The Bernier Affair: Challenging Canada’s Credibility?
By former Canada’s World blogger Lisa Wagner:
A good friend asked me recently, “Is Bernier the stupidest man in the world? Please answer this question!” Well, maybe. I don’t know if it’s really up to me to be making judgements on Maxime Bernier’s intelligence, but the current affair surrounding his resignation as Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister has sure drawn a lot of national attention. For those who haven’t heard, classified briefing documents from a recent NATO meeting in Europe were left at the home of Julie Couillard, Mr. Bernier’s former girlfriend, for five weeks in April and May of this year. This mistake and the fact that the documents were unaccounted for during such a lengthy time period have lead to an inquiry into the affair to determine whether or not the incident constitutes a breach of security because of the private nature of the documents.
Now, you may be wondering why I would have an interest in commenting on Mr. Bernier’s slip-up in a blog created to discuss Canada’s role internationally, not Canada’s internal workings. I have to say that while Bernier’s mistake was likely costly for himself, Stephen Harper, and the entire Conservative party, I also wonder what credit Canada has lost internationally. Aside from Ms. Couillard’s alleged ties to the mafia and Hell’s Angels, Bernier’s forgetfulness surrounding the documents arguably displays a lack of commitment to Canada’s role in NATO. In order for Canada to be taken seriously internationally, we should be able to keep secret documents safe and be aware of their whereabouts at all times. How can Canada expect to play a serious role in NATO when our Foreign Affairs Minister, a representative of Canadians abroad, cannot separate his work and personal lives, leaving classified government documents in the home of someone with no direct role within the government. Especially when Canada is playing a crucial role in the NATO involvement in Afghanistan, and finally earning respect of other nations, what do other NATO countries have to say about the forgotten documents?
While recent news coverage has led me to believe that Mr. Bernier’s mistake was a big one, but one which ultimately caused little harm in the way of a breach of international security, Canada’s credibility internationally may suffer the most harm in the aftermath of the affair.