Wakefield, Quebec couple settles legal battle with Sen. Lavigne out of court


by Trevor Greenway on December 16, 2010

A view of Sen. Raymond Lavigne's Wakefield, Quebec house from the Gatineau River

A view of Sen. Raymond Lavigne's Wakefield, Quebec house from the Gatineau River

Carol and Neil Faulkner of Wakefield, Quebec have finally seen a five-year-long legal battle with Sen. Raymond Lavigne end.

The couple wouldn’t disclose the amount of an out-of-court settlement, they did say it would cover their legal costs.

“We’re so glad it’s solved,” said Carol Faulkner, from her home on Wakefield Heights Road. “It was sort of this unfinished business that hasn’t been at all pleasant.”

Dec. 15 front page

Dec. 15 front page

The dispute with Sen Lavigne began in 2005, when Daniel Cote, an aide to the senator, began chopping down trees on the Faulkner’s property to clear the site for a planned house.

The Faulkners caught Cote using a chainsaw, with which he felled six large trees and 15 smaller ones on their property. Cote told the Faulkners he was doing work approved by Hydro-Quebec, which was not the case.

They reacted by suing Sen. Lavigne and filing a complaint with the Senate, as the senator was allegedly using staff money to fund the work.

The complaint launched an RCMP investigation, resulting in Sen. Lavigne being charged with fraud over $5,000, breach of trust and obstruction of justice.

The Faulkners have since replanted trees, but most of the damage had already been done.

“It’s sad about the trees,” said Neil Faulkner. “We moved here specifically for the privacy. Our whole point wasn’t the money, we felt that we had to take a stand.”

His wife said she “was in tears” when she saw that her private yard had been opened up by the cutting.

The Faulkners aren’t exactly sure how much time it took, but they said they spent “hours and hours” preparing their case, which was to be heard Dec. 1. The couple settled out of court on Nov. 26.

“It’s been a long haul,” said Carol Faulkner. “It’s the first time we have been involved in something like this.”

Sen. Lavigne is also standing trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and obstruction of justice that landed him a suspension from the Senate in 2007. He is also under scrutiny for allegedly spending more than $700,000 of taxpayers’ money over the past three years. The decision on Lavigne’s trial is expected to be handed down Jan. 7.