Canadian foreign affairs minister resigns amid controversy

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Maxime Bernier, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, resigned after it was revealed that he left classified materials at an insecure location. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Bernier's resignation in Ottawa on Monday.

Maxime Bernier last September
Image: Agência Brasil .

Bernier was once in a relationship with Julie Couillard, whose previous associations with the controversial Hells Angels biker group were reported in recent months. In an interview with French-language television network TVA, Couillard indicated that Bernier left behind some designated secret documents at her residence. She returned these to the federal government upon advice from a lawyer.

Opposition politicians were critical of Harper and his handling of the matter, noting that until today the Prime Minister downplayed security concerns surrounding Bernier's relationship with Couillard. Negative reaction to Bernier's resignation quickly came from Liberal party house leader Ralph Goodale and NDP leader Jack Layton.

Bernier has a track record of controversy as a member of the Harper government. Last week, he hastily promised Canadian military aircraft for relief efforts in cyclone-ravaged Burma, although the aircraft in question were already occupied elsewhere. The Canadian government was forced to rent a Russian aircraft to fulfill Bernier's promise. Bernier also received criticism earlier this year after he made public comments calling for the removal of an Afghanistan governor from office.

David Emerson will assume Bernier's Foreign Affairs duties, at least for the short term.