On Monday, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that former Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum will be allowed to keep his $268,000 severance pay despite being convicted on charges of fraud and corruption. Applebaum was granted this severance pay, which was funded by taxpayer money, when he was forced to resign in 2013. According to CTV News, the disgraced former mayor received $108,204 in severance allowance and another $159,719 to help him "transition to a new career."
The reason Applebaum is allowed to keep his severance pay is that he was charged with crimes before the passage of a law requiring convicted elected officials to give back severance pay and allowances.
Despite the new law, the prosecution argued that Applebaum should retroactively be responsible for giving back the severance pay — something which his legal team has categorically denied.
Mayor Valérie Plante said on Monday that the ruling signals to other politicians that they can break the law with impunity and without consequence.
Applebaum briefly served as mayor of Montreal between 2012 and 2013 before he was arrested. He was convicted in 2017 and received a one-year prison sentence, with two years of probation on counts of corruption, conspiracy, fraud, and breach of trust.
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During his time as the borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Applebaum received some $60,000 of bribes from real estate developers.
In an interview with CJAD, Mayor Plante said that "it's not ok that [Applebaum] can keep Montrealer's money." She also said that the city is working with different lawyers in regard to the case to see if they can get the money back.
.@Val_Plante unhappy they lost court case to get back over $260K in severance pay from disgraced ex-mayor Michael A… https://t.co/7PZdMh0w4q
"In the case of the transition allowance, the law came into effect after the received the money but before he was found guilty."
"The judge decided that he did not have to reimburse either allowance because 1. the crimes were committed before the law came into effect and 2. he received the money before the law came into effect as well."
"Also, this type of severance pay was not scrapped in 2018. The law was simply modified to limit the cases in which they pay it (you need to meet certain conditions now whereas before it was automatic)."
Whether the City of Montreal will take further action to limit severance pay for convicted elected officials remains to be seen.
Why You Need To Go: With incredible views, this terrasse recently opened atop the Humaniti building as part of the Humaniti Hotel. It's definitely going to be on Montrealers' must-do lists for summers to come.
"Quebec needs plasma donors," the sponsored post says. The caption reads: "Plasma donation changes the lives of thousands of Quebecers. Plan your visit to a donation centre near you."
Three months of abstinence
Beneath the non-profit organization's post are more than 400 comments. Some ask questions about the difference between plasma and blood (plasma is the liquid portion of blood), while others ask if vaccinated folks can give blood (yes, they can).
Then there are comments like this: "I would but I'm gay and you won't let me," "Then stop your prejudice of gay people" and "I'll think about it when they stop being homophobic entirely."
According to Héma-Québec, "a man whose last sexual contact with a man was 3 or more months ago can give plasma."
While this does not rule out gay donors, the three-month restriction does not apply to lesbians, men who have sex with women or women who have sex with men.
"I would totally donate blood, but I am a healthy gay man and you don't want me because of who I sleep with (even though I have been with the same partner for 21 years). Good luck with your antiquated rules, in an age where you can screen blood for HIV and other pathogens very very quickly. So there you go, do without, it's absolutely no loss on me. So now, stop advertising on my feed," wrote a Facebook user. He asked to be identified as "a member of Montreal's gay community" to protect his privacy.
"It's honestly ridiculous that they even still have this restriction. If women can sleep with men and donate no problem, then there is absolutely no reason why men who sleep with men (or, in your case, one man) should be denied. All of the donations are tested anyway," Gatineau resident Jami Tatlock replied.
On its website, Héma-Québec responds to the question, "Why must a homosexual couple in a stable relationship wait 3 months without having sex?" in order to donate blood.
"Sex can contribute to the propagation of viruses that may be transmitted to other individuals through blood transfusions. Héma-Québec uses a range of very rigorous screening tests. Despite the high performance of these tests, the risk of an infected blood donation going undetected, however slight, is not zero because of the sensitivity limitations of the tests," it says.
"For this reason, despite the use of screening tests, we exclude donors at high risk of infections that might be transmitted through blood."
Héma-Québec describes the three-month window as a period of risk or a "silent period" when people could be asymptomatic and test negative, despite being infected with HIV or Hepatitis. The three-month restriction also applies to people who have gotten piercings or tattoos.
Laurent Paul Ménard, Héma-Québec's media relations director, told MTL Blog the organization is working to make blood donation more inclusive as "scientific evidence becomes available and blood product safety is shown."
Ménard pointed out that, since 2013, Héma-Québec has submitted multiple requests asking Health Canada — which must approve all changes to donor eligibility criteria — to reduce the qualification criteria for men who have sex with men.
Between 1992 and 2013, a man who had sex with another man — even once — could never donate blood. In 2013, a man had to wait five years after having sex with another man to donate. In 2016, the deferral period was reduced to one year. And, in 2019, one year was reduced to three months.
A new behaviour-based approach
Ménard said Héma-Québec is planning to submit to Health Canada again to ask for a new approach that takes behaviour into account, based on a model recently adopted in the U.K.
Héma-Québec, he said, will ask Health Canada to allow some sexually active men who have one same-sex partner to donate without any restrictions.
In the meantime, some potential donors are left torn between doing good and standing up for what they believe is right.
"I am torn now between donating myself," Tatlock told MTL Blog. "I want to help people, but I also kind of want to hold off until they change their homophobic policies as a kind of protest."
According to Ménard, Héma-Québec will submit the request to Health Canada by the end of this year.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Minister of Justice Simon Jolin-Barrette and Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Isabelle Charest presented Bill 92, an act to move for "the creation of a specialized court in matters of sexual violence and domestic violence and relating to the training of judges in these matters."
"We no longer want people who are victims of sexual or domestic violence to hesitate to report and file a complaint in Quebec," Jolin-Barette said.
Dépôt du PL92 | Aujourd'hui, nous envoyons un message clair aux personnes victimes de violence sexuelles et de viol… https://t.co/VnMVx3iLQg
Jolin-Barrette insisted that "culture change is needed in the justice system and must happen."
The purpose of this special court on sexual and domestic violence, is, according to the minister, "to restore victims' confidence in the justice system, reduce delays and better meet the needs of victims with adapted and coordinated services."
The mandate comes out of 190 recommendations made in a report by a special government working group on sexual and domestic violence in Quebec, which was tabled last year.
"You can continue to count on the determination of the entire government [...] to make the necessary changes to better support the victims because I wish them to feel accompanied and respected in their process, to be prepared, and equipped during their testimony in court," said Charest.
If you require resources or assistance surrounding sexual assault in Quebec, the CAVAC helpline is available 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-866-532-2822. Other crisis lines and 24/7 options can be found at The Lifeline Canada.