March 28, 2008
The Hon. Maxime Bernier, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
125 Sussex Drive
Dear Minister Bernier,
I am writing about the release to the
Canadian Press of information from your department concerning Ms. Brenda
Martin that I believe constitutes a flagrant violation of her privacy.
I believe that the release of this
information contravenes the federal Privacy Act. As such, I will also be
writing to the federal Privacy Commissioner requesting that an
investigation be conducted by her office.
Minister, I am utterly disgusted by the
release of this “report” to the media on consular visits and phone calls
your department made with Ms. Martin. Notwithstanding the gross violation
of Ms. Martin’s privacy, and while there are several ancillary notations
to the outcome of a particular phone call or visit, there is very little
information provided on the circumstances surrounding why a particular
visit or call may have been refused.
It may come as a surprise to you
Minister, or to officials in your department, that Ms. Martin has been
under incredible physical and mental strain. Moreover, put yourself in her
position for one moment. Perhaps there may have been times when you didn’t
think very much of your government’s efforts to obtain your freedom.
Perhaps, you may even think that a phone call hardly constitutes raising
your case with Mexican officials at the often-quoted “highest levels”.
The CP story references annotated
comments made by your officials that have nothing to do with recording the
calls and visits made to Ms. Martin. I refer to the notation on an
altercation that Ms. Martin is alleged to have had in the prison’s
kitchen. Another one mentions her attending a beauty pageant and that it
prevented her from taking a call the department had arranged with her
It may come as a shock to you Minister
that the inmates at the prison put a lot of work into that pageant. Life
inside the prison is no picnic and diversions are used from time to time
by the prison staff to quell potential outbreaks of unrest. The pageant in
question gave the prison population an injection of fun. The pageant
meant a lot to Brenda from what she told me when I was visiting with her.
Moreover, I found out today from Brenda that the pageant in question was
on a Friday. The scheduled day for her call with her mother is Thursday.
As such, you may want to review that note. More to the point, it really is
shameful that your officials noted that Ms. Martin ignored her mother’s
phone call for a pageant – even if they can’t get the days straight. For
the record, Ms. Martin cares very much for her mother. If fact, she is
further distraught that her mother has been diagnosed with cancer. She
finds it very hard to talk to her mom as she is afraid of upsetting
This release of this “report” on Brenda
Martin is in my view a poor attempt by officials in your department, or
perhaps even in your own office, to portray to Canadians, via the media,
that Ms. Martin has been afforded considerable service by her government
and that she is just some kind of irresponsible person deserving of her
I find it interesting that the “report”
did not contain anything about how long it took your consular officials to
physically visit Ms. Martin. One would think that as the Canadian
Consulate in Guadalajara is roughly thirty minutes from the prison – and,
unlike your colleague, Minister Guergis,
I have been to both and can assure you of the travel time – that your
consular officer could have made the journey sooner than several months
after she was imprisoned. But, as we now know, there was a phone call to
Ms. Martin shortly after her arrest. I guess that makes up for the tardy
physical visit to such a ‘remote’ prison.
The “report” provided to CP “offers a
glimpse at life in the Puente Grande women's jail, including Martin's
skirmishes with inmates”. Aside from again violating Ms. Martin’s
privacy, do you really think Minister that life inside Ms. Martin’s prison
is a bed of roses?
As well, do you think that perhaps it just
may be possible that another inmate may have decided to have a “skirmish”
with Ms. Martin?
As I indicated previously, unlike
Minister Guergis, I met Brenda Martin in
her prison. She weighs less than one hundred pounds.
She is often physically ill and has been
medicated on several occasions. As such, Minister, do you and your
officials really think she is prowling around the prison looking for
Minister, the CP story states that the
release of your department’s information about Ms. Martin “helps bolster
the Canadian government's claim of regular dialogue with Martin and
Mexican officials”. On the latter point, I fail to see how this “report”
in any way bolsters your government’s dismal efforts to date in raising
Ms. Martin’s plight with Mexican officials and bringing about her
release. As to the efficacy of the “regular dialogue” between your
department and Ms. Martin, you may wish to review the amount of help phone
calls and intermittent visits can give her.
I find it interesting that the CP story
states that the “report” was prepared in January and “does not include
more recent contacts with Martin since her plight garnered media
attention”. Are Canadians to assume that the growing list of bungling
Ministers involved in this case will make it in the next “report” your
officials see fit to leak? Minister, let’s face the facts. This “report”
was commissioned to be leaked. It was drafted for the government to
counter arguments that it has done nothing to get Ms. Martin released.
What it only proves is that, for a period of time, officials in your
department are capable of placing a phone call and finding a prison on the
southern outskirts of it’s consulate in Guadalajara.
Minister, the release of this “report” is
a travesty only surpassed by the travesty Ms. Martin faces ever day she
remains in prison. Rather than concentrating on leaking phone call logs to
counter inaction and bungling, perhaps your prime minister can prove he
himself is actually capable of making a phone call to President Calderon
of Mexico, not pretend he made one, and actually raise Ms. Martin’s plight
with the Mexican president.
In the meantime, I am asking you
Minister to initiate a full
investigation of the release of this personal information on Brenda Martin
to Canadian Press. I would also like to be advised what action you will
be taking with respect to those found responsible for this leak.
I await your response.
Hon. Dan McTeague, P.C., M.P.
Cc; Ms. Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy
Commissioner of Canada