Message #109 Next Previous
RonCarelli proves private liability official of de facto law
- In 1946, Premier Maurice Duplessis ordered the arrest
of a group of Jehovah's Witnesses who had distributed leaflets boldly criticizing the powerful Roman Catholic Church. Duplessis reasoned that the religious sect's rhetoric was clearly a threat to public order. Frank Roncarelli, owner of the Montreal restaurant Quaff, supplied tens of thousands of dollars in bail for his fellow Jehovah's Witnesses. He was similarly made to suffer. Quaff's liquor licence was invalidated, throwing the restaurant into ruin, as heard in this Front Page Challenge interview with Roncarelli.
Roncarelli fought back and sued the premier. The case explored the intricacies of civil liberties and was heard before the courts for twelve and a half years. Finally, in January 1959, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Roncarelli. Premier Duplessis was ordered to pay $46,132 personally. "Would your case be the only one where a person had sued the premier of a province," a Front Page Challenge panellist asks Roncarelli in this interview. "That's right - dictator I prefer," Roncarelli corrects before adding, "and won."