Ex-Foreign Minister Bernier's girlfriend gaffe could harm Canada's reputation

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Toronto, May 29 : Papers left behind by former Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier have the potential of causing major embarrassment to the country internationally, according to a report in the Globe and Mail newspaper.

A businessman and lawyer, Bernier was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the January 2006 federal election to represent the riding of Beauce. In August 2007 he became Minister of Foreign Affairs, but was forced to step down in May 2008 after a scandal involving an ex-girlfriend with ties to the Hell's Angels.

Former Canadian High Commissioner to Britain Mel Cappe believes that the briefing book that Bernier left for five weeks in his former lover's Montreal home contained top-secret documents.

Suggesting that Bernier "should be drawn and quartered as well as fired" for his indiscretion, Cappe cautioned that there are intelligence officials in allied governments like the United States and the United Kingdom who will form an opinion of Canada as a result of the Bernier affair.

"What we should be [asking] is what is the cabinet Co-ordinator of Security and Intelligence in the U.K. thinking about it? He's the guy who speaks to [British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown every day. The chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee in the U.K. will have a Canadian intelligence liaison officer attend part of his meetings. That was a tough day for that guy."

Cappe said the Canadian government should be concerned about what the new director of security in the White House is telling the U.S. President.

"So it's what's going on in the executive office building in Washington and what's going on in 70 Whitehall [the cabinet office] in London that matters. Because those are the people who are looking at this".

Cappe, now president of the Institute for Research on Public Policy in Montreal, said Canada's NATO allies may by this time have figured out what was in the documents.appe said he is baffled over Bernier leaving the documents in former lover Julie Couillard's apartment for so long.

Every Canadian minister is provided with a secure briefcase and a lecture on how to use it. A PCO team does a security assessment of every minister's residence, providing "whatever security infrastructure they may need, including things like alarm systems, a regulation safe in the minister's home and a secure telephone so that [they'd] have access to encrypted telephone conversations and they'd do a sweep of the house if there was any reason to think there was a threat."

Cappe said he expected that even the minister's driver would have sufficient security clearance to look after the minister's briefcase when he was elsewhere.

ANI

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