Gerda Munsinger, an alleged Russian spy, was believed to have shared the bed of several high-profile Tories over three years at the end of the 1950s. (Canadian Press)

In Depth

Dirty laundry

Not-so-pure North

Canada's sex scandals, such as they are

Last Updated March 12, 2008

In 1985, the federal fisheries minister authorized the shipment of a million cans of tuna to the public against the order of his own inspectors, who believed it to be tainted.

No sex please...

Other major scandals in Canadian history:


The Pacific scandal: This 1873 corruption scandal brought down the Conservative government of Sir John A. Macdonald and cost Canada's first prime minister the 1874 election.

The King-Byng affair: The famous 1925 staredown between Liberal PM William Lyon Mackenzie King and the governor general at the time, Lord Byng, was triggered by a corruption scandal.

Mulroney/Schreiber: Long out of politics, former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney was dragged back into the public arena, thanks to the RCMP and a lobbyist named Karlheinz Schreiber.

Billion-dollar boondoggle: Human Resources Development Minister Jane Stewart was in the hot seat in 2000 when an internal audit found that Jean Chrétien's Liberal government had failed to track employment program grants worth $1 billion.

More Canadian scandals

When the news broke, Canadians were outraged, and the opposition parties pounced on the governing Progressive Conservatives. In the end, the minister involved was forced to resign.

It was a typically Canadian scandal. Dubbed Tunagate, it had shadowy dealings and accusations of bad behaviour at the highest political levels.

What it didn't have, most certainly, was sex.

Canadian scandals have a reputation for lacking the salacious quality often found in the U.S., where the careers of former president Bill Clinton, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and many others have been sullied by sexual misdeeds.

It's not unheard of, though, for politicians in this country to be accused of dirty deeds — even if the scandals are a little less lurid.

John Edward Brownlee

In July 1933, Brownlee, then Alberta's premier, gave a car ride to Vivian MacMillan, a clerk in the attorney general's office. By August, he was being sued for the offence of seduction.

It turns out MacMillan's fiancé, a future lawyer, had been following Brownlee's vehicle that July day and used the incident as the catalyst for a lawsuit filed under the Alberta Seduction Act.

Brownlee denied all charges and launched a countersuit claiming MacMillan, her father and her fiancé had hatched a plan seeking monetary gain.

In 1934, a jury found Brownlee guilty of seduction, but the presiding judge overturned the decision and ordered the MacMillan side to pay Brownlee's legal bills. Despite this, Brownlee resigned as premier later that year.

In 1937, the MacMillan side appealed the judge's decision and eventually was awarded the $10,000 it sought.

The Munsinger Affair

Canada's first big national political sex scandal had all the makings of a great spy movie.

In 1966, while defending himself in the House of Commons from Conservative opposition questions over a mishandled security case, Liberal Justice Minister Lucien Cardin uttered the words "What about Munsignor?"

Cardin was actually referring to Gerda Munsinger, an alleged prostitute and Soviet spy who had lived in Ottawa. It's believed that several years earlier she had had affairs with several members of former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's Tory government.

Though she was quietly deported back to East Germany in 1961 after an RCMP investigation into her activities, it was not until several years later that the affairs between Munsinger and high-profile Tories were brought to the forefront of national politics.

Francis Fox

Former solicitor general Francis Fox was forced to resign on January 27, 1978, after it came to light that he had arranged an abortion for his one-time mistress by forging her husband's name on hospital documents.

Fox announced his resignation and confessed to his misdeeds in the House of Commons. The disclosure shocked many, as Fox was seen as a rising star of the Liberal party.

He eventually returned to Pierre Trudeau's cabinet in 1980 as secretary of state for Canada and minister of communications.

Margaret Trudeau dances at a New York nightclub in 1979, hours after her husband's party was defeated in a federal election. (Canadian Press)

Margaret Trudeau

Amid growing gossip in 1977 that the marriage of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife, Margaret, was coming to an end, it took a rock star to turn speculation into scandal.

On their sixth wedding anniversary, Margaret attended a Rolling Stones concert in Toronto and was later seen partying with the band well into the night.

Following this, she immediately flew to New York to avoid the scrutiny of the press, though this ill-timed disappearance only further fuelled the media furore as lead singer Mick Jagger happened to be heading the same way.

In the end, both Jagger and the Trudeaus denied any wrongdoing.

Robert Coates

Progressive Conservative Defence Minister Robert Coates was caught up in a scandal exposed by a 1985 story in the Ottawa Citizen.

The report focused on a stop Coates and two aides made at a strip club in West Germany while on a NATO tour. It raised questions about the security implications of the minister's actions.

Though Coates disputed parts of the story, he resigned his cabinet position shortly after it ran.

Gerald Regan

In 1995, former Nova Scotia premier Gerald Regan was accused of a number of sexual offences dating back to the mid-1950s.

Regan eventually went to trial and was acquitted of eight charges, including rape, attempted rape and forcible confinement. However, the scandal did not end there, and in 1999, more charges were filed.

The charges alleged Regan had forced kisses and physical contact on young women between 1968 and 1978. Those charges were eventually stayed as well.

Wilbert Keon

"An error of judgement," as he called it, caused Conservative Senator Wilbert Keon to step down from his position as the head of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Keon was caught in an undercover prostitution sweep in December 1999 when he pulled over his car and began talking to a woman at the side of the road. The woman turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Keon was not charged, though he did have to complete a "john school" sensitivity program. He did not resign his post in the Senate.

Sources: CBC files, The Canadian Encyclopedia

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