PM says Bernier's personal life none of his business
OTTAWA - Dismissing the opposition as "busybodies," the Conservative government said Thursday the fact that Canada's foreign minister recently dated a woman once linked to Quebec biker gangs is a private matter that is "none of your business."
A bitter debate rife with moral indignation exploded in Parliament after the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois attempted to question Maxime Bernier over reports that his ex-girlfriend, 38-year-old Julie Couillard, was once married to a Quebec biker gang member.
Insults and catcalls flew across the floor of the House of Commons during a fight that centred on a politician's right to a private life versus concerns over national security.
At one point, the Conservatives openly questioned why the Speaker of the House of Commons, Liberal Peter Milliken, was allowing the questions on the subject in the first place.
Milliken threatened to extend a boisterous Question Period by 20 to 30 minutes if the Conservative benches did not cease booing his attempts to hear questions, ruling that the opposition parties were raising valid national security concerns.
A University of Ottawa security expert, appointed last year to the prime minister's national security advisory council, said that a significant other with past ties to biker gangs could be considered a "very considerable" risk by national-security officials within the government.
"Nobody takes the Hells Angels lightly," said Wesley Wark, a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
Prior to Question Period, Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to Bernier's defence by lashing out at Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe and Liberal Leader Stephane Dion for raising the matter a day earlier.