Harper shrugs off new concerns about minister's ex-flame
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not discuss security concerns about his foreign affairs minister's ex-girlfriend, despite a news report that raises fresh questions about her professional interest in public security.
Montreal newspaper Le Devoir reported Monday that Julie Couillard — who had links to the criminal biker underworld as late as 2005 — is the head of a high-tech firm that has been involved in airport security.
The newspaper reported that Couillard's business specializes in "systems of high security technology" that include security system installations and passenger security.
The information was provided to Le Devoir by a former employee at Couillard's firm.
Couillard, 38, allegedly receives documents regarding airport security, according to the report.
On Monday, Harper refused to answer whether authorities had run a security check on Couillard. "I have no intention to comment on a minister's former girlfriend," he said. "I don't take this subject seriously."
Harper's Conservative government has insisted Couillard's relationship with Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier is a private matter, and their intimate relationship — which recently ended — is no threat to national security.
Refused to provide details
The Tories refused again to provide details during Monday's question period about when the government learned of a possible connection between organized crime and Couillard's firm, and they ignored the Liberals' suggestion that the government sack Bernier.
According to the reports, Couillard developed an interest in airport security because of her former boyfriend, Robert Pépin.
The report said the pair bid on a federal contract in 2004, to install an airport security access card system. The two submitted their proposal through Pépin's business, the Agence d'investigations et de sécurité DRP.
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority didn't choose DRP's bid, but Couillard allegedly "saw many things relating to airport security," the newspaper report said.
The couple reportedly broke up some time later, and Couillard launched her own security company, Itek Solutions Globales.
Montreal newspaper La Presse reported Pépin owed large amounts of money to a lender linked to the Hells Angels and had been summoned to testify in front of the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), Quebec's securities regulator, when he hanged himself in 2007.
Couillard has already stirred controversy because of her past links to organized crime and biker gangs.
Once married a Rocker
Published reports have referred to court documents that say Couillard once married a member of the Rockers biker gang, and was a potential target of Hells Angels' kingpin Maurice (Mom) Boucher while she dated another biker.
Couillard has said she cut off ties with the underworld in 1999, and her romantic past involving bikers is part of a distant past.
She started dating Bernier before he was sworn in as foreign affairs minister in 2007. They recently split up.
Couillard says her name and reputation have been tarnished because of published reports documenting her past ties, but she is not ashamed of anything.
She has granted an interview with private television network TVA, which will air on the French-language news channel Monday night.
With files from the Canadian Press