Ex-RCMP Officer Ortis’s Court Documents Show Damning Revelations

We collect and receive intelligence on the condition that it be handled properly. What happens when someone ignores those rules?

This piece first appeared in The Epoch Times Canada on October 6, 2023.

Sharing is good, but there are rules to passing out intelligence 

When I was a kid growing up in southwestern Ontario I remember a video/song that extolled sharing. It was, so I learned through Google, produced by the United Church of Christ and went something like this: “That’s the way it is, truly-ooly-ooly is. It’s nice to share.” 

I wonder if Cameron Ortis, the RCMP official charged by the Crown with “sharing” intelligence illegally, saw that video too? 

A 507-page packet of documents that both the Crown and the defence agree are factual was submitted to the court hearing the case. So, if both sides are onside that the basic facts are correct, what is left to decide? In that packet was a note that Ortis promised to continue leaking sensitive information to a B.C. businessman who was under international (U.S.?) investigation if the recipient would pay $20,000 for a first batch of classified documents. Pretty damning stuff. 

But back to the basic question: With whom can intelligence be shared in Canada? The answer is: not many, and the arrangement is heavily constrained. 

Essentially, two conditions must apply. The first is that the person to whom intelligence is being delivered must have what is known as a “need to know.” A lot of classified information is very sensitive and not everything can be given to everyone. If you do not require the data to do your job, too bad so sad, no intelligence. For example, if your file at Global Affairs Canada is trade relations with West Africa, you have no need for intelligence on the price of bananas in Tajikistan. 

The second is a valid security clearance. In Canada, there are several levels of clearance ranging from “reliability” to Top Secret. (There’s intelligence even higher than Top Secret but, unlike Mr. Ortis, I won’t be sharing that here!) The recipient has to have the same level, or higher, as the sender to get the material in question. This is not rocket science. 

That Mr. Ortis allegedly gave information at some degree of classification—the public facts so far do not indicate how high—to someone with neither a need to know nor, assumedly, a requisite security clearance is bad enough. He also would have known that what he was doing was wrong. The RCMP, like CSE and CSIS, where I worked for 32 years, undoubtedly has an internal security office the purpose of which is to ensure that employees understand the rules. Ignorance is no defence. 

It gets worse for Mr. Ortis, however.  

There are Crown allegations that he provided the information in his possession for money (tens of thousands of dollars), advised his “clients” on how to evade detection for what they were doing, stated that his “services” were valuable, and may well have known that his interlocutor was involved in criminal activity. None of this has been proven at the time of writing. 

If the allegations are true, why would he do this? Was it the money? We did see in the case of Jeffrey Delisle back in 2011 that the former sub-lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy gave top secret information from Canada’s allies to the Russian military intelligence agency for monetary gain. 

Were there other reasons? I recall reading that Mr. Ortis was a highly intelligent man (I do not recall ever having met him despite our similar careers and frequent meetings between CSIS and the RCMP). Was this then arrogance? A belief he was too smart to be caught? 

All of these are very good questions which we hope will have light shed on them during the trial. Mr. Ortis has pleaded not guilty, thus forcing the Crown to demonstrate his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It should prove interesting, although cases like these are challenging in that the government is loath to have more sensitive intelligence made public in the course of evidence presentation. 

But getting back to the sharing issue, there is another more serious possibility. As I have noted on several occasions, Canada is a net importer of intelligence, mostly, but not exclusively, from its Five Eyes partners. We are given this information on the provision we can protect it. If, given our paltry contributions to the kitty we are seen as a risk, there is a chance our allies may cut back on what they do send us. No, we are not the only ones to suffer from leaks (does Edward Snowden ring a bell?), but we cannot afford to earn a reputation as a country that can’t guarantee security. 

Yes, sharing is good, but in some areas there are restrictions. 

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.