The Queen's former representative in Quebec, Lise Thibault, will have her day in court later this summer after invoking sovereign privilege to avoid trial on fraud charges.
The one-time lieutenant-governor argues she benefits from sovereign immunity against the Crown's criminal fraud case against her.
Thibault has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of breach of trust, fraud and creating false or counterfeit documents.
Her lawyer Marc Labelle said his argument for sovereign immunity is based on a rarely-used common-law statute that states “the queen can do no wrong” — in other words, the crown prosecution cannot prosecute the Crown.
Thibault is accused of misspending more than $700,000 in public funds during her 10-year term as lieutenant-governor.
Her lawyer believes those expenses were incurred during her time as the Queen's representative, and should be subject to sovereign immunity.
Thibault was not present as her lawyer appeared briefly before Quebec Superior Court Justice Richard Grenier on Friday and told reporters afterward he’ll spend the next two months doing more research.
Labelle says he hasn’t found any Canadian precedent where a representative of the queen invoked this privilege for criminal charges.
Her preliminary inquiry for charges of fraud over $5,000, forgery of travel documents and breach of trust began in January 2011.
Thibault served as lieutenant-governor between 1997 and 2007, after she was appointed by Roméo Leblanc, then Governor General, at the request of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
Allegations of misspending first came to light at the end of her term, after a Quebec auditor's report challenged $711,200 of expenses, including housing and meals already paid for by the province.
Thibault also charged golf lessons, vacations, and family gifts as business expenses.
During her appearance at a provincial committee three years ago, she told legislators she thought it was appropriate to include those costs as part of her job.
Her sovereignty immunity motion is to be heard in Superior Court on Aug. 23 2012.