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

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

Victoria artisan Tina Neurauter, right, used to shop at Pot Luck Ceramics with her daughter from Port Alberni. Now Neurauter is selling her handmade soaps and bath products at Bibi J’s, a new enterprise in the former Pot Luck Ceramics building on Gertrude Street in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Former Pot Luck Ceramics location reimagined as Bibi J’s

Owner Helma Swinkels revives social enterprise with new name, vision

The Rollin Art Centre’s Mistletoe Market begins on Dec. 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre prepares for Mistletoe Market

Artisans and crafters are still needed for annual Christmas craft fair

‘Homelessness’ means many things to people with no permanent place to sleep. For some, the challenge to find safe shelter is greater than for others. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni mother battles to find housing for her son

Mary Elles fears her son will die on the street before he will find safe housing

Andy Richards of Dog Mountain Brewing demonstrates their new canning machine. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
BIZ BEAT: Local businesses need support during holidays

Bosley’s helping pets out during holiday season

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Picture of two swans leaving the Cowichan estuary moments before one was shot out of the sky. (Submitted photo)
Petition to stop hunting in Cowichan estuary after swan shot

Hunters blame shooting on illegal poachers

Most Read