For Immediate Release
March 28, 2008

McTEAGUE CALLS FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER AND CANADA'S PRIVACY COMMISSIONER TO
INVESTIGATE LEAK OF REPORT ON BRENDA MARTIN

Scarborough---Dan McTeague, Official Opposition Critic for Consular Affairs, wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier today calling for him to investigate the leak of a so-called "report" detailing phone calls and consular visits made by his department to Brenda Martin.  The "report" also provide several notes attached to the phone and visit log that tries to paint Ms. Martin in a less than favourable light.

"This type of information was leaked to Canadian Press for no other reason but to give Canadians the false image that the government has been providing a high degree of service to Ms. Martin.  It was leaked to counter intense criticism that it has completely bungled Ms. Martin's case from day one. This leak really is just a pathetic attempt to cover the inability of the Conservative government to advance Ms. Martin's case with the Mexican authorities and fight to obtain her release", said McTeague.

"I will also being requesting Canada's Privacy Commissioner launch her own investigation into this tawdry affair.  It was an inexcusable thing to do and the person or persons responsible for it must be held accountable", concluded McTeague.

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For further information contact:

Dan McTeague, M.P.
Ottawa: 613-995-8082
Riding: 416-287-0110

 

March 28, 2008

 The Hon. Maxime Bernier, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Foreign Affairs

125 Sussex Drive

Ottawa, ON

K1A 0G2

 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 mother. 

 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 her.      

 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 predicament.

 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 fights?

 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.

 Sincerely,

 Hon. Dan McTeague, P.C., M.P.

 Cc;  Ms. Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada

 

© 2008 Dan McTeague. Reproduction without prior written consent is prohibited.