Tanned after a Florida vacation, Roch LaSalle appeared relaxed last week as he returned to his constituency office in Joliette, Que. But the federal minister without portfolio acknowledged that he also felt preoccupied. The previous week LaSalle had fired his special assistant and longtime acquaintance, Frank Majeau. Just hours earlier Maclean's had questioned officials in LaSalle’s office about Majeau’s criminal record and underworld associations.
Said LaSalle: “This is a very, very unfortunate thing.”
In Ottawa, Solicitor General James Kelleher, whose office had received a letter from an informant on Oct. 31 containing details about an unnamed minister’s aide who had underworld ties, refused to answer questions about the length and scope of an RCMP investigation into the allegations. The opposition Liberals raised questions about why Majeau — who as recently as 1983 was a business partner of convicted underworld assassin Réal Simard —was hired and how he was able to work on Parliament Hill for almost six months without undergoing a security clearance. Declared Liberal House Leader Herb Gray: “The Canadian public has a right to know why Mr. Majeau was hired and how many other people are working for ministers who have not had security checks.”
Majeau, 45, who once owned a strip club in Joliette and an agency that booked nude dancers in Ontario, was well-known to RCMP and police in Montreal and Toronto. His business associates over the years included Simard, who last fall confessed to four murders, and Richard Clement, who is wanted for murder. Majeau himself was convicted of assault in 1983.
Still, questions remained about how the government and police handled information they had received
about Majeau. An informant who first revealed Majeau’s background to Maclean's in November said that the RCMP “did nothing” when he gave the same information to two officers last May. In an interview last week, one of the officers denied receiving the information. The informant later wrote to Kelleher and to Liberal Justice critic Robert Kaplan. But he said he did not receive any response to queries for information from Kelleher’s office until Kaplan made a separate, formal request to the minister in November. Kelleher’s office assured Kaplan that the RCMP had been “advised” of the letters. But RCMP agents did not contact the informant until Jan. 5 to ask the name of the man referred to in his letter. And Kelleher’s office said that the minister was not told that Majeau was on LaSalle’s staff until Jan. 8 —the same day that Maclean's made its inquiries about Majeau. “It was a matter of the investigation proceeding,” said Susan Barclay, a spokesman for Kelleher. “There were issues of associations with shady characters, and you cannot convict somebody solely on an association.”
For his part, LaSalle said that he first met Majeau more than 20 years ago, before he entered politics. At the time, LaSalle sold cigarettes to a restaurant that Majeau owned. LaSalle said he later decided to hire Majeau because he “has a lot of experience with the public.” LaSalle said that he had seen Majeau infrequently in recent years, and “I did not know what he had been doing for the past five years.” But the opposition parties made it clear that they were not prepared to accept that explanation without furthur questions.
— ANTHONY WILSON-SMITH in Montreal with DAN BURKE in Joliette and MICHAEL ROSE in Ottawa
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