Ex-terrorist sworn in as Quebec judge '70s conviction overlooked during background check

November 15, 1996|By BOSTON GLOBE

MONTREAL -- When Richard Therrien was nominated as a criminal court judge earlier this fall, provincial police performed the usual background check and found that he is an ardent separatist, hardly a crime in Quebec.

What investigators somehow missed is that Therrien, 46, is a convicted terrorist who played a role in the kidnapping and murder of a pro-federalist Quebec official in 1970, an internationally publicized crime that forced Ottawa to impose martial law to suppress a wave of bombings and killings by the radical Front de Liberation du Quebec, or FLQ.

That oversight came to light this week, but too late.

Therrien -- whose mug shot was plastered across Canadian front pages in the 1970s, and whose acquaintances were reportedly well aware of his past ties to the violent radical wing of the secessionist movement -- was sworn in as Quebec Court judge last month and cannot easily be removed because of laws designed to protect the judiciary from political interference.

"A mistake was made," said Quebec Justice Minister Paul Begin, who appointed Therrien.

Critics of Quebec's separatist movement say it defies belief that no one in the provincial government was aware of Therrien's background, which was apparently an open secret in legal circles.

"This is just incredible negligence and incompetence," said Thomas Mulclair, a member of Quebec's legislature. "We are not talking about a forgotten traffic violation."

Therrien decided yesterday to take a few days off to let the political storm pass. He offered neither explanations nor expressions of remorse for his involvement with the FLQ.

The controversy has caused huge embarrassment for Quebec's governing Parti Quebecois, which only last week was denouncing the federal government for awarding a ceremonial political post to a man who had flirted with fascism in his youth. Lt. Gov. Jean-Louis Roux resigned after it was disclosed that he wore a swastika during an anti-military protest in 1942.

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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