MONTREAL — From policing to politics, much of Guy Ouellette’s career has been spent in the public eye.
During Quebec’s biker gang wars of the 1990s, the outspoken provincial police sergeant’s media appearances made him the public face of the cops’ battle against organized crime.
Following his retirement, he chose another high−profile job when he entered politics, being elected for the provincial Liberals in 2007 and winning three other times since.
Now Ouellette, 65, is attracting attention of a different sort after his arrest by Quebec’s anti−corruption unit in connection with an investigation into an important information leak to the media last April.
In a statement Thursday, the Liberals said Ouellette would step aside temporarily pending the outcome of proceedings involving the province’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions.
No charges have been laid against him.
News of the arrest appeared to shock fellow legislature members and others who know the former police officer, who became a police cadet while still in his teens.
In a more than 30−year career with the provincial police, he became one of Canada’s leading biker gang investigators and a frequent expert witness at organized crime trials.
Julian Sher, who has written several books about organized crime in Canada, remembers Ouellette for his willingness to share his encyclopedic knowledge of what was happening in the gang world.
“When it comes to organized crime, you need a scoresheet to know who’s on what team, who’s up, who’s down, who’s dead, who’s out for revenge,” said Sher, who is also a producer for CBC.
“He was the equivalent of a hockey sports commentator who knows every single player on every single team and who can give you that information.”
Ouellette’s willingness to speak on the record made him a favourite with reporters, but it also opened him up to danger.
In 2001, Ouellette and another officer escaped injury when two members of a Hells Angels−affiliated gang tried to run their van off the road.
Ouellette’s willingness to step into the spotlight didn’t always endear himself to his colleagues, who felt he was being given credit for the work of other officers, Sher said.
At the end of his career, the married father of four didn’t hide his opinions.
When he retired in 2001, he blasted the lack of anti−gang training in police schools and said the force was unprepared for his departure.
Months later he was back in the news, criticizing the Senate for failing to ensure speedy passage of a federal anti−gang law.
“Everybody’s strengths are their weaknesses,” Sher said. “His brashness and his boldness were his strength as a spokesman against the biker cops, but you could also see how that would rub people the wrong way.”
Ouellette also served as a technical adviser for the miniseries “The Last Chapter,” which dealt with the world of criminal bikers and was shown on CBC and Radio−Canada about 15 years ago.
He co−wrote a book published in 2005 called “Mom,” about former Hells Angels leader Maurice “Mom” Boucher, a man Ouellette helped convict and who is now serving a life sentence for murder.
In 2007, Ouellette reappeared as a politician, winning the Montreal−area riding of Chomedey and representing it ever since.
While he was never named to cabinet, he was named to several committees, including the one overseeing institutions.
Although his profile was lower, Ouellette’s outspokenness occasionally emerged.
A leak last April revealed UPAC had been investigating the comings and goings of ex−premier Jean Charest and Liberal fundraiser Marc Bibeau up until 2016.
Ouellette came out publicly to say he was disgusted by the leaks and conflicts of interest touching his own party.
Also last April, he told Quebec radio station 98,5 FM the party was pressuring him to retire and give up his seat — something that was later denied by the party’s leader.
At the time, Ouellette said he was planning to stay on at all costs because he wanted to be “part of the solution,” adding he was tired of citizens treating him as though he was corrupt.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press