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Quebec anti-corruption unit considering name change to improve tarnished image

QUEBEC — The head of Quebec's anti-corruption unit says he's considering a rebranding exercise for his troubled police force.

QUEBEC — The head of Quebec's anti-corruption unit says he's considering a rebranding exercise for his troubled police force.

Frédérick Gaudreau told reporters today his police unit is ready to take a new name and make whatever other changes are needed to redeem its image, following a series of embarrassing, high-profile setbacks and failures.

The unit, known as UPAC, was formed about a decade ago to investigate corruption, primarily involving the province's political and business elite.

Among UPAC's problems is an investigation into alleged illegal party financing involving the Quebec Liberal party that has dragged on since 2014 with no conclusion in sight.

More recently, a judge cited the poor conduct of investigating UPAC officers as a reason for shutting down the corruption trial of the former mayor of Terrebonne, Que., north of Montreal.

Gaudreau, who released the unit's annual report today, says that despite the setbacks, the police unit is still needed to carry out independent corruption inquiries.

"Against all odds," the unit still has a role to play, Gaudreau told reporters.

Gaudreau was forced earlier this year to apologize to Guy Ouellette, an Independent member of the legislature, for unjustly arresting him in October 2017 in relation to the Liberal financing investigation. Former Liberal premier Jean Charest launched a lawsuit last year against the government for violating his privacy in connection with the probe.

A separate investigation led to criminal charges against former Quebec deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau, which were stayed in September 2020 after legal proceedings took too long.

Gaudreau says he understands the impatience of people who wonder why investigations remain open for years without charges.

He described the investigation into former members of the provincial Liberals as "extremely complex," but he did not set a deadline for when it would be completed.

Gaudreau took the helm of the unit in 2019, promising to restore public confidence in UPAC.

Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said Tuesday a name change would be nothing more than a "cosmetic" gesture, adding that "much stronger action" is needed to improve the way the force operates.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2021.

Jocelyne Richer, The Canadian Press