An Ontario Superior Court judge is going to be asked to unseal court documents believed to contain allegations of leaks within the RCMP security unit that protects Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his family.
Documents were entered last week by lawyer John Phillips as part of a lawsuit brought by his client, Sgt. Peter Merrifield, who is suing the RCMP for harassment and bullying. Sgt. Merrifield alleges senior officers sidelined his career after he launched an unsuccessful bid to run for the federal Conservatives in Barrie in 2005.
Three media outlets — Postmedia, the CBC and Maclean’s — intend to make application to unseal the documents, which sources say include letters from private investigator Derrick Snowdy to the RCMP about information leaks within the PM’s detail.
Mr. Snowdy first came to public attention in 2010 when he had a role in making allegations about MP Helena Guergis and her husband. She was later cleared by the RCMP after being stripped of her cabinet seat and expelled from the Conservative caucus.
Lawyers for the federal Justice Department and Sgt. Merrifield declined to make any comment on the process surrounding the sealed documents, but sources say they were filed as part of a legal struggle over whether Mr. Snowdy can testify in support of Sgt. Merrifield.
Justice Mary Vallee last Thursday unexpectedly adjourned the legal proceedings in Newmarket until May.
Sources say the sealed affidavit is accompanied by four letters sent by Mr. Snowdy to assistant commissioner Stephen White, who serves directly under Commissioner Bob Paulson.
Those letters contain allegations about RCMP wrongdoing, alleging repeated information leaks that threaten the safety of confidential informants, and the leak of private information about the Harper family.
Mr. Snowdy declined to comment on the sealed affidavit on Monday.
“I am not a party or involved in the proceedings currently before the court in the matter,” he said. “I cannot offer any comment.”
He confirmed, though, that he had written to Mr. White to express concerns about the safety of confidential informants, and included information about evidence of a leak of information from the prime minister’s protective detail for security reasons.
‘The issues raised in the Sgt. Merrifield trial should be of great concern to all Canadians when it resumes in May 2015′
“The issues raised in the Sgt. Merrifield trial should be of great concern to all Canadians when it resumes in May 2015,” he said.
Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for the prime minister, said in an email, “While I haven’t seen the documents/allegations of leaks, I can tell you this: The prime minister has complete confidence in the RCMP and in the professionalism of the Protective Detail.”
Commissioner Paulson declined to comment on the affidavit. A spokesman said the RCMP would not comment on affidavits sealed by the court.
One information leak is alleged to have taken place in 2012, and is believed to be linked to a series of complaints and investigations that year, in what was a stressful period for the detail.
“I realized at that point we were leaking with a sieve,” said one RCMP officer, who spoke on condition that he not be named because he is not authorized to speak about the leak.
Sources say the circumstances under which RCMP officer Pierre Briere was transferred from the unit contributed to a tense workplace environment that resulted in a series of media leaks about the management style of RCMP Supt. Bruno Saccomani, the head of the unit.
‘I have reason to believe that great lengths were taken to investigate a leak of information from the prime minister’s protective detail’
RCMP officers on the unit provide 24/7 protection to members of the Harper family, both at the official residence in Ottawa, in their daily lives around the city, and on trips around Canada and abroad.
It is inevitable that members of the detail interact closely with the family, and they are sworn to protect the privacy of family members.
In 2012, members complained to RCMP management about Supt. Saccomani. He was criticized in a management-review report containing “disturbing” allegations of harassment and intimidation, which was leaked to Radio Canada in June of that year.
The report, dated Jan. 26, 2012, said that “the overwhelming majority of employees indicated that there are conflicts and perceived favoritism” in the unit. They complained of a “toxic” atmosphere, with inappropriately harsh reprimands. Members told the officers conducting the review that their fear of Supt. Saccomani “adds risk to the safety of the prime minister.”
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Supt. Saccomani fought back at the charges. Officials in the prime minister’s office publicly praised his work modernizing and professionalizing the unit, and his deputy, Insp. Alain Petit, filed a request for an investigation under the Canada Labour Code, which was obtained by Postmedia News.
Insp. Petit wrote that Supt. Saccomani’s improvements to the unit were being resisted by some members, and that they had “placed the safety of the PMPD employees, and the prime minister and his family at risk.”
Insp. Petit complained that the leak of the management review “knowingly endangered all the PMPD members and the people we are dedicated to serve.”
As officials investigated the leak of that report, sources say they also looked into the leak alleged in the sealed affidavit.
“I have reason to believe that great lengths were taken to investigate a leak of information from the prime minister’s protective detail,” said an RCMP officer who spoke on condition that he not be identified.
Mr. Harper appointed Supt. Saccomani as ambassador to Jordan in 2013, which the NDP criticized as a patronage appointment.
Postmedia News, with files from Doug Quan