Foreign minister of Canada quits over 'biker's moll' girlfriend

The curtain came down yesterday on the brief and embattled cabinet career of Canada's Foreign Minister after a scandal involving his relationship with a woman who was once linked to criminal biker gangs.

The gaffe-prone Maxime Bernier – who promised to send Burma aid on a plane that does not exist and was sworn in with the so-called bikers' moll on his arm –will likely be remembered for longer than he served as his exit cast fresh doubts on the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The resignation came only hours before a television interview with the Julie Couillard, 38, was due to be broadcast. Her life and loves have become a staple for the Canadian press as they have raked over her supposed live-in mobster lover who was murdered, her subsequent marriage to a biker and her latest relationship to the man who became Canada's Foreign Minister.

For weeks, Canada's conservative Prime Minister has been defending Mr Bernier's right to privacy over his relationship with Ms Couillard. The dam finally burst hours before her broadcast.

"This is not to do with the minister's private life... I don't think it matters who a minister is dating," Mr. Harper had said before departing for Europe.

But on Monday, Mr Bernier was forced to walk the plank just before Ms Couillard revealed on television she had discovered secret Nato documents in her apartment after one of the minister's visits. Within 24 hours of the classified documents being returned, Mr Bernier was out of a job.

Ms Couillard spiced up the grey world of Canadian politics last August when she wore a jaw-dropping dress at her boyfriend's swearing in ceremony. That earned him a rebuke from Prime Minister Harper.

When he introduced Ms Couillard to President George Bush at a summit, there was only admiration.

"Well, well, well, haven't you been keeping good company," Mr Bush told Mr Bernier when he approached the couple.

In office, Mr Bernier seemed to attract controversy. In April, Mr Bernier had to retract comments calling for the removal of Kandahar's governor Asadullah Khalid, and recently he promised to deliver aid to Burma on a Canadian cargo plane that was unavailable. Mr. Bernier also managed to get the name of the Haitian President wrong in Canada's House of Commons.

Ms Couillard said she told Mr Bernier about the biker past of her ex-husband and ex-boyfriend from the "very beginning" of their relationship. The two had been seeing each other for more than a month before he asked her to be his official companion for the purposes of taxpayer-funded government travel, she said. "Already then, Maxime was completely aware of everything."

She said Mr Bernier told her she had not had an easy life but did not question much more, and as far as she knows, did not inform anyone in government. It was a stream of revelations about Ms Couillard's Hells Angels associates and biker husband that brought Mr Bernier's career low.

The two met at a dinner party in 2007 and she claims she was approached by the Conservatives to become a parliamentary candidate. However, the relationship was ending at the time Mr Bernier left the sensitive documents at her flat in April. Ms Couillard kept them while controversy raged about her links to Montreal's Hells Angels.

Ms Couillard had a three-year relationship to a mob enforcer, Giles Giguere, which ended with his death in 1996. He became a police informant after being arrested with a stash of submachine guns and was found dead in a ditch. The gang also considered killing Ms Couillard in the Nineties Quebec biker wars.

In her TV interview, Ms Couillard said she had lived with two men who were "not choir boys."

Ms Couillard then married Stephane Sirois, a key lieutenant of Montreal's former Hells Angels boss, Maurice Boucher. Ms. Couillard said she warned Mr Bernier about the biker past of her ex-husband and deceased former boyfriend from the "very beginning".

In 1997, she began dating and later married Mr Sirois, an enforcer for a biker gang named the Rockers. He too became an informant and subsequently testified against a dozen fellow bikers at a trial 2002. The couple divorced in 1999.

"When I met Stephane, yes he was a biker and I told him that I was not interested in seeing him because of that fact," she said. "Stephane made a choice of leaving the biker gang that he was with, the Rockers, and while I was with him he was not a biker any more." She denied being a "biker's chick" and said that she had no contact with that world.

But the revelations that Ms Couillard had links to Quebec bikers during a vicious turf war over drugs, brought her relationship with Mr Bernier to the floor. Ms Couillard now says the controversy has destroyed her career as an estate agent and that she has been hiding out in her apartment for the past three weeks.

She sais she went public in order to regain her credibility, saying: "I was humiliated as a woman, I haven't done anything wrong."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence