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Tories ask DND to fire drug ring suspect

feat. David Perry

The Chronicle Herald
February 10, 2016

Conservative Defence Critic James Bezan is calling on the Department of National Defence to fire an employee charged with using her position to help cartels smuggle drugs into Canada.

On Tuesday, The Chronicle Herald learned that 55-year-old Darlene Margaret Richards, a civilian DND employee, remained employed by 14 Wing Greenwood despite being charged this week with breach of trust, and two counts of possession of proceeds of crime.

She, along with a former Coast Guard employee, are alleged to have used confidential information to assist in criminal activities.

She was charged last April with two counts of conspiracy to import cocaine and two counts of conspiracy to traffic cocaine as part of a sweeping international drug investigation stretching to Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Fifteen people were charged in total then, including Richards and a Coast Guard employee, Delbert William Meister.

Meister also had new charges laid this week.

“The employee in question is subject to the Department of National Defence Standards of Civilian Conduct and Discipline," Bezan said.

"(It) states that DND employees are expected to conduct themselves in such a way as to command a high degree of confidence and respect,” Bezan, who is also a Manitoba MP, said in an emailed statement.

“I encourage the department to exercise their responsibility and take all disciplinary measures they are authorized to use, including termination of her employment now that she has been charged with a felony.”

Richards was one of 15 people charged in a massive multinational drug sting known as Operation Harrington, which revealed last spring that traffickers aimed to make Nova Scotia a major hub between drug producing nations and major North American cities.

DND officials confirmed Richards was still employed at the base but has been given different duties, and her access to restricted areas has been revoked.

But despite calls for her termination, David Perry, senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said it’s not that simple.

“In terms of removing or firing somebody in a unionized work environment where there's a labour code and all that kind of stuff you can’t just do that, no matter what the job is,” Perry said.

DND civilian employees are represented by the Union of National Defence Employees. Local 80403 represents workers at Greenwood. UNDE officials would not confirm Richards is a member, but a woman who appears to be Richards is in a group photo on the local’s website.

Anyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent until found guilty, Perry said, so termination based on her alleged involvement in the trafficking ring just wouldn’t fly at any unionized work place.

Calls to UNDE were not returned.


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