[ISN] Bernier quits over security breach

From: InfoSec News (alerts@private)
Date: Wed May 28 2008 - 00:13:46 PDT


By Alexander Panetta
The Canadian Press
May 27, 2008

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has accepted the resignation of 
his embattled foreign affairs minister over an apparent security breach 
involving cabinet documents.

Harper told an extraordinary news conference on Parliament Hill on 
Monday evening that Maxime Bernier’s controversial relationship with a 
woman linked to the Hells Angels was not a factor in the decision.

But the resignation came as Julie Couillard was about to go to air on 
the French-language television station TVA to say that her former lover 
was careless with classified documents.

"This is about one thing and that is a failure to uphold expected 
standards on government documents," Harper said in the Commons foyer.

"It is a very serious mistake — regardless of who the minister is, 
regardless of personal life — to leave classified documents in an 
unsecured location."

A source told The Canadian Press that Bernier left an extremely 
sensitive classified document at Couillard’s apartment, and her lawyer 
notified the Foreign Affairs Department about the document on the 

Nonetheless, just hours before the axe fell on Bernier, the prime 
minister had dismissed the whole affair.

"I have no intention to comment on a minister’s former girlfriend," the 
prime minister said to wrap up a news conference earlier Monday with 
visiting Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko. "I don’t take this 
subject seriously."

He’s taking it seriously now.

The prime minister announced that David Emerson, the international trade 
minister, will take over as interim foreign affairs minister. Harper 
left late Monday night on a European diplomatic trip.

Opposition MPs were baying for further details that could prove 
extremely embarrassing for the Conservative government.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said Harper has been "very dismissive" of the 
Bernier-Couillard affair for weeks.

"That raises some questions about his judgment," Goodale said of the 
prime minister.

Bernier has been under fire for a series of gaffes in his role as 
Canada’s top diplomat, and the revelation that his former girlfriend of 
the past year had once been romantically linked to several men with 
links to the Hells Angels had security experts — and political opponents 
— asking whether she had undergone a security check.

The question remains unanswered.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said the latest revelation was "the straw that 
broke the camel’s back" for Bernier’s cabinet career.

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