Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Not only was it a departure from Conservative, Reform and Alliance Policy, it broke a direct promise that Stephen Harper had made on Radio-Canada during the election campaign.
He swore emphatically that he would never appoint a senator or name an unelected person to cabinet.
We're so used to his lies now, that it no longer matters, but there were many problems with this appointment, that go beyond simple lying.
As a Senator, Fortier was not allowed to attend Question Period, to respond to questions from the opposition parties in the House, even though his department spent several billion dollars a years.
It reeked of patronage, since Fortier was a former colleague of Brian Mulroney, when they both worked at the law firm of Ogilvy Renault, and was also the co-chair of Harper's campaign to lead the new Conservative Party in 2003.
But perhaps the worst conflict of interest was the fact that Fortier was the co-chair of the entire 2006 Conservative campaign. Even if it was completely above board, which I doubt, it really looked bad. I mean think about it. He solicits campaign contributions for the Party and then is in a position to return favours. Hmmmm.
So when his name popped up in the Maxime Bernier scandal, I wasn't at all surprised. His aide, Bernard Cote took the fall, but it appears that if you want to work for a Conservative MP it means you have to be prepared to take a political bullet for them. Cote got it right between the eyes.
Mr. Cote was also a former romantic interest of Julie Couillard and apparently put the pressure on Monte Solberg to hire her mother, in a position she seems to have doubtful qualifications for. However, it was his connections to Couillard`s employer, Groupe Kevlar, that landed him in hot water.
Couillard affair trips top Tory aide
Toronto StarJune 11, 2008
Tonda MacCharles in Ottawa
Sean Gordon in Montreal
The tangled web involving former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier's ex-girlfriend has ensnared another federal cabinet member.
Public Works Minister Michael Fortier dismissed senior Quebec adviser Bernard Côté yesterday after it emerged Côté had a romantic relationship with Julie Couillard last year. (Is there anyone she hasn' t dated?)
Because Couillard is officially listed as an "affiliated agent" of Groupe Kevlar Inc., a Montreal-based property development firm that is involved in at least one multimillion-dollar tender with the public works department, Fortier says he acted immediately to dispel the appearance of a conflict of interest.Fortier told the Star "this matter was only brought to my attention today, June 10."
"Mr. Bernard Côté failed to inform me that while he was in a personal relationship with Julie Couillard, at the same time she was also vying for government business for Kevlar and raised it with Mr. Côté," he said. "Mr. Côté should have recused himself of having any dealings with the matter at hand, which he unfortunately didn't." (Yeah, right)Fortier said Côté offered his resignation "and I accepted it." (A lot of that going on in the Conservative government)
"I've insisted with all my political staff that they disclose any dealings with suppliers in the context of matters being the subject of requests for proposals (or any other request leading to a request for proposal)," he said. Sources said Fortier summoned Côté after receiving a phone call from a La Presse reporter seeking comment on the link between Côté and Couillard.
After confirming he dated Couillard, Côté was asked to clean out his desk, a source said.
Côté was a special assistant in charge of Fortier's Montreal office. Côté twice had unsuccessful runs for the Progressive Conservatives – in the 2000 federal election in the southwest Montreal riding of Verdun, and in a 2002 by-election in Jeanne-LeBer – and was a former national vice-president of the now-defunct party.
Before joining Fortier's office, he worked as a commercial real estate broker and property manager. Friends say he and Couillard briefly dated in the spring of 2007 – shortly before she was introduced to Bernier at a Montreal dinner.
"He feels terrible. Bernard's a very ... upright guy. He knew his name would probably come up. Now he's worried he's going to be dragged through the mud," said a Conservative who has known Côté for more than a decade.The Star was unable to reach Côté for comment. A phone call to Couillard went unreturned.Bernier resigned last month hours before the airing of a TV interview in which Couillard revealed he had left sensitive documents at her house in Laval, Que., in mid-April.
She spoke at length about her past associations with underworld figures, including her romantic relationships with a loan shark who had close ties to the Hells Angels, her brief marriage to a full-patch member of the Rockers biker gang – an Angels puppet club – and a third live-in mate who was a truck hijacker who owed large debts to the Hells Angels and other criminal gangs.
She neglected to mention a fourth underworld person with whom she had romantic liaison: Montreal mafia figure Tony Volpato, whom she dated in the early 1990s.
The Quebec media have reported in recent days that Couillard's first brush with the Conservative party would have taken place in March or April of 2007 – around the same time Investissements immobiliers Kevlar, a subsidiary of Groupe Kevlar, began the preliminary stages of a bidding process for a multi-million dollar contract to build a 200,000-square-foot federal office building in downtown Quebec City.
According to sources, Couillard was first registered as a Kevlar affiliate agent in early April 2007 – around the time she dated Côté and shortly before she met Bernier.
Her permit was renewed this year, and as of yesterday was still in effect.
Last April, La Presse reported, Couillard attended a fundraising cocktail party in Châteauguay-Saint-Constant, a riding on Montreal's south shore, making a $1,000 contribution to the party. Le Devoir reported yesterday that Fortier was at the party.
The event's organizer told the paper that Couillard handed him a Kevlar business card at the cocktail party, but that he remembered her mostly because the $1,000 cheque bounced.
Groupe Kevlar issued a press release on May 27 indicating that Couillard "is not an employee of Investissements immobiliers Kevlar and has never been." It said the company had agreed to serve as an affiliated sponsor for Couillard so she could qualify for membership in the provincial commercial realtors' association, and would have vetted any transactions she had brought their way. The Star could not reach Kevlar president René Bellerive for comment yesterday.
The maze created by this government to conceal mass corruption should go into the Guinness Book of World Records, because it's absolutely mind boggling.
Or maybe it's more biblical, with this begetting this and that beginning that.
What led me down this path in the maze, however, was a little blurb I read concerning Julie Coillard's mother. Julie of course was Maxime Bernier's ex-girlfriend.
By the time I ran the entire lane, the story connected to Jay Hill, Rob Merrifield, Stephen Harper, John Baird, Peter Van Loan, Michael Fortier, and countless others.
The note I found that again piqued my curiosity was "Cote would also play a key role in hiring Diane Bellemare, Julie Couillard’s mother,`as president of the Employment Insurance Board of Referees. " Cote was an aide to former head of public works, the unelected Michael Fortier.
That note led me to this story:
Checks into Bernier, Couillard raised no concerns, MPs hear
Canwest News Service
June 17, 2008
OTTAWA -- A background check was done on former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier as recently as April and no concerns were raised about him or his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Julie Couillard, the prime minister's national security adviser told a Commons committee Tuesday.
A background check is done to ensure there are no criminal, security or other concerns, Bloodworth said, and involves a criminal record check by the RCMP and a security assessment by CSIS.
Bloodworth told the committee she has read about the allegations about Couillard's background in the media, including her former relationships with men tied to biker gangs and the Mafia, and doesn't know them to be fact.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is conducting a review of the security breach, but some opposition MPs want a full public inquiry, especially as more details continue to come to light about Couillard's background.
Earlier in the day, under questioning about the Bernier affair in the House of Commons, government House leader Peter Van Loan confirmed that Couillard's mother, Diane Bellemare, received a federal appointment last August to the employment insurance boards of referees and he defended her credentials.
"She, of course, was found acceptable by the Human Resources public servants who examined her, and spoke to her about her background and understanding of the employment insurance system, her understanding of the geographic area of Saint-Jerome and on that basis her appointment was recommended and ultimately made," Van Loan said.
But opposition MPs say it raises questions that Bernier's then-girlfriend's mother would be recommended for a political appointment.
And this one:
Federal officials confirmed last night that Ms. Couillard's mother, Diane Bellemare, obtained a federal appointment last August to be a member of the Employment Insurance Boards of Referees, officials said last night. The three-year position was approved through an order-in-council and was made on the recommendation of Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg.
And also this one:
Meanwhile, it was revealed that Couillard's mother, a hospital fundraiser, was herself subjected to a background check when she was appointed to a federal employment insurance tribunal. Diane Bellemare got the job — which the opposition claims could pay up to $50,000 a year — while her daughter was dating Bernier.
During Tuesday's question period, government House leader Peter Van Loan defended the hiring of Bellemare, saying she passed "rigorous" security checks and was more than qualified for the position. .. Van Loan did not answer repeated opposition questions about whether Bernier had recommended Bellemare for the post or been present when cabinet approved the appointment.
However, I hadn't expected it to lead me to this one, which is much more damaging:
Harper ramps up patronage posts in British Columbia
May 22, 2007
Nobody should be denied an appointment because of political affiliation, nor should they have an inside track."
Strahl said Merry Hallsor, from a longtime Conservative family, is qualified to serve as a member of the board of referees under the Employment Insurance Act because she served on that body when Brian Mulroney was prime minister. Hallsor lost her job when the Liberals won power in 1993.
"She spent time on the board, so I don't think anybody would deny she is experienced, she has the qualifications and she's fit for the job." (Unlike Couillard`s mom whose qualifications are sketchy)
Hugh Gaffney of Surrey, who was named last month to the board of referees under the Employment Insurance Act, said his appointment isn't related to his wife's work as a Conservative riding association executive member and supporter -- in frequent letters to the editor -- of Tory MP Russ Hiebert (South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale).
"I certainly hope not," he said.
AMONG THE APRIL APPOINTEES:
- Marilin Loveless of Victoria, a member of the Canadian Alliance national council overseeing the 2004 merger with the old Progressive Conservative party, was named a member of the National Seniors Council. Remuneration: Not available.
- Harvey Merrill Grigg of Coquitlam, who came in third for the Tories in the 2004 election in Vancouver East, was named a member of the Canada Pension Plan Review Tribunal. Remuneration: $350 a day plus expenses.
- Jessica Anne Bergen of Prince George, a former party member who wrote a long letter in a local newspaper in 2003 attacking new Liberal leader Paul Martin and defending the Canadian Alliance, was appointed as a member of the board of referees under the Employment Insurance Act. Hallsor and Gaffney were also appointed to the same body. Remuneration: $400 a day plus expenses.
- Sharon Hayes, Reform MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam from 1993 to 1997 and later a director of the social conservative group Focus on the Family Canada, also got a spot on the EI board. (Maurice Vellacott high ranking member of focus on family)
- Eric Sykes of Richmond, a former campaign organizer for veteran MP John Cummins, was named to the Canada Pension Plan Review Tribunal.
- Stuart Douglas Boland (Bud) Smith, the former Social Credit minister who had close ties to the federal party, was appointed director of the Prince Rupert Port Authority. Remuneration: Not available.
Other notable appointments before April:
- C. Tung Chan of Richmond, a prominent Chinese-Canadian community leader and the former vice-president of the Richmond Progressive Conservative riding association, was named last November to the board of the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada.
- Heather Jane Chutter of Vancouver, a former member of the Vancouver Quadra riding association board, was appointed in November to the EI referees board. She is the ex-wife of Geoff Chutter, a Tory activist who ran unsuccessfully in Quadra in 1993 and 1997 for the old Progressive Conservative party.
It was the appointment of Stuart Douglas Boland (Bud) Smith, that connected to Rob Merrifield, Jay Hill and John Baird. I haven`t travelled down the others yet, but will when I'm feeling stronger. Right now I've got a headache.
Though Christians United for Israel is now headed up by John Hagee in the United States and Charles McVety in Canada, they were not the original founders.
In the 1970's when Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, decided to foster a relationship with the Moral Majority (Religious Right) to act as a lobbying partner, there was a rise in Evangelical groups promoting Israel.
In 1975, riding the wave; Evangelical pastor David Allen Lewis, formed a group called Christians United for Israel, which was not really a religious organization but a registered lobbyist, just as it is today. He led regular tour groups to the "Holy Land", and continued to do so until his death in 2007.
Under Begin and later Netanyahu, the relationship continued and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), begun in 1963, also gained prominence. The New York Times calls AIPAC "the most important organization affecting America's relationship with Israel." It has also been described as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, DC, and its critics have state that it acts as an agent of the Israeli government with a "stranglehold" on the US Congress. (1) And the Religious Right can be credited with much of their success.
Israel's principal Washington, DC lobby, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, also became a powerful force, and some now say while its clout in the media flows directly from Jewish network executives, publishers, journalists, and advertisers, its hold on Congress is further strengthened by "60 million Evangelical Christians" who, as lobby advertisements put it, "believe the creation of Israel is the fulfillment of God's prophecy."But not all Israelis were happy about this relationship and things came to a head when Rev. Morris Cerullo of Worldwide Evangelism Inc. of San Diego, CA, mailed one million copies of a missionary tract entitled The Peace to Israelis in late 1996, and with a population of about 5 million Israelis, it amounted to about one copy per Jewish household.
There's a complication in that, which neither Israel's Jewish supporters nor the two remaining most prominent televangelist leaders of this supposed pro-Israel horde, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, mention. (The other three nationally prominent pro-Israel televangelists, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker Tammy Faye's ex-husband all suffered an apparent cooling of ardor for Israel while serving jail time for unrelated sins.) The way these Charismatic Christians look at it, the "in gathering of the Jews" in Jerusalem is a necessary prelude, like the battle of Armageddon, for which they pray, to the second coming of Christ. They believe that they and others "who accept Christ as their personal Saviour" will be "raptured" into heaven, and the Jews, and probably the Christians who haven't set their watches to Christian Coalition time, will be left on earth to face "tribulations." It's not clear to this writer what these "tribulations" associated with Armaggedon are. Presumably they also await all of the four-fifths of the human race who are Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Theosophists and such, and to whom the British Rev. John Nelson Darby probably never gave a thought when in the 19th century he twisted fragments of Biblical prophesy into this gloomy scenario.
So U.S. support for Israel is based on America's 5 million Jews, who think Israel is a nice place to visit but wouldn't want to live there, and an earthly host of born agains who follow Pat Robertson and recently were enjoined by him to convert those Jews. (When Jewish leaders taxed him with "anti-Semitism" for trying to mess with their children's minds, he indignantly responded that it was impossible to call him anti-Semitic because he is so pro-Israel. It's not logical but nevertheless a neat defense.) (2)
As a result a law was drafted banning proselytizing.
In March  ... the first draft of a law banning Christian missionary work in Israel ... makes it a criminal offense punishable with up to 15 years' imprisonment and subsequent deportation for foreigners "to teach or propagate Christian doctrine" in the Holy land.
Catholic or Protestant clergy, teachers or aid workers will be allowed into Israel only while traveling "in a wholly private capacity, as tourists or transients, with no public religious functions or observances included in their itinerary." Israelis have long resented Christian clergy, both the liberal kind who support Palestinian human rights, and the evangelical kind who encourage Jews to convert to their religion. (2)
This ruffled more than a few feathers on the Evangelical circuit:
Neither Pat Robertson nor Jerry Falwell, both of whom have been involved in Christian proselytizing by radio from Israel's "security zone" in southern Lebanon, and both of whom could be arrested, expelled, or even imprisoned on their next visits to Israel, could not be reached or would not comment after passage of the draft law. Others did, however.And even Pastor Lewis from Christians United For Israel felt betrayed:
"We see the noose of religious repression tightening all over the world," said DavidKammerdiener, executive vice president of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission
Board. "We certainly now even see it flowering in Israel." Citing American Jewish protests when the Southern Baptists adopted a resolution to support proclamation of the Gospel to the Jews," Kammerdiener said of the Jewish responses in both Israel and the U.S., "either one is an attack on liberty." (2)
Even those Evangelical Christian ministers generally assumed to be receiving Israeli financial support, channeled through front organizations, found the law impossible to defend. "This bill means great hardship for Zionist evangelicals like myself," the Rev. David Allen Lewis, president of Christians United for Israel, told Spotlight, a Washington, DC national weekly frequently critical of Israel. "It will revive the argument of Christian anti-Semites who say: 'How can you support the Jewish nation when they are against Christianity?'" (2)Not long after he abandoned CUFI and the lobbying group ceased it's operations. When Ariel Sharon became prime minister of Israel, the hard line commitment to holding on to the West Bank softened, as he took a more moderate stand. Fearing their road to Armageddon was being dug up, the Religious Right went on the attack:
In November of 2005, Charles McVety called John Hagee to notify him that there would be a Toronto “Night to Honour Israel” the following May. Hagee is said to have replied that “there’s no reason why we can’t do the same thing in every major city of North America.” After first seeking permission from Reverend Lewis to resurrect CUFI:
As former Likud politicians such as Sharon and Olmert have moderated their stance, what has been the response of their allies in the American religious right? The response of the Christian right has been to lobby harder against any Israeli government effort to negotiate land for peace and any American effort to lead in that regard. What’s more, Pat Robertson has suggested that Sharon is in a coma because of his evacuation of Gaza settlements. Pastor Hagee has said that Hurricane Katrina happened because the Bush administration supported Sharon’s Gaza plan. (He also said it was because New Orleans was planning a gay pride parade. Poor man gets confused some times)
And Christian Zionist lobbying efforts have played no small part in the Bush administration downgrading of the conflict on the America agenda, with the result that there has been no serious negotiations in almost 8 years. There is an even darker side, to this movement of the religious right that calls itself “Christian Zionism.” Many of these groups have supported some of Israel’s most extreme and most dangerous elements with large amounts of money and legitimacy. (3)
Subsequently, on February 7, 2006, 400 pastors and others joined together at Hagee’s Cornerstone Church to establish Christians United for Israel withThis brings us to the present. Netanyahu is back in power, CUFI has been reborn and John Hagee has said of Stephen Harper: "God has promised to bless the man, the church, the nation that blesses the Jewish people." (5)
Christian rightist leaders Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson prominently included and with Charles McVety named National Chairman for Canada. Others in the Canadian group are John Howarth (Executive Director), who is on the faculty of McVety’s college, Reverend John Tweedie of Brampton (National Chairman) and Reverend Dean Bye of Centralia, Ontario. (4)
But as Rabbi Broitman points out:
Zionism is the movement for Jews to take control over our own history and destiny. Christian Zionism, as the religious right has formulated it, is an attempt to move us toward an end-time where Jews are lacking any power other than being passive actors in someone else’s prophetic drama. I do not doubt that the majority of evangelicals have a sincere love and concern for Israel and for Jews, whom they deeply believe are God’s chosen. Many of their leaders, however, have taken this love in the wrong direction. We do not want to be loved, so to speak, to death. (3)Next: John Hagee and Christians United for Israel
1. "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy", By John Mearshimer and Walt, Stephen, Harvard University, March, 2006
2. Netanyahu Coalition and Evangelical Christians Are on Collision Course, By Nathan Jones. Washington Report on the Middle East, July 1997, pgs. 50-54
3. A critical analysis of the Jewish alliance with the Christian Right regarding Israel, By Rabbi Caryn Broitman, Yom Kippur 2008
4. Partners for Imperium: B’nai Brith Canada and the Christian Right, By Stephen Scheinberg, Outlook Magazine, July-August, 2008
5. Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons: The rising clout of Canada's religious right, By Marci McDonald, The Walrus, October 2006
"The will of the people is bound to come into conflict with the will of God" Ernest Manning
Ernest Manning's parents belonged to the United Church and were never particularly pious. (1) But as a young man, he began listening to William Aberhart's radio Bible program, and convinced his parents to allow him to register at the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute, becoming their first graduate.
Aberhart's brand of Christianity was of the most radical fundamentalism, bordering on the occult. Manning himself, ascribed to much of this, but when he took over the radio broadcasts, he had moderated somewhat, though was still clearly a fundamentalist. He told his audiences that every aspect of their lives could be found in the scriptures and as such they should allow themselves to be directed by the "word of God".
But he also found a new and powerful enemy that he alone could protect good Albertans from: Communism. And that enemy, whether real or imagined, has survived through the generations.
Manning continued Aberhart's tradition with his own weekly National Back to the Bible Hour broadcasts, but the flashy occultism and Bible prophecy were forsaken for stolid anti-communism and godly materialism.Time magazine felt that Alberta was the closest thing to a theocracy in the Western Hemisphere, and indeed it was. Manning was rarely seen but he sold his government's policies on his weekly Bible program, that included his wife and children. Citizens were to accept him on blind faith, just as they did Christianity.
"Godless Materialism Condemned: Convention Speakers Urge Return to God as Necessary to Survival," announced the lead story in the December 1950 Canadian Social Creditor. Essentially, Social Credit had transmutated from a messianic movement dedicated to changing the laws of economics to a moralistic government with a middle-management vision. (2)
Manning's government is the nearest approach to a theocracy in the Western Hemisphere. The slight (5 ft. 9 in., 135 Ibs.) premier, who practices his own brand of Baptist-fundamentalist evangelism, has been blending religion and politics throughout his public career. Says Manning: "Religion isn't to be kept on a shelf and only taken down on Sundays." A well-thumbed Bible is always open on his desk in Edmonton's Parliament Building. In every public speech, religion, not politics, is the dominant theme. "I abhor the word politician," Manning has repeatedly told Albertans. "I am not here by choice. I would much rather concentrate on my Bible work." (3)Alf Hooke also speaks of Manning in divine tones:
Like thousands of other people throughout the length and breadth of Western Canada, I looked upon him as a man sent by God to better the conditions of mankind in those dreary depression days. I still believe this to be true. In the same way, I'd come to recognize Premier Manning and believed him to be so saintly and so God-guided that anything he did or anything he recommended to be done had to be right. Time out of number, entirely unknown to him, I had come to his aid in no uncertain way when I heard unscrupulous people criticize him, especially if they stated or even implied that he was a religious bigot concerned only with his own aggrandizement.But not everyone viewed his as the Messiah, something that no one should have done.
My Wesleyan Methodist background always came to the fore, as it did with my immediate family whenever a critical word concerning Mr. Manning was mentioned in their presence. Until her dying day in 1964 my dear mother would listen faithfully to his Sunday broadcasts and thanked God that such a man as Ernest Manning had been chosen to spread Christ's message of brotherly love in our time. He and his family were always included in her nightly prayers.
... All the ministers of his first cabinet had remarked one time or another on this ability and in my zeal to serve him, I had, in my own mind, compared this trait with that of Jesus who, though only twelve years old, had astounded the wise men in the temple in Jerusalem by this same characteristic and the depth of his knowledge .... The old British adage that the king can do no wrong was certainly carried into the realm of Alberta politics to such a degree that the Premier can do no wrong was sincerely believed by thousands. (4)
All political leaders who survive long enough become the subject of jokes as well as editorial cartoons. Ernest Manning was no exception. According to Barr, two of the popular jokes of the time help reveal Manning's public image: "St. Peter searching through new arrivals for a psychiatrist, then asking him: 'Come in and help us out with the Supreme Being; he thinks he's Manning.' Another, Manning looking for a burial plot. He finds a nice one but protests its high cost. The owner says, 'But sir, it has a lovely view ...' Manning replies, 'You don't seem to understand. I'll only be needing it for three days.' " (5)Continued: The Mark of the Beast
1. Like Father, Like Son: Ernest Manning and Preston Manning, By Lloyd Mackey, ECW Press, 1997, ISBN: 1-55022-299-6
2. Slumming it at the Rodeo: The Cultural Roots of Canada's Right-Wing Revolution, Gordon Laird, 1998, Douglas & McIntyre, ISBN: 1-55054 627-9, Pg. 47-48
3. Texas of the North, Time Magazine, September 24, 1951
4. 30+5 I know, I was There, A first-hand account of the workings and history of the Social Credit Government in Alberta, Canada 1935-68, by Alfred J Hooke, Douglas Social Credit Secretariat
5. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, by Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 3
Seems back in the day she partnered with her brother Patrick in a mortgage scam, while her own father was dealing drugs.
The RCMP have admitted that they were well aware of her criminal past, so for Maxime Bernier to suggest that he wasn't, is ludicrous. Given his key cabinet post, he would have been made aware of her complete file.
It is important to refresh memories of this scandal because it runs very deep and speaks to a larger picture of Conservative corruption, and some of the people they do business with.
Her brothel is only an aside, and I don't care if the whole freakin' lot of them used her services, though Stockwell Day's patronage is interesting, because he has the financial and voter support of so many Christian organizations, and has always played 'holier than thou', though his actions have been anything but holy.
Following is a brief look at Julie's family portrait:
THE BERNIER AFFAIR: SECURITY
RCMP won't explain silence on Couillard
Privy Council Office wasn't told of Bernier's girlfriend's past ties to criminals, Mounties acknowledge as real-estate deals come to light
TU THANH HA
WITH A REPORT FROM CAMPBELL CLARK
JUNE 13, 2008
In the spring of 1998, Julie Couillard was under surveillance by RCMP drug investigators who, in a court affidavit obtained by The Globe and Mail, stated that she was "known to our police services."
Her past association with criminals was part of the initial outcry that led to Maxime Bernier losing his job as foreign affairs minister.
While senior RCMP officials have confirmed they had been aware of Ms. Couillard before the controversy became public, the national police did not raise the subject with the Privy Council Office, the central government department that reports to the prime minister.
Yesterday, an RCMP spokesman, Sergeant Sylvie Tremblay, would not specify the reasons the force did not alert the government, but noted that "many people come into contact with or come to the attention of the RCMP in the course of our day-to-day duties. The fact that the RCMP knows, or knows of, an individual is not a reasonable basis to draw any adverse inference about that individual."
But it is now Ms. Couillard's interest in real estate that has fuelled the latest flames in the affair, since her initial meeting with Mr. Bernier was at the instigation of developer Philippe Morin.
In the mid-1990s, Ms. Couillard was an aspiring actress and model who lived with a loan shark, Gilles Giguère, then was briefly married to a biker affiliated with the Hells Angels, Stéphane Sirois.
In a recent interview, Mr. Sirois said he ran a scheme with a co-operative banker in which he found someone to sign an offer for a home below its value; a second person would then buy the home at an inflated price with a bank loan, pay off the initial offer and pocket the difference.
According to land records in Quebec, on April 16, 1998, Ms. Couillard's brother, Patrick, obtained a $116,619 mortgage from Laurentian Bank against a property on de Tilly Street in Laval, north of Montreal. On April 21, Ms. Couillard bought the de Tilly home for $75,000. The same day, she resold it to her brother for $123,000.
The branch manager who approved Patrick Couillard's mortgage no longer works for Laurentian, but the bank declined to say why.
Later that spring, on May 12, the RCMP received a tip that someone named Stéphane was running a marijuana grow operation in Laval, on Mylene Street. The source said Stéphane lived on La Périère Street in Laval, according to a June 6 RCMP court affidavit.
The police began surveillance and saw that Ms. Couillard's father, Marcel, had his Pontiac Grand Am outside the Mylene Street address, a house with windows permanently shuttered by blinds and canvasses.
The affidavit said the RCMP found that Mr. Sirois and Ms. Couillard lived at the La Périère Street address, and that Mr. Sirois was a criminal biker while "Julie Couillard ... is the spouse of Stéphane Sirois. She is also known to our police services."
On June 1, the affidavit said, three RCMP officers followed Mr. Sirois and Ms. Couillard from their home to the Mylene Street house. The couple stayed inside for an hour before driving home.
Days later, Mr. Sirois and Ms. Couillard engaged in a real-estate deal. They bought a house on de Tilly Street for $104,900 while the owner of that house purchased their La Périère Street property for $103,000.
The next week, the police raided the Mylene Street house and seized 496 cannabis plants and a hydroponics installation. Marcel Couillard was arrested at the scene.
Neither Mr. Sirois nor Ms. Couillard were charged and she testified at the preliminary inquiry in her father's case that she never saw anything odd inside the house. Her father pleaded guilty to drug possession in 2000.
I don't belief for a second that Maxime Bernier was not privy to this information. Anyone involved with key government officials would have had thorough background checks.
This is just more of Harper's web of silence, that allows his caucus to do whatever they want. They're just not allowed to speak.
BTW. Maxime Bernier was also one of the Conservative MPs who tried to defraud taxpayers in the 'In and Out' scheme. Harper is stonewalling there too.
Monday, June 29, 2009
However, by the time she met Maxime Bernier, it would appear she had moved on to bigger fish.
The Conservative Party of Canada.
And who would make a better mark, than a key cabinet minister? A single guy, who fancied himself a ladies man, but by his own admission, had not had a girlfriend in two years. Some of Bernier' s colleagues were starting to suspect that he was gay, so escorting the buxom Ms. Couillard would certainly put those rumours to rest.
But was the entire thing a setup?
They were introduced by a real estate developer who was hoping to land a contract to construct a federal building in Quebec. Julie worked for that developer and at one time was romantically involved with an aide in the public work's office. So was Julie pimped out and Maxime seduced, for an office building? Sure looks like it.
When Max met Julie ...
Then-minister Bernier and one-time model Couillard were introduced at restaurant whose clientele included stars and gangsters
June 12, 2008
Quebec Bureau Chief
MONTREAL–The restaurant where then-industry minister Maxime Bernier first met an enchanting brunette named Julie Couillard is a chic Italian eatery and bar frequented by movie stars, beautiful people and, on occasion, gangsters.
Couillard was brought to a dinner gathering, held in Bernier's honour in April of last year, by a colleague from a property development firm with which she had recently become affiliated, sources say.
A La Presse investigation has revealed the man who accompanied Couillard to Ristorante Cavalli on the evening of April 26, 2007, was Philippe Morin, one of two owners of Groupe Kevlar, a large Montreal property developer.
The investigation has confirmed Morin brought Couillard along to a weekly dinner held by a handful of young Montreal businesspeople, and that Bernier's acquaintances among the group intended to introduce the minister, a bachelor, to the one-time actress and model. Morin could not be reached for comment last night.
Cavalli is a swank bar and restaurant in downtown Montreal, frequented by the city's wealthy and celebrated, including Formula One drivers and actors. But it has also made headlines for more than its food or atmosphere.
In August 2006, a well-known Hells Angels associate was outside the restaurant in his Porsche when a man began firing shots at the vehicle. No one was injured.
Alleged Mafia enforcer Lorenzo Giordano, an occasional patron of the establishment, was questioned at length by police at the scene. It was later reported the incident began as a scuffle inside the bar.
A few months later, Giordano skipped town as police prepared to arrest him in a sweep that netted 90 members and associates of purported Sicilian Mafia leader Vito Rizzuto. He was later arrested at an upscale health club.
Kevlar has denied Couillard was ever employed by the company and insists she never worked in the company's offices. It issued a statement last month saying the firm was simply sponsoring an independent agent.
But a real-estate industry database continues to list Couillard as an "affiliated agent" with the company, she completed her realtor's exams in 2007 and was registered with Kevlar on April 7 that year.
Also, Le Devoir reported this week that Couillard attended a fundraising cocktail party on April 17, 2007, in a Tory riding near Montreal and presented a Kevlar business card.
Sources told La Presse she used her connections to Bernier and other government officials to vaunt the merits of the firm's plan for a federal office building in Quebec City. The tender for the building has not yet closed, and the same sources insist neither Bernier nor any other officials intervened on her or Kevlar's behalf.
Public Works Minister Michael Fortier dismissed his senior Quebec aide on Tuesday after it was revealed he was dating Couillard – who has previously lived with or dated at least four people with strong links to organized crime – around the time she was first listed as a Kevlar agent. An independent auditor is to report on whether the bidding process for the federal building is tainted because of the relationship between the aide, Bernard Côté, and Couillard.
In Ottawa yesterday, the Liberals said there are security reasons to investigate whether the federal government is being targeted by organized crime.
"There is the possibility that organized crime is trying to infiltrate the government," Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion told reporters. "I'm not saying it's what happened. But certainly all the experts of security who have spoken (say) ... this is the pattern that you need to check."
Less than a month after earning her certification, she found herself at the same table as Bernier.
In an interview with the Quebecor-owned Canoe website, Couillard described meeting Bernier through a "business partner," in late April, 2007, a few weeks after she had been sounded out about running for the party.
Couillard said Bernier "sat down near me" during the dinner and that she accompanied him for a nightcap at his hotel bar. The two became romantically involved later that week.
Bernier yesterday broke his silence to speak with a radio station in his Quebec riding of Beauce.
Bernier said he has avoided television, newspapers and his Blackberry since he resigned on May 26 and spent a few days in a "closed retreat" to "recharge my batteries." "I'm well ... but I've lived through a very difficult period lately," he said. "This has been very difficult psychologically. ... I'm very happy to be back home and with the unanimous support of people in the Beauce."
In the 15-minute interview, Bernier refused to answer questions about Couillard.
Bernier resigned as foreign affairs minister last month amid revelations he had left confidential documents at Couillard's house.
However, Julie did quite well for herself, getting something out of every relationship, even if it was just notoriety (and a book deal). Whether this corruption ran deeper, remains to be seen, but Stephen Harper once again refused to deal with it.
Like the Cadman Affair, the 'In and Out' , Lisa Raitt, etc., he just swept it under the rug and hoped it would all go away. It won't.
Just because this happened a year ago, it still shows a pattern and this government just keeps getting worse, so hold onto your hats. Another storm will be along soon.
But back to Julie Couillard, and the cushy contracts she and her cohorts got from the Conservative Party of Canada.
Canada: Firms With Government Contracts Face Greater Scrutiny
By Matthew Harwood
May 30, 2008
Quebec's government will strengthen the background screening of firms receiving security contracts after finding that a prisoner-escort contractor had ties to organized crime.
According to Montreal's The Gazette, Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis said, "The new Private Security Act, which will come into force in a few months, requires that we check criminal records in police data bases not only for employees of the agency, but also the shareholders and managers."
The investigations, conducted by Quebec's Provincial Police, will even delve into the background of relatives of employees, managers, and shareholders of those firms receiving security contracts, says CTV.ca.
The shift to scrutinize a contractor's management and shareholders and their family comes after the admission that the government had contracted the firm D.R.P. Investigation and Security Agency to escort prisoners from jails to hospitals, even though the son of the owner had a criminal record and ties to the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang.
Toronto's The Globe and Mail reports:
Robert Pépin [the owner's son] pleaded guilty in 2004 to possession of stolen goods. A police investigation into organized crime tied Mr. Pépin to Montreal biker gangs. In 2007, he was summoned to appear before the province's financial regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers, in an investigation of illegal investment activities.
On top of his association with D.R.P., Pépin also owned Location Auto Inter-Finance Inc., which was fined for charging interest rates running up to 300 percent. Both D.R.P. and Auto Inter-Finance shared the same address, according to The Globe and Mail. Pépin allegedly owned D.R.P., but his father, Denis Pépin, a former police officer, says he owns the company and his son's job was to attract new clients.
Dupuis said Thursday that any company failing to pass the police security check will not receive government contracts.
Firms guarding convicts to come under scrutiny
May 30 2008
The Canadian Press
QUEBEC -- Private companies hired to guard Quebec convicts will now be subject to stricter security checks, Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis said Thursday.
The announcement came a day after the Parti Quebecois accused the government of giving a prisoner-escort contract to a company owned by a man with a criminal record.
Dupuis said the owner of the company is actually a retired Montreal police officer. However, his son pleaded guilty to receiving stolen goods.
The son, who committed suicide in 2006, had dated Julie Couillard, the former girlfriend of Maxime Bernier. Bernier resigned as foreign affairs minister this week after acknowledging he left confidential government documents at Couillard's home.
Couillard became noteworthy when it was reported she dated one man with connections to Quebec bikers and married another with links to the Hells Angels before getting involved with Bernier.
Under new guidelines announced Thursday, all shareholders, directors, employees and relatives of employees of security agencies who wish to get a contract with the Public Security Department will be checked by Quebec provincial police.
In 2006, the Public Security Department granted a contract to the DRP Investigation and Security Agency on the basis of a security check of its majority shareholder, Denis Pepin.
There were allegations that the actual owner of the company was his son Robert although Denis Pepin has said Robert only played a small role in the company.
That was part of the testimony given in the investigation, which poses the question: just how deep was this scandal?
The fact that Ms Couillard ran a brothel (the Ambassadors Club), makes one wonder who didn't want their patronage at the club made known. Apparently Stockwell Day was a regular, but who else?
I don't care, nor would most Canadians, but perhaps their wives might not be too thrilled.
Couillard 'familiar' to RCMP
MPs begin hearings into security slip that cost Bernier cabinet post
Jun 11, 2008
Ottawa Bureau Chief
OTTAWA–The Mounties have confirmed they knew about Julie Couillard before her bombshell relationship with Maxime Bernier hit the headlines.
Deputy Commissioner Raf Souccar revealed yesterday that Couillard, who has past ties to biker gangs, was no stranger to the force.
"I am familiar with this matter. I am familiar with Ms Couillard. However, it would be inappropriate for me to be talking about a specific case," he told the Commons public safety committee.
Asked whether Couillard was known to the RCMP before she hit the spotlight last August as Bernier's girlfriend, Souccar replied, "Yes, she was."
Bernier lost his cabinet post just over two weeks ago after Couillard revealed to a French-language television news show that he had left sensitive government papers at her house for more than five weeks.
The committee yesterday launched hearings into Bernier's security slip. But opposition MPs seemed frustrated when Souccar and assistant commissioner Bob Paulson refused to say whether the force had warned the government about any potential problems or whether there's an ongoing probe.
Still, they left hints Couillard's past and her relationship to Bernier, whose "top-secret, special-access" security clearance made him privy to the government's most sensitive secrets, was a troubling combination that had raised flags.
"Organized crime, terrorism has been a priority for the RCMP for a number of years," Souccar said. ``We would look at every case with that in mind, and we would use whatever resources are available to us in order to be able to determine whether or not there is a threat either to government or to individuals."
He contradicted the government's stance that the private life of a politician is nobody's business, suggesting it might not be off limits if there are security concerns.
"If you noticed in the personal life of a minister a relationship develops that could amount to a security breach ... are you going to inform (Privy Council Office)?" Bloc Québécois MP Serge Menard asked.
"Yes, if we think that there could be a cause for concern, we would inform PCO," Souccar said.
He declined to say whether the RCMP informed the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister's Office, about any concerns it had in this case.
Their pillow talk obviously included the Afghan drug trade, but did she perhaps see an opportunity to get a piece of the action? If not her then her buddies? And what exactly was in those documents he left behind?
However, given her nefarious past, there is no way on earth that the RCMP were not aware of her connections to Montreal's underworld. No chance in hell.
'If I didn't marry you, you'd be dead'
'I had the balls to defend her - look where I am now,' former biker Stéphane Sirois says of his ex-wife Julie Couillard. From the witness protection program, he says the Hells Angels suspected she had ties to police. This led him to eventually become a police informant.
Globe and Mail
May 30, 2009
The Hells Angels biker associate who was married to Julie Couillard for nearly two years has emerged from a decade in hiding in the witness protection program to give a rare insider's portrait of the woman to whom he was married - and the dangerous criminal biker world of betrayal and suspicion she frequented.
In an exclusive interview, Stéphane Sirois gave his take on Ms. Couillard's life, and the details will only add to the questions now before Parliament about how she was able to become a partner of the now-disgraced former foreign affairs minister, Maxime Bernier.
Further, The Globe and Mail has learned that Ms. Couillard was known to the RCMP a full decade before she appeared in public with Mr. Bernier because they ordered a surveillance operation on her home in 1998 as part of a drug investigation, court papers show. This is the first evidence showing that Ms. Couillard was known to the RCMP, the force responsible for protecting cabinet ministers.
Opposition parties have been informed that officials from the RCMP will be the first witnesses to appear Tuesday when the public safety committee of the House launches its inquiry into Mr. Bernier's misplaced classified documents at Ms. Couillard's home.
Court documents also show that by 2004, Ms. Couillard wanted to be involved in politics. In a February, 2004, application to have her driver's licence reinstated, she said she was the president of a numbered company where she got to do promotional work "and see to the organization of special events such as volunteering for federal elections."
Last night, Radio-Canada reported that Ms. Couillard was seen in 2006 dining with Normand Descôteaux, a loan shark who was an associate of the criminal figures she knew in the 1990s. Jean-Claude Hébert, a prominent defence lawyer representing Ms. Couillard, declined comment to The Globe and Mail yesterday, saying he would wait to read what Mr. Sirois had to say.
Mr. Sirois, a police informant who lives in an unknown location under the auspices of the witness protection program, gave pointed, if tardy, advice to Mr. Bernier during a four-hour interview with The Globe and Mail at a prearranged neutral venue.
"Stay away from her."
Ms. Couillard has been at the centre of the sex and security scandal that has swirled around Ottawa - a scandal that forced Mr. Bernier to resign last month and will be the focus of parliamentary hearings next week.
"I came here to set the record straight," Mr. Sirois said. "I ain't no saint - but neither was she . . . She's attracted to people with money and power."
It is the first time Mr. Sirois has spoken since he testified in 2003 that Hell Angels leader Maurice (Mom) Boucher had considered having Ms. Couillard murdered because he suspected she had close ties to police.
Mr. Sirois is also the first of those close to Ms. Couillard to speak out - and few people were as intimate with her as he was. Of the five men she has been recently revealed to be associated with - a convicted Mafia gangster, a loan shark, a biker, a security consultant who trafficked in stolen goods and finally a former Tory cabinet minister - Mr. Sirois is the only one she married.
Now working as a self-described "successful businessman," Mr. Sirois - praised by police as one of their best undercover agents and trial witnesses - spoke in fluent English, occasionally slipping into Québécois joual to describe his crime years. Throughout the four-hour interview, he wore dark sunglasses and a baseball cap to hide his face and agreed to be photographed only in silhouette. The bikers have killed several informants in the past.
Details of his life with Ms. Couillard are difficult to verify, because she has so far given only two carefully scripted interviews to the Quebec media and has declined all further inquiries. But much of what Mr. Sirois says can be corroborated by court testimony, police wiretaps and his police handlers.
DIFFERENT KIND OF WOMAN
However, this is Mr. Sirois's version of events. To this day, Mr. Sirois says he remembers the first time he set eyes on a young Julie Couillard when she strolled into a bar in Montreal's north end on a Tuesday night, in the middle of 1997.
At the time, Mr. Sirois was a full-patch member of Rockers, a puppet club of the Hells Angels (HA) with a brutal reputation as enforcers and killers for the outlaw motorcycle gang.
"We're all partying. That club was known to be a biker hangout," he said. "Why did she go there if she didn't want to meet bikers?"
Mr. Sirois said they had drinks and danced. A couple of days later, they went to the Montreal casino together.
That weekend, Mr. Sirois - one of the few English-speaking bikers in Quebec - left for Vancouver to attend the anniversary of an HA-affiliated club. "Julie knew I was going out for club business and she picked me up at the airport when I came back," Mr. Sirois said.
"She and I are getting close. I'm liking the girl - what's not to like? She's a different kind of woman," he said. "I was used to strippers, barmaids. She was more refined and elegant. She showed a different class."
But, according to Mr. Sirois, when Ms. Couillard told him she had previously dated Gilles Giguère - a loan shark tied up in murder plots who also had close ties to the Hells Angels - Mr. Sirois decided he had to check her out with Maurice "Mom" Boucher, the HA chieftain.
"I knew Giguère was really close to Mom," Mr. Sirois said.
Mr. Giguère was shot to death in a gangland slaying in April, 1996, just before he was to co-operate in his drug and weapons trial. He was with Ms. Couillard at their east-end home when he got a call to meet someone; he left and never returned - his bullet-ridden body later found in a roadside ditch. It was widely suspected bikers killed him, worried that he was a police informant.
And, according to Mr. Sirois, apparently they had the same concerns about Ms. Couillard. Far from being incidental to the biker world as Ms. Couillard has said, for at least a few years at the height of the bloody biker wars she appeared to be central to their concerns. Mr. Sirois said he had no less than four separate conversations with Mr. Boucher about Ms. Couillard's fate.
When Mr. Sirois first approached Mr. Boucher about his new girlfriend, he said the biker leader's face "just dropped." Mr. Boucher began firing questions - how did you meet, what did you talk about, what did she ask? "It was like an inquisition," Mr. Sirois recalled.
"What do you want me to do - dump her?" Mr. Sirois said he asked his biker boss.
"No, for the time being, keep her close," he said the Hells Angels leader ordered. "I'll get back to you on this."
It took only a few days for Mr. Boucher to get back to his underling. Mr. Sirois was summoned to Mr. Boucher's headquarters - a heavily fortified building on Bennett Avenue in Montreal's east end, down the street from the Gold's Gym favoured by the bikers. Mr. Sirois said Mr. Boucher laid it out clearly: He and his close associate, the loan shark Robert (Bob) Savard, were "really nervous" about Ms. Couillard.
"They suspected that she had a part in Gilles turning. That she was a police informant and that she might do it again," Mr. Sirois said. "His alarm bells are going off. Now she's back in his circle."
The Hells Angels chieftain made a shooting gesture with his thumb raised and two fingers pointed in the shape of gun - a sign gangsters use for a targeted hit.
"I knew exactly what he meant - he had him killed, end of story," Mr. Sirois said. "He tells me when Gilles died, she almost bought it."
"Elle était pour y passer - she was supposed to be next," he recalled Mr. Boucher saying.
"He was really nervous, which made me freaking scared," Mr. Sirois said. "I didn't want to know about this but it was too late - he told me and now I am part of this secret."
A day or two later, Mr. Boucher summoned Mr. Sirois for their third meeting - this time at his comfortable suburban home in Contrecoeur. "He officially tells me to dump her," Mr. Sirois said. "Flush la," is the blunt way the Hells Angels boss put it.
Mr. Sirois left the meeting badly shaken. "I have to tread carefully. I have to leave the impression with Mom that it's all 'yes sir.' I have to make him feel good - but I have to keep her on a short leash. If she opens her mouth, I'm dead."
Caught between the woman he loved and the bikers he feared, Mr. Sirois says he hatched a plan that he thought would keep both Ms. Couillard and Mr. Boucher happy. He would marry Ms. Couillard and quit the bikers - something she had been pressing him to do - and in that way also remove the woman who was making everyone nervous.
"If I drop my patches, she thinks I did it for her. Mom thinks I did it for him. It made me look good on two fronts," he said.
Mr. Sirois announced his decision to the Hells Angels boss in the summer of 1997, about six weeks after he had first encountered Ms. Couillard. Mr. Sirois and Mr. Boucher met in an abandoned field off Notre Dame Street in Montreal, not far from a seedy strip bar restaurant featuring scantily clad waitresses that Mr. Boucher frequented.
The two men stood alone, a couple of Hells Angels "prospects" keeping watch from a distance. Mom had heard of the pending marriage and a frightened Mr. Sirois confirmed his plans.
"Ç a fait un crisse de frette entre toi puis moi," Mr. Boucher said in angry words Mr. Sirois says he will never forget, roughly translated as: "This puts a helluva cold front between us."
"Don't worry, she won't talk about anything, " Mr. Sirois says he tried to assure the gang leader.
But Mr. Sirois says Mom was not convinced: "What if she brings out things in the past and makes waves? What if she stirs up shit about Gilles?" he said, referring to the killing of her previous boyfriend, Mr. Giguère. "It's not going to happen," Mr. Sirois said he answered.
"What if it does?" Mr. Boucher kept pushing, according to Mr. Sirois. "I'll do what I have to do," he promised. "It meant if we had to take her down, I would do it myself," Mr. Sirois explained. "It was never my intention, but Mom Boucher had to think it was."
The gambit seemed to work. "Okay - this is between me and you, you never tell anyone," Mr. Boucher insisted.
Mr. Sirois found himself in a tight spot. The most powerful underworld crime figure in Quebec at the time had sworn him to secrecy about the fact that the Angels had killed Mr. Giguère and were considering killing Ms. Couillard as well.
"He told me everything was going to be okay if I held my part of the bargain, but I don't know if he was going to keep his word."
Mr. Sirois dutifully turned in his biker patches - his vest with the Rocker club emblems - and handed over his drug business to others. He hoped to make a clean break. "I believed my own hype," Mr. Sirois said. "I believed I could make it without my patches and sleep at night unafraid and be with a beautiful woman who loves me." But it did not take long for his plans to unravel.
BIKERS SHUN WEDDING
Mr. Sirois says he invited many of his biker friends to his wedding to Ms. Couillard, but Mr. Boucher told them to stay away.
Instead, on the way to his wedding, Mr. Sirois got a call from his former Rocker buddies informing him that he owed them $5,000 in unpaid drug debts. Mr. Sirois disputed that.
"I was pissed," he said. "These guys are calling me on my wedding day I was ready to take a bullet for them."
Mr. Sirois says he took his "boîte à lunch" - an expression the bikers used with disdain to explain going back to the straight lunch-bucket life - "but nothing worked."
"Clean businessmen that I knew wanted nothing to do with me because of my biker days and my biker friends shunned me," he said. He could not collect from people who owed him money with his usual enforcement tactics because he had promised Mr. Boucher he would not make waves.
"Things went downhill from there," he said, as he spiralled into a depression fuelled by liquor and drugs. He attempted suicide and was later hospitalized; Ms. Couillard would eventually file for divorce.
It was about this time that Mr. Sirois confided in his wife about the Hells Angels suspicions of her ties to the police. "I spilled the beans. Now I tell her everything - my meeting with Mom, his threats against her."
"If I didn't marry you, you'd be dead," he told her.
But, according to Mr. Sirois, Ms. Couillard apparently did not believe him. He says she told him she went to meet personally with Bob Savard, a bold tactic that, if Mr. Sirois's memory is correct, speaks volumes to her street-smart grit. Mr. Savard, after all, had a fearsome reputation as a loan shark tightly associated with Mr. Boucher.
(Mr. Savard was later gunned down in a restaurant. His breakfast companion survived the assault - he was fellow loan shark Mr. Descôteaux, the same man Ms. Couillard is now reported to have met as recently as 2006.)
Ms. Couillard told her husband she had been assured there was nothing to worry about - "Savard and Mom think highly me," she said, according to Mr. Sirois - but he said these alleged indiscretions threw him into a panic. He says he feared Mr. Savard would quickly report to Mr. Boucher that Mr. Sirois had betrayed his confidence and had told his wife.
"In my eyes, I'm fucked," Mr. Sirois said. "This is going to get back to Mom. I've got days to live. I did this to save her life - and now she's going to end mine."
Mr. Sirois says he returned to the house he had once shared with Ms. Couillard to retrieve a .38-calibre gun he had buried in the backyard. Through the patio window, he says he saw his wife with a man he recognized as a low-level drug dealer associated with the Hells Angels. He looked at his gun, he says, "and for the first time I thought of doing the unthinkable."
Instead, Mr. Sirois did something almost as unthinkable - he decided to switch sides and work for the police. He had rebuffed the police once already when they first approached him shortly after he left the Rockers, but now he figured working as an informant was his best - and only - chance of staying alive.
It was not hard to ingratiate himself with his old crime associates, given his solid track record with them of violence and drug-dealing in the past. He rejoined the Rockers, gathering some of the most damning evidence against the Hells Angels' Nomad chapter they served, run by Mr. Boucher.
But while he worked diligently for the police against his former biker partners, Mr. Sirois is adamant that his former wife never did.
"I want it on the record that I am sure that she has never been an informant - but I am sure everyone else thought she was," Mr. Sirois said. "It doesn't matter whether or not she was an informant. The point is Mom and his gang thought she was - and that was the danger."
Mr. Sirois took belated comfort from revelations in last week's Globe that, according to sources, Mr. Boucher to this day still harbours fears that Ms. Couillard may have had dealings with the police.
"It proves the fact that everything I told her was the truth: Had it not been for me, she'd be dead. I want people that called me 'rat' to know that's why I made the choice I did - to save her and me."
He can only speculate why Mr. Boucher never followed through on his threat to kill Ms. Couillard. "I guess it wasn't worth it any more," he said, noting that the heat over Mr. Giguère's assassination eventually died down and she had largely kept quiet during her subsequent marriage to Mr. Sirois. "Maurice Boucher had bigger fish to fry than to worry about Julie.
"She faded away."
SYMPATHY FOR BERNIER
When Ms. Couillard came roaring back into the limelight last month, Mr. Sirois said he could only chuckle.
Mr. Sirois says Ms. Couillard once confided in him about the best way to win a fight with someone. "Act confidently and bark louder," she told him. "Because the one who barks louder looks like the person who is telling the truth.
"She has that touch - she's articulate and polite. She's an actress," he said. She also has a rumoured book deal in the works, something that Mr. Sirois would also like.
He rattled off the list of men associated with Ms. Couillard: Mr. Giguère killed in a gangland slaying; Mr. Sirois himself forced into witness protection; small-time criminal Robert Pepin, with whom Ms. Couillard was associated in 2004, committed suicide; and now Mr. Bernier, forced from federal cabinet in disgrace.
"And those are just the ones we know of," Mr. Sirois said.
For her part, Ms. Couillard has said little on the record about her married life with Mr. Sirois. "What Stéphane Sirois said about me [previously], as far as I'm concerned, has no credibility," she told The Globe in a brief phone interview last month.
"Everything I said has been corroborated by the police," Mr. Sirois said, referring to his trial testimony. "The judge believed me, the police believe me. My story is still the same as it was - you tell the truth, the story doesn't change."
It's unusual for a former criminal biker to hand out words of solace and comfort to a former federal cabinet minister. But then it's unusual that two men from such divergent backgrounds would share a stormy relationship with the same woman, Ms. Couillard.
From his secure hiding spot under witness protection, Mr. Sirois said he watched Mr. Bernier's fall from grace with sadness - and a smile.
"She's a powerful woman. She gets into your head. She's attracted to people with money and power. She complains Bernier didn't stand up for her. Look what happened to me when I had the balls to defend her - look where I am now. "I felt sympathy for him," the former biker said of the former minister. "But I was glad too. I'm not the only dumb one, it seems."
FROM LIFE OF CRIME TO POLICE INFORMANT
"I've got the money, the power, the girls - it was a hell of life. It was a rock-star life." Stéphane Sirois relished his days as a drug dealer and enforcer for the Rockers motorcycle gang - but his tumble from the top was as quick as his rise inside Montreal's criminal biker underworld.
"It's a spinning wheel - the more you get into it, it starts spinning faster and faster and then you can't get out because then you know too many secrets about too many people," he said.
As the thugs for Mom Boucher's Hells Angels, the Rockers were known to have a "baseball team" (for beating people up) and a "football team" (for killing people). Mr. Sirois openly confesses to participating in a beating of two people at the Rockers' clubhouse that was so vicious one of the victims convulsed and had to be brought back to life with a water hose.
"It's like a pack of wolves. One wolf attacks and you have to follow," he said. "It's been many years and I still have nightmares about a lot of those things."
But he makes no apologies for his life of crime: "There's nobody else to blame but me - I made a choice. I contributed to every murder that was done by the HA [Hells Angels] and the Rockers. I might not have shot the person but in a little way I helped. We all knew what was going on."
Once he was forced by betrayals and suspicions in June, 1999, to start working as an informant for the police, he applied the same drive to helping the cops.
"He had guts," one of his police handlers told The Globe and Mail. "He wanted to push things and he was a good witness." For several months he wore a body pack, recording drug deals and biker plots. He was reportedly paid more than $400,000 to testify in Quebec's famous biker megatrials, which sent dozens of criminals to jail.
In the witness box, Mr. Sirois impressed journalists covering the trial with what media accounts called the "surgical precision" of his testimony, often relying on detailed notes he had taken during his undercover work. "More a cop than the cops," one of them wrote.
Unlike other informants who squirmed under the gaze of the biker defendants they had betrayed, Mr. Sirois stared them down. "I wasn't going to shy away from what I was doing and act ashamed," he said. "I made a choice and stood by it."
One accused biker ran his finger along his neck to indicate Mr. Sirois's days were numbered. Mr. Sirois admits he still looks over his shoulder and takes extreme security precautions. "I might end up in a ditch some day, but I did what I had to do," he said. "If my actions saved one life, call it redemption or whatever you want."
Of two of his closest friends, André Chouinard got 22 years and Jean-Guy Bourgoin got 15 years. His former biker buddies might condemn him as a cowardly rat, but that doesn't bother Mr. Sirois: "At least I'm a live rat," he said with a laugh.
There's no bigger gift to the shady underworld types then a moron in a key government post that includes classified information on one the biggest drug exporters, if not the biggest, in the world.
With no blood left in his brain, that empty head didn't have a clue that maybe he was being used. She's now playing the innocent, but when you look at all the ties that bind; it paints a far different picture.
Let's start with her connection to the Montreal mafia.
Couillard linked to Mafioso
Tories Stay Silent
June 04, 2008
OTTAWA - Conservative MPs will not testify at a House of Commons committee probing the resignation of Maxime Bernier, who stepped down as foreign affairs minister last week after admitting he left classified government documents at a former girlfriend's house.
"Neither Maxime Bernier nor any government MPs will engage in this political circus," said a senior government source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The decision could rob the committee of the chance to question many of the major figures in the affair. The standing committee on public safety and national security, the majority of whose members are opposition MPs, had hoped to grill several government members, including Mr. Bernier, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.
No MP can be legally compelled to testify in front of a Commons committee. Hearings are to begin June 10. The committee may still hear from Julie Couillard, Mr. Bernier's former girlfriend, who has not been seen in Ottawa since his resignation but earlier indicated she would be willing to testify.
Details of Ms. Couillard's controversial past continued to emerge yesterday, when La Presse reported she was romantically linked in the early 1990s to Tony Volpato, a close friend of Mafia leader Frank Cotroni.
Ms. Couillard was in her early 20's. Volpato was nearly twice her age.
At the time, Volpato was under investigation for cigarette smuggling involving the Kahnawake Indian reserve, La Presse reported. He was found guilty in 1997 and fined $8,000 in connection with the affair.
That same year, he was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a conspiracy to import 180 kilograms of cocaine.
Ms. Couillard had previously been linked to a number of motorcycle gang members. Her first love, Gilles Giguere, was killed in a gangland execution three months before the couple was to marry. Mr. Giguere was the right-hand man of loan-shark Robert Savard, a close friend of Quebec Hells Angels boss Maurice Boucher.
She later married and divorced Stephane Sirois, a member of the Rockers, a Hells Angels puppet gang. He would became a Crown witness against his former associates. A third partner of Ms. Couillard's, Robert Pepin, hanged himself last May after becoming heavily indebted to loan sharks linked to the underworld.
Opposition MPs maintain the government should have known of Ms. Couillard's past, and should investigate the possibility of a security breach during her relationship with Mr. Bernier.
Serge Menard, Bloc Quebecois MP and former justice and public security minister in Quebec, said it is "implausible" that police or security services never alerted anyone in the government about Ms. Couillard's past relationships.
Mr. Menard said that kind of information is kept in databases kept by police forces and a simple check could have alerted authorities to a possible problem. He said he is contemplating calling for that information to be tabled at the committee hearing.
About the time of his reported liaisons with Ms. Couillard, Volpato was meeting with significant underworld figures, including Vito Rizzuto, the powerful boss of the Mafia in Montreal.
In a series of photographs secretly taken by police in July, 1991, Volpato is seen with both Rizzuto, who is now serving a 10-year sentence in the United States for killing three rival gangsters, and Juan Ramon Fernandez, a career criminal who was Rizzuto's close confidant and much-feared enforcer.
However, since it involved Stockwell Day and his apparent penchant for hookers, Ms Couillard's infamous brothel, her past relationships with key members of organized crime and police corruption; everyone was walking on eggshells.
It wasn't until the ex-biker chic went to the press herself, when then foreign affairs minister, Bernier left sensitive top secret documents at her home for five weeks (and never even realized they were missing), that the frenzy began.
But of course, the press focused on the sensationalism of a sex scandal, while all but ignoring the fact that he was not only careless about sensitive material relating to his important post, but also the revelations that his ex-girlfriend brought forward.
Ms. Couillard stated on national television that Maxime Bernier told her that “the war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with building democracy in that country but has to do with the global control of the opium trade. It’s a drug war.” "the War In Afghanistan was about the control of the global opium trade, not democracy". The fact that she had been involved with high ranking members of the Canadian drug trade, should have been deemed vital information, since it shows a link. Instead most so-called journalists were more concerned with her cleavage than any real news.
UN anti-narcotics chief calls for wide-spectrum action against Afghan opium production
June 28, 2006
Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer, is already a “narco-economy” and risks becoming a “narco-state,” with drug production its largest employer, the top United Nations drugs and crime fighter warned today.
UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa called for a wide range of international action to curb production, trafficking, demand and accompanying corruption, terming the reduction of heroin demand “the mother of all drug control challenges.”
“Afghanistan has already become a narco-economy in the sense that drugs are now Afghanistan’s largest employer, income generator, source of capital, export and foreign investment,” UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa told a ministerial conference in Moscow on drug trafficking routes from the country.
“It has become a narco-society in the sense that many Afghans are now hooked on the drug money and now it risks becoming a narco-state,” he added. “Pyramids of protection now connect the upper world of the Afghan establishment to the underworld of Afghan mafias.”
Couillard had been married to Stephane Sirois, a member of the Rockers, who were said to control the drug business in Montreal for the Hells Angels. Obviously, Bernier had some information about the drug trade in Afghanistan, that no doubt peaked someone's interest.
They were even more shocked when they learned that this former girlfriend had ties with the Hell's Angels.
Bernier came under even more intense scrutiny after the media discovered that his girlfriend had past romantic links with members of the Hells Angels.
Although the Prime Minister initially dismissed this as irrelevant, Bernier was ultimately forced to resign, when it was revealed that he had left sensitive briefing notes for a then-upcoming NATO meeting at Couillard's house after having broken off the relationship.
Foreign Affairs was apparently unaware that NATO briefing papers were missing for five weeks. Couillard returned the package to Foreign Affairs on the advice of a lawyer, and went to the media. The Liberals and the NDP are calling for a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation into possible security breaches, including Bernier's. Bernier consequently resigned from Cabinet on 26 May 2008, though he retains his seat in the House of Commons.
As with so many other things this government does, there is far more to this story then the mainstream media was willing to cover. Or maybe they just preferred the sensationalism of a cabinet minister dating a biker chick, and nothing else really mattered.
Either way they did not do their job.
Questions surround Bernier's former girlfriend
Woman who dated minister was once married to outlaw biker
May 08, 2008
Sean Gordon in Montreal
Allan Woods in Ottawa
Tongues first wagged over Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier's striking companion at last summer's cabinet swearing-in, and Parliament Hill is buzzing anew with revelations she was once married to an outlaw biker and lived with another gangster murdered during a bloody turf war in the 1990s.
The divorced Bernier, 45, first began dating former model and aspiring actress Julie Couillard, 38, during the summer of 2007, and the pair caused a minor furor with her revealing attire at last August's cabinet ceremony. According to newspaper reports, officials in the Prime Minister's Office admonished Bernier over her choice of outfit.
A spokesperson for Bernier said the minister is no longer involved with Couillard, and another government official warned against drawing conclusions over her past associations.
But that didn't stop the opposition parties from questioning the judgment of a cabinet minister they clearly see as politically vulnerable, given recent missteps on the Afghanistan file.
According to documents, trial transcripts and newspaper archives, Couillard was romantically involved with two men with strong ties to the Hells Angels biker gang, La Presse reports.
In 1995, Quebec's elite anti-biker squad stormed the house Couillard shared with her then-boyfriend Gilles Giguère, a well-known underworld figure, in a pre-dawn raid.
Couillard was questioned in connection with a murder and extortion plot allegedly involving Giguère, a Hells Angels lawyer, and a Montreal loan shark named Robert "Bob" Savard, key lieutenant to jailed Hells Angels kingpin Maurice "Mom" Boucher.
After a long interrogation, she was released, later filing a complaint to the provincial police commission. She talked of her ordeal in a 1996 interview with Allô Police, a now-defunct Montreal crime tabloid.
Couillard lived with Giguère for three years beginning in 1993, until he decided to become a police informer after being arrested with a cache of machine guns and 20 kilograms of marijuana.
But Giguère was gunned down in April of 1996, before his trial could begin. Police discovered his body in a ditch east of Montreal.
The next year, Couillard began dating Stéphane Sirois, another gangland figure who would later become her husband.
Sirois was a member of the Rockers, a Hells Angels puppet club that biker experts say was responsible for taking over drug territories in and around Montreal and eliminating the Hells Angels' competitors.
Sirois later admitted to being a member of a Rockers "baseball team" – who intimidated rivals with baseball bats and smashed up bars that refused to allow the gang to deal drugs – and testified against more than a dozen of his former associates in a 2002 mega-trial.
During that testimony, Sirois contended Boucher had presented an ultimatum: he had to choose Couillard or his gang. He chose the former, but after their 1999 divorce, Sirois became a police informant, and returned to the gang as a mole.
The circumstances of how Couillard met Bernier are unclear, but the two reportedly holidayed in the Caribbean in 2007. Couillard was seen on Bernier's arm as recently as February, at a gala in Ottawa.
When reached by La Presse, Couillard declined to answer questions and hung up the phone.
The newspaper and other Quebec media outlets have been investigating Couillard's past for several weeks, and it was the subject of television and radio reports yesterday.
There is no suggestion Bernier was aware of her ties to the criminal underworld, which seemingly ended with her divorce in 1999. Neil Hrab, a spokesperson for Bernier, dismissed inquiries about the allegations. "This is a private matter," he wrote in an email.
In Ottawa, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said he had no independent confirmation of the allegations, but what he had heard caused him concern. "Certainly, Mr. Bernier needs to explain because we want to know if there were any matter of national security involved," he told reporters.
Allegations of this sort are particularly grave considering Bernier's responsibilities, Dion said.
The suggestion that Bernier wasn't aware of her past is either ludicrous or overly cautious. He was the minister for foreign affairs and everyone connected with him would, or should have had extensive background checks. However, the rest of the story reveals why he was allowed to date her despite her past(?).
I'm breaking it down in several related articles.
More Postings on Maxime Bernier
1. Michael Fortier and Why a Fund Raiser Should Never Head up Public Works
2. Maxime Bernier Would Have Joined a Great Family
3. Was Maxime Bernier a Mere Puppet?
4. Bernier's Ex Scores Huge Government Contracts in SECURITY!!!
5. RCMP Knew That Couillard Posed a Security Threat to Bernier
6. Couillard`s Ex Warns Bernier 'Stay Away From Her' But Too Late
7. Bernier's Ex Also had Ties to the Montreal Mafia
8. Bernier Exposes Truth About Drugs and the Afghan Mission
9. Bernier Exposes Truth About Drugs and the Afghan Mission
10. Stockwell Day, Maxime Bernier, and the Call Girl