/ 28 May 2008

Canadian minister quits over security lapse

The Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier, dubbed ”Bumbling Bernier” by his critics, resigned on Tuesday after admitting that he left sensitive government documents at the home of his former girlfriend.

Bernier (45) has come under criticism in recent weeks after it emerged that the woman concerned, Julie Couillard, had been involved in relationships with men linked to the Hells Angels.

Announcing the resignation, the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, said Bernier had ”left classified documents in a non-secure location. This is a serious error”.

Reports indicated that the documents included details of Nato strategy in Afghanistan and briefing papers for a Nato summit held in April in Romania.

Couillard (38) an aspiring actor, gave an interview to a French-language TV station to, in her words, re-establish her credibility. ”I’m not a biker’s chick,” she said.

The couple garnered attention when Couillard appeared at Bernier’s swearing-in ceremony last summer wearing a low-cut dress. But that publicity backfired as her previous relationships came to light.

Couillard had lived with Gilles Giguère, a Montreal criminal, in the mid-1990s. The relationship ended when he was shot dead after becoming a police informant following his arrest for possession of firearms and drugs. The following year, in 1997, she started seeing, and subsequently married, Stéphane Sirois, an enforcer for a Hells Angels gang who also became a police informant. The couple divorced in 1999.

Couillard was later involved in a bid for a security contract at Montreal airport, led by another boyfriend, who reportedly owed money to a Hells Angels loan shark. The boyfriend killed himself.

Deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said: ”I don’t care about her skirts, I don’t care about her cleavage … I don’t care about any of it. It is none of my business. But this [security] stuff is not only my business, it is the business of all Canadians.” – guardian.co.uk Â