Cameron Ortis, a senior intelligence official at the RCMP, leaves the courthouse in Ottawa after being granted bail, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. A judge has revoked bail for a senior RCMP official awaiting trial on charges of breaking Canada’s secrets law. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Arrest in RCMP secrets case touched off a flurry of activity at highest levels

Cameron Jay Ortis has been charged under the Security of Information Act for allegedly disclosing secrets

The head of Canada’s spy agency was briefed two dozen times in six weeks this fall about a security lapse at the national police force — an indication of the gravity of the alleged breach by a senior RCMP intelligence official.

The top-secret briefing materials, marked CEO, for “Canadian Eyes Only,” kept Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault abreast of developments in Project Ace, the RCMP investigation of Cameron Jay Ortis, one of the force’s own members.

The Ortis case also touched off a concerted effort at the highest levels to address the concerns of Canada’s key allies, records disclosed through the Access to Information Act show.

Ortis, 47, was charged under the Security of Information Act for allegedly disclosing secrets to an unknown recipient and planning to reveal additional classified information to an unspecified foreign entity.

He faces a total of seven counts under various provisions, dating from as early as Jan. 1, 2015, to Sept. 12 of this year, when he was arrested.

Under the terms of bail set in October by a justice of the peace, Ortis was living with his parents in Abbotsford and had to report to police once a week and was forbidden from using any device that connects to the internet.

But Ontario Superior Court Justice Marc Labrosse ruled last month that Ortis would be returned to custody as a result of a review requested by the Crown. The reasons are covered by a publication ban.

No trial date has been set, but Ortis is due to make another court appearance Tuesday in Ottawa.

READ MORE: Alleged RCMP secret leaker must live with parents in Abbotsford while on bail

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told a Sept. 17 news conference the allegations against Ortis had left many people shaken, noting that as director general of the force’s National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre, he had access to information from domestic and international allies.

Lucki said investigators had come across documents during a joint investigation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation that prompted the Mounties to believe there could be some kind of “internal corruption.” The trail led them to Ortis.

The heavily redacted briefing documents for Vigneault, spanning Sept. 16 to Oct. 25, informed the CSIS director of media interest in the case and the unfolding bail proceedings.

On Sept. 23, the deputy director of administration at CSIS sent Vigneault a formal “Notification of Security Breach” in keeping with the spy service’s procedures on internal security inquiries and investigations.

Three days after Ortis’ arrest, Ralph Goodale, public safety minister at the time, began contacting his counterparts in Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the United States, says a briefing note prepared by the Privy Council Office. This included conversations with Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton and New Zealand Intelligence and Security Minister Andrew Little. Those countries are members, with Canada, of an intelligence-sharing network called Five Eyes.

“The matter is before the courts in Canada and we can’t comment further at this stage,” a spokesman for New Zealand’s intelligence and security agencies told The Canadian Press.

Throughout Sept. 18, “multiple calls were initiated between Canadian and Australian officials,” says the PCO briefing note.

In addition, Greta Bossenmaier, the prime minister’s national security adviser at the time, and David Morrison, foreign and defence policy adviser, met with the Australian high commissioner to Canada “at Australia’s request,” says a Sept. 19 email from a Privy Council official.

The security advisers could provide “additional information of relevance” before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, says the email.

Trudeau was in the thick of the federal election campaign by mid-September, but there is an official record of a phone conversation with Morrison on Oct. 23, shortly after the Liberals won re-election.

A Canadian Press request for Australian records related to the Ortis arrest under the country’s freedom-of-information law identified 12 documents. However, all were ruled exempt from disclosure because they dealt with national security, defence, international relations or cabinet affairs.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crash snarls traffic in Duncan Tuesday evening

The crash appeared to involve at least three vehicles

Fire crews put out blaze in Cowichan Secondary outbuilding

Three halls respond to fire in storage structure

Furstenau accuses Horgan of politicizing new Cowichan hospital as premier makes Valley campaign stop

Premier suggests that new facility hinges on re-election of NDP government

Who’s running in Cowichan?

A list of Cowichan candidates for the upcoming provincial election

Orange Shirt Society launches first textbook on residential school history

Phyllis Webstad and Joan Sorley worked on the 156-page book to help educate students

Metis pilot Teara Fraser profiled in new DC Comics graphic novel of women heroes

The Canadian pilot’s entry is titled: ‘Teara Fraser: Helping Others Soar’

Horgan vows to replace B.C.’s shared senior care rooms in 10 years

$1.4 billion construction on top of staff raises, single-site work

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Orange Shirt Day lessons of past in today’s classrooms

Phyllis Webstad, who attended St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in British Columbia, is credited for creating the movement

Greens’ Furstenau fires at NDP, Liberals on pandemic recovery, sales tax promise

She also criticized the NDP economic recovery plan, arguing it abandons the tourism industry

Most Read