Canada’s national police force is working to limit security risks and assess potential damage to “the broader domestic and international security communities” in the wake of charges laid against one of its top intelligence officers, the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said Tuesday.
“We are aware of the potential risks to operations of our partner agencies in Canada and abroad and we are working in partnership to ensure mitigating strategies are in place,” RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said during a news conference at RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa.
“Once the RCMP became aware of the alleged activities, we worked with partners to take immediate steps to safeguard the information. Together, we are working to assess the level of impact to operations, if any.”
However, the RCMP’s risk assessment of potential damage is “fluid” and is subject to change as the investigation continues, Lucki said.
Cameron Ortis, 47, a civilian director general of the RCMP’s National Intelligence Coordination Centre, was arrested on Thursday, Sept. 12, Lucki said.
Ortis, who has been with the RCMP since 2007, is facing five charges for alleged offences under the Criminal Code and the rarely used Security of Information Act, stemming from an investigation that began in 2018, Lucki said.
“In 2018, the RCMP was supporting an FBI investigation and through the course of this file the RCMP uncovered possible internal corruption,” Lucki said. “We took immediate action and launched an investigation into the alleged activities.”
By virtue of his position, Ortis had access to highly sensitive information gathered by the RCMP and shared with the federal police force by its domestic and foreign partners, Lucki said.
He is accused of preparing to share sensitive information with a foreign entity or terrorist organization.
According to documents viewed by CBC, the cache of classified intelligence material Ortis allegedly was preparing to share is so vital to Canada’s national security that the country’s intelligence agencies say its misuse would be “potentially devastating” for Canada’s security.
Lucki said the alleged breach has not compromised Canada’s relations with its partners in the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance, which includes Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“I would definitely imagine that there is concern amongst our Five Eyes community as well as in Canada,” Lucki said, adding that no Canadian ally has made any moves to limit or suspend intelligence-sharing with Canada.
Ortis appeared briefly Friday afternoon in an Ottawa courtroom via video link. His case was put over to Sept. 20 and he remains in custody.
With files from CBC News