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Ontario court rejects fraud appeal of ex-Liberal senator Raymond Lavigne

Senator Raymond Lavigne makes his way to the East Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, March 11, 2011. In a decision released on Friday, the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected the former Liberal Senator’s attempt to have his convictions overturned.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A former Senator who got a staffer to work on his personal property had an appeal of his convictions for fraud and breach of trust dismissed.

Raymond Lavigne resigned from the Senate in March 2011 after he was found guilty of breach of trust and fraud. A court found that Mr. Lavigne had a staffer cut down trees on his land in Wakefield, Que., and that he improperly claimed more than $10,000 in expenses for trips that were taken by his staff. He was sentenced in 2011 to six months in prison and six months under house arrest.

In a decision released on Friday, the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected the former Liberal Senator's attempt to have his convictions overturned.

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Mr. Lavigne had argued that the judge who found him guilty failed to take into account all evidence related to contentious issues, relied upon evidence from a witness that was not credible, and did not properly apply the fraud conviction. The Court of Appeal ruled that the judge made no legal errors and that the convictions and sentence should stand.

Mr. Lavigne submitted claims for $217 for trips a staffer took but only reimbursed the individual with $50 per trip. "He pocketed the difference himself," states the Court of Appeal ruling, which is written in French.

The judge who found Mr. Lavigne guilty, Mr. Justice Robert Smith, noted during sentencing that Mr. Lavigne had not expressed remorse for abusing his seat in the Senate.

"The position of senator in Canada is one of privilege," Judge Smith said. "A person in such a position is expected to behave with the utmost integrity and honesty. When that trust is breached ... deterrence and denunciation must be the court's primary focus."

Mr. Lavigne said at the time that he felt he did not receive a fair trial.

The decision comes as three senators have been ordered by a Senate committee to return tens of thousands of dollars in expenses they claimed for housing. A fourth, Senator Pamela Wallin, admitted Thursday that she had "made mistakes" in filing expense claims for travel that was not Senate-related. An audit of her expenses is ongoing.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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