Canada gets new foreign minister as predecessor nails at ex-lover


Toronto : Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed international trade minister David Emerson as new foreign affairs minister even as his predecessor Maxime Bernier, who quit following revelations he had left classified documents at the place of his ex-lover with past links to organized crime, said Wednesday he knew nothing about her past while he dated her.

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Julie Couillard, who has been dubbed the Mata Hari of Canada for bringing down the foreign affairs minister, was exposed last month for her past ties to criminal Hells Angels biker gangs. She had married and divorced one gang member, had live-in relationship with another member and also dated a mafioso.

In a TV interview after her past was revealed last month, she said the minister knew about her past relationships.

Breaking his silence over the issue, Maxime Bernier Wednesday clarified that he didn’t know about his former lover’s past ties to biker gangs.

“She did not tell me, and nobody else ever did, in whichever capacity. I only knew about her past what she willingly told me,” the former minister said while speaking in his constituency near Quebec City. He said he came to know about her past only on April 20 when their relationship had already ended.

Bernier also clarified that the secret government documents he left at his lover’s apartment were just briefing notes meant to prepare him for the NATO summit held in Bucharest in the first week of April.

“These briefing notes were not sensitive enough to be bar-coded, which explains why their disappearance did not set any alarms in my department,” he clarified.

The appointment of David Emerson as new foreign affairs minister – he was temporarily put in charge of the ministry after Bernier resigned – has been viewed favourably as he is one the most capable ministers in Harper’s cabinet.

The prime minister also made three changes in his ministry. Michael Fortier was sworn in as minister of international trade, Christian Paradis as minister of public works and government services and James Moore as Secretary of State (for Asia-Pacific Gateway, 2010 Olympics and official languages).