After several diplomatic fumbles Bernier was exposed by his former girlfriend Julie Couillard for having left sensitive government documents in an unsecured area in her home. Couillard raised concerns by opposition parties as of late when news began to leak of the seriousness of a security breach. To make matters worse, Couillard was linked romantically to high-profile members of Canadian organized crime.
Bernier quits cabinet post over security breach
Monday, May 26, 2008 | 11:04 PM ET
Embattled Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier has resigned from cabinet over a security breach involving classified documents, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters on Monday.
The resignation came ahead of Monday night's airing of a French-language television interview of Bernier's former girlfriend, Julie Couillard, in which she revealed the minister had left a secret document in her apartment sometime in April that she later returned to Foreign Affairs. "Maxime came to my house, and the document stayed there," Couillard said during her interview with private television network TVA, without disclosing the contents of the document. Harper said he accepted Bernier's resignation after learning late Sunday that Bernier had inadvertently left the documents in an unsecured location. "It's only this error. It's a very serious error for any minister," Harper said. "The minister immediately recognized the gravity of that error."
(J's comment: The critical question will now be at what point the PMO was aware of a security breach and if Prime Minister Harper deliberately lied to oppositions direct questions in Parliament)
The prime minister staunchly defended Bernier in recent weeks after he came under fire for his involvement with Couillard, who has been linked to the criminal biker underworld. "Let me be clear: This is not to do with the minister's private life," Harper said Monday. "What matters here is that rules respecting government classified documents were broken. Obviously it was not done on purpose … but it was clearly done and it has to be treated appropriately."
Bernier has also been in a weakened position in recent weeks since a gaffe in April during a visit to Afghanistan, where he publicly suggested the removal of the governor of Kandahar.
(J's comment: Canada's Foreign Affairs minister enters a war zone and makes public remarks about removal of a local Afghan official, leaving Canadian troops to suffer from any potential blow back)
Earlier this month, the federal government was forced to rent a Russian cargo jet to ship helicopters to Burma to deliver aid after Bernier publicly promised the Canadian military's new C-17 transports, none of which were immediately available, would handle the job.
Montreal newspaper Le Devoir reported Monday that Couillard, who was once married to a biker, is the head of a high-tech firm that has been involved in airport security. Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe rejected Harper's contention that Bernier's resignation had nothing to do with Couillard's highly anticipated interview . Duceppe said many questions remain unanswered, including how "people with very strange pasts" can bid on government contracts for airport security.
Published reports have referred to court documents that say Couillard once married a member of the Rockers biker gang, and was a potential target of Hells Angels kingpin Maurice (Mom) Boucher while she dated another biker. Couillard has said she cut off ties with the underworld in 1999, and her romantic involvement with bikers is part of a distant past. She started dating Bernier before he was sworn in as foreign affairs minister in 2007.
J's comment: This story is interesting as it is disturbing on multiple fronts:
- A top government official has been essentially fired for a disgraceful neglect of his most basic duty to maintain national security, and failed in his secondary duties as a sober diplomat.
- A former spouse having a less than polished past and currently runs a "security" company bidding on projects at a major airport
- During the interview linked in the earlier part of this story, she alleges her house was "swept" with special security devices and was found to be bugged.
- The Prime Minister denied any knowledge of wrongdoing when asked during question period several weeks prior, yet announced Bernier's resignation the morning before his girlfriend's exclusive interview detailing the security breach.
- Did the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) conduct background security checks on Ms. Couillard at any point and if so to what capacity? As the girlfriend of the Foreign Affairs Minister or as the owner of an airport security company?
More on this story to come as the details unfold.