Me Extra Junior Laguerre.  Photo: LinkedIn

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Me Extra Junior Laguerre. Photo: LinkedIn

The outgoing president of the Bar of Montreal, Me Robin schiller, recently revealed the identity of his successor: Me Extra Junior Laguerre. A moment that she describes as “historic”.

172nd President of Montreal, Me Laguerre is the first black to hold this position in Quebec. He will take up his post on May 5.

“I had the pleasure of working with Me Laguerre this year and I can attest to his hard work and dedication to the Bar of Montreal,” she said.

Me Laguerre was elected by acclamation at the end of the nomination period. He is the only candidate to have presented himself.

Whatever. Positive reactions have been ringing out since the announcement of his election. The Quebec section of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and the Young Bar of Montreal both welcomed his entry into office, in addition to stressing the “historic” nature of the event.

“In addition to having an exemplary professional career, Me Laguerre opened a new page of history by having been the first black lawyer elected president of the JBM and is now repeating this inspiring moment in history as President of Montreal”, for example indicated the JBM by way of press release.

Droit-inc spoke with Me Laguerre.

You were elected by acclamation, some speak of a “historic” moment. What does all this do to you?

It makes me very happy, because I have been involved with the Bar of Montreal for several years. To the point where people are no strangers to my presence!

It is also a great accomplishment for a kid born in Haiti, and who arrived here at the age of 10. My election is something unexpected, even for me! So it’s nice.

Why did you run for president?

I know the Bar of Montreal very, very well. I spent approximately five years at the Young Bar, I was involved at the Bar of Montreal in several committees. I know how it works very well, I understand the workings of the Bar (how it works, internal committees, etc.).

What motivates me is also… I noticed, having been involved with the Bar for several years, that people know the Jeune Barreau and the Professional Order, the Barreau du Québec well. But for the Bar of Montreal… we’re a bit squeezed between the two. I think it’s important to explain to people what we do and what we are used for. I would like Montreal to take up more space.

What’s the first thing you do when you take up your post?

There are several things that I intend to suggest to the board… I think there are some little things to improve, for example, in the governance of the Bar. We will work on this and discuss it at the council, even if it is not a very sexy issue.

I also think that the Bar should take more place in the discussions that are taking place with the population. The Bar does not have a tradition of taking a position, as happened on March 12, on the subject of systemic racism, for example. It is the Bâtonnière who initiated this, and I would like to continue on this path.

We will also be talking about diversity and inclusion. I am the first black lawyer to take up this post, and I hope I am not the last.

As President of the Bar, you will be the public image of the Bar of Montreal. How do you see this role?

I am familiar with this dimension from being involved with the Young Bar of Montreal. The Young Bar is very militant, and used to taking a stand.

Obviously, the mission of the two organizations is very different, insofar as the Jeune Barreau defends the interests of the members and the Bar the interests of the public. Despite everything, I don’t have too much stress in relation to that. I won’t be alone. The Bar has a council. When we have interesting discussions, when the board decides, we will or will not take a position on certain issues.

Systemic racism, sexual violence, public denunciations… The public tends to criticize and question the justice system. What can you do there as President of the Bar of Montreal?

On the issues you are talking about, I cannot speak for the moment, because I do not want to presume the will of the council. What I can tell you, however, is that the Bar’s mission, which is to protect the public, is very broad. So you have to choose your battles well. Unfortunately, we cannot fix the fate of the world, if only because of our limited budget.

I think the Law Society can and should speak up to defend the rule of law, when it is important to do so. Otherwise, what is it for?

Our role is to try to help those who are less fortunate than us, and we can help them there, so I think it’s the role of the bar to do that.

We just have to remember that we are not the Government of Quebec, the City of Montreal or even the Prime Minister of Canada. We don’t have the budget to deal with people’s plight, but there are times when the Law Society can speak and take a stand while being careful about how it does it and the issues it chooses.

A final word?

As you know, elections will be held soon (Editor’s note: April 26) for the post of first advisor / first advisor, between My Julie mousseau and Jonathan Pierre-Étienne.

I hope people will vote in large numbers. It is important that they can express themselves on the different points of view of the candidates in the running. I also invite people to participate in the activities of the Bar… the Bar is people. The more people, the more fun!