CANADA

Questions about a firing

DAN BURKE January 19 1987
CANADA

Questions about a firing

DAN BURKE January 19 1987

Questions about a firing

Until late last week, he was a special assistant to Roch LaSalle, federal minister without portfolio and the Progressive Conservatives’ longserving MP from Quebec. Frank Majeau’s salary in the position was between $35,000 and $40,000 a year. But in the past, Majeau, 45, moved in much different circles. He once owned a strip club in LaSalle’s riding of Joliette. And

as recently as 1983, the Ottawa-based political aide was a sometime roommate and business partner of Réal Simard, a convicted underworld assassin linked to Montreal’s Cotroni crime family. Majeau was convicted of assault the same year.

Just hours after Maclean's approached senior members of LaSalle’s staff with details about Majeau’s background last week, the minister ordered Majeau fired. But several questions remained, including how a person with

Majeau’s past associations was able to work on Parliament Hill for almost six months without security clearance. Said Liberal justice critic Robert Kaplan: “I would want to know what kind of scrutiny was involved in hiring him. In a position like that, security clearance should come promptly.”

LaSalle’s chief of staff, Serge St. Pierre, said the minister, vacationing at an undisclosed location in Florida, did not know about Majeau’s past until Maclean's contacted the minister’s office. St. Pierre said that LaSalle would not comment on the matter. And Majeau himself said that he never told LaSalle, whom he claimed to have known for 25 years, about his criminal record. Indeed, Majeau told Maclean’s that he has put his past behind him and has “turned a page in my life.”

From police in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, as well as court documents, Maclean’s has learned that Majeau had a great deal to put behind him. In 1983, while Majeau was operating a nude dancer booking agency called Prestige Entertainment in Toronto, his business partners in the venture, Simard and Richard Clement, killed one man and critically wounded another. The victims: two Montreal drug couriers who, according to court documents, once used Majeau’s apartment in Toronto as a drop-off point for cocaine.

Earlier the same year Majeau was fined $1,000 and sentenced to two years’ probation after being convicted in Joliette of assault with a weapon causing bodily harm. In the same case, a jury acquitted him on two counts of extortion. And while booking dancers at strip clubs in Ontario, Majeau was photographed by organized crime investigators as he met with reputed Hamilton Mafia kingpin John (Johnny Pops) Papalia.

RCMP officers in Ottawa said that they did not understand why the force was not asked to conduct a routine security check on Majeau, who handled a variety of assignments, including constituency problems, for LaSalle. Said one investigator: “There’s no way Majeau’s name would have gone through our system. Lights would have flashed and bells would have rung.” In fact, St. Pierre

said that Majeau was given a personal history form in November that the force would have used to assess whether he could be cleared to handle documents classified as “secret.” Majeau never returned the form, and no security check was conducted.

Kaplan, a former solicitor general, said that ministers often hire staff before security clearances are completed. “Normally, ministers are prepared to stick their necks out a little,” he said. “They have the person’s curriculum vitae and are prepared to take responsibility for them. Here, it looks like the minister hasn’t taken proper care.”

In addition to hiring Majeau last summer, LaSalle also gave a secretarial job to Majeau’s companion of eight years, Giselle Bardeau, who was also fired last week. In 1983 Bardeau and Majeau temporarily shared a Toronto apartment with Simard and, later, Clement, a fugitive wanted for first-degree murder. Simard, who last autumn confessed to four murders, was sentenced to life in prison in 1984 for the attempted murder of Montrealer Robert Hetu at the Seaway Motel in Toronto. In the same incident, Hetu’s friend Mario Heroux was shot to death by Simard, who has since admitted that his partner in the shooting was Clement. According to testimony by Hetu at Simard’s preliminary hearing, the two victims had transported cocaine from Montreal to Toronto, met Majeau several times and once slept at his apartment. Since going to prison, Simard has become a Crown witness and a police informant.

Majeau’s political involvement with LaSalle has been lengthy. In Joliette, members of the Majeau family are wellknown as campaign organizers for LaSalle. Since 1984 Majeau’s brother Roger has served as LaSalle’s paid constituency secretary. Said Joliette Liberal Gilles Rapel, who ran against LaSalle in 1984: “The Majeaus have been with LaSalle for as long as anyone can remember.”

For his part, Majeau told Maclean’s that the Toronto motel shooting was a turning point in his life. “I couldn’t believe what happened,” he said. “It was senseless.” Since then, Majeau said, he has avoided his past criminal associations. And he said that he “hardly knew” Simard. But he acknowledged that he visited Simard in a Toronto detention centre after the shooting.

For LaSalle, revelations about his former assistant’s criminal past come at a difficult time. He underwent open-heart surgery last winter and lost the public works portfolio in a cabinet shuffle last June. LaSalle’s decision to hire Majeau could further weaken his already diminished stature.

DAN BURKE