Man arrested after theft of documents from Quebec immigration minister's car

Simon Jolin-Barrette's car was broken into while parked in the lot at the Complexe G office building in Quebec City late Wednesday night. All the documents were recovered, says the Sûreté du Québec.

Simon Jolin-Barrette's government-issued car was broken into while parked in Quebec City office building lot

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette would not say whether leaving documents unattended in a government-issued car follows protocol. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Quebec provincial police have arrested a suspect after documents, an iPad and some personal items were stolen from Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette's government-issued car in Quebec City late Wednesday night.

The documents, which Jolin-Barrette said were "not important" and "work-related," had only been in his car for about 45 minutes, he said.

He would not say whether leaving documents unattended in a government-issued car follows protocol, reiterating that the SQ investigation is ongoing.

"Being the victim of a break-in is not pleasant," said Jolin-Barrette.

He said his iPad is password-protected so there was no danger of the documents being leaked. As soon as he was informed about the theft, he made sure all his codes were deactivated.

Local police were called to the parking lot at the Complexe G office tower around 11:45 p.m. Wednesday after a report of a car theft.

Jolin-Barrette's office is in the tower, and he was working late at the time.

Simon Jolin-Barrette parks his car in a designated spot. (Pierre-Alexandre Bolduc/Radio-Canada)

When it was determined the vehicle belonged to a member of the National Assembly, the investigation was transferred to the Sûreté du Québec.

Documents recovered

A man acting suspiciously was seen leaving the lot, according to a statement by the SQ. Officers soon realized the man was in possession of the stolen documents.

The man was arrested, and all the documents were recovered, police said.

Police say the person who was arrested has no ties to Jolin-Barrette — the suspect had tried to break into several cars, looking for money.

Jolin-Barrette wouldn't say if he knew whether the car doors were locked.

Premier François Legault said when he heard about the theft, he was most worried about Jolin-Barrette's personal effects, such as his house keys. He said he doesn't believe Jolin-Barrette showed a lack of judgment.

"It's a car from the Public Security Ministry, in a government parking lot," he said."Let's not exaggerate."

Premier François Legault downplayed the theft, saying he, too, leaves behind documents sometimes. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

Legault said he doesn't know if there are rules about transporting documents but said sometimes when he makes speeches, he leaves documents behind.

The theft has evoked memories of a similar document-related scandal, when in 2008, then-MP and federal cabinet minister Maxime Bernier left classified documents at his girlfriend's apartment.

In the aftermath, Bernier resigned his cabinet post.

A month of mistakes

Liberal education critic Marwah Rizqy said it was totally unacceptable that the documents had been left in the car.

"I don't get it. What is going on with Mr. Jolin-Barrette? It's mistake after mistake," she said.

Rizqy suggested Jolin-Barrette — who is also the minister responsible for the French language, secularism and parliamentary reform, as well as the government House leader — has too much on his plate.

Québec Solidaire House leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said what happened was worrisome. And while he agrees Jolin-Barrette has too much on his plate, he doesn't think that explains this incident.

"He has too much on his plate because he is repeating the same mistakes over and over on [sensitive] issues, such as immigration and diversity."

Pascal Bérubé, interim leader of the Parti Québécois, said he didn't want to lay blame on Jolin-Barrette, but he also pointed out one of the first things ministers learn is to be careful with documents because losing them can have serious consequences.

with files from Cathy Senay