Canada

House committee to probe Bernier affair

A House committee has launched a probe into the Maxime Bernier affair despite the prime minister's insistence that a departmental review will be enough.

A House of Commons committee has launched an inquiry into the Maxime Bernier affair despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper's insistence that an internal review would be enough.

Opposition MPs on the public safety committee, led by the Bloc Québécois, out-voted the Conservative minority on Monday to expedite an investigation into the political storm involving Bernier and ex-girlfriend Julie Couillard, who had ties to criminal biker gang members.

The move came after Harper dismissed calls for an independent inquiry or an RCMP investigation on Monday in the House.

The committee probe will begin next Tuesday.

Harper, Bernier and Couillard will be called to testify about classified documents left at Couillard's home while Bernier was foreign affairs minister.

The committee set aside four days for hearings and agreed to sit even if the Commons adjourns for the summer.

Earlier on Monday, Harper told the House during question period that Bernier asked last Monday in his letter of resignation for an internal review, which the government will do in an "independent and professional manner."

Those were Harper's first comments in Parliament since Bernier resigned after disclosing classified documents had been left at Couillar's home.

The misplaced files were a combination of publicly available information and classified material related to preparations for the NATO summit in Bucharest in April, where Canada was looking to secure more troop commitments from its allies for the war in Afghanistan, the Conservatives have said.

Couillard, who was once married to a member of Quebec's Rockers biker gang, had her lawyer return the documents to the federal government late last Sunday, and Harper has said he doesn't believe national security was compromised.

Opposition parties have been demanding an inquiry and RCMP investigation to determine whether a national security breach took place, and they continued their request Monday.

"Canadians have a right to know whether or not national security was compromised," Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said in the House.

Conservative House leader Peter Van Loan said no security risks were overlooked, and that Bernier admitted to his mistake by resigning.

With files from the Canadian Press