of English on signage. That law was softened five years later.

The additions to Bill 101 are expected to be tabled later this spring and drafted by Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, also responsible for drafting Bill 21. Liberal leader Dominique Anglade has said she would not use the notwithstanding clause.

City moves on new planning by-law

Laval has taken a major step in revising its urban planning regulations by adopting a draft urban planning code by-law (CDU), a regulation inspired by best practices in urban planning and part of an approach based on Form-Based Code and will soon be the subject of a public consultation.

“Our expert urban planners have set the bar very high and have worked tirelessly over the past three years to achieve this result” said Stéphane Boyer, deputy mayor, vice-president of the executive committee. The bylaw is the result of more than 50,000 hours of work and 2,000 meetings he says, and will position Laval among the Quebec leaders in use of innovative and sustainable urban planning practices.

The CDU brings together all planning regulations (zoning, subdivision, construction, etc.) into a single by-law that is much easier to understand and interpret and comes with more than 500 illustrations and the explanation of the intentions behind each of the regulatory standards to make life easier for residents and professionals to carry out their development, construction or renovation project.

The project began in 2018 following the entry into force of the city’s revised land use planning and development plan (SADR).

The city will also launch the preliminary version of Info-regulations next week, a unique online search tool that will allow citizens to quickly find and understand the regulations that apply to their property. Residents can identify their property using an interactive map, search by address or by lot, and immediately find the main applicable regulations. Its full version will be launched when the town Planning Code by-law comes into force.

The adoption of the CDU marks the start of the final stage of consultation. Public consultation will take place in three stages: virtual sessions on May 18 and 19; submission of briefs from May 3 to June 14, 2021; and public hearings in the week of June 14, where citizens and groups will be invited to present their brief or opinions and comments orally.

The public consultation will be chaired by a committee appointed by the mayor, namely:

Boyer, Sainte-Rose councillor Virginie Dufour, executive committee member responsible for the urban planning file; and Marigot councillor Daniel Hébert. The committee will be accompanied by an advisory committee which will be called upon to make conclusions following the consultation and comprised of three external experts.

Following the consultation, the city will conduct an analysis of citizen contributions to improve the CDU and council will decide whether or not to incorporate the recommendations into the final version of the by-law. The CDU will come into force in the months following the adoption by council.

All the consultation details, and the new Info-regulations tool (as of May 3), can be found at repensonslaval.ca/revision-urbanisme.