RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki speaks with deputy commissioner Brian Brennan as they prepare to appear before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to discuss the spring report of the Auditor General on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, May 16, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Intelligence official’s arrest ‘unsettling,’ says top Mountie amid damage assessment

Cameron Jay Ortis, 47, is charged under three sections of the Security of Information Act

The Mounties are assessing and trying to mitigate the damage that might have been caused in light of the arrest of one of their senior intelligence officials, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said Monday.

In a statement, Lucki said last week’s arrest of 47-year-old Cameron Jay Ortis, who is charged under three sections of the Security of Information Act, has “shaken many people throughout the RCMP, particularly in federal policing.”

Ortis also faces two charges under the Criminal Code, including breach of trust, for allegedly trying to disclose classified information to a foreign entity or terrorist group.

“While these allegations, if proven true, are extremely unsettling, Canadians and our law-enforcement partners can trust that our priority continues to be the integrity of the investigations and the safety and security of the public we serve,” said Lucki.

She also confirmed that Ortis was director general of the RCMP’s National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre, after starting his career with the Mounties in 2007.

READ MORE: Intelligence official charged seemed to be ‘exemplar of discretion’: UBC professor

Ortis had access to domestic and international intelligence, including information coming from Canada’s allies, she said.

Ortis has also worked in the RCMP’S Operations Research and National Security Criminal Investigations branches, she said.

“By virtue of the positions he held, Mr. Ortis had access to information the Canadian intelligence community possessed. He also had access to intelligence coming from our allies both domestically and internationally. This level of access is appropriate given the positions he held,” Lucki said.

“This is an ongoing investigation and we are assessing the impacts of the alleged activities as information becomes available,” she added.

“We are aware of the potential risk to agency operations of our partners in Canada and abroad and we thank them for their continued collaboration. We assure you that mitigation strategies are being put in place as required.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had little to say Monday when asked about the impact on Canada’s counterparts in the Five Eyes, the intelligence group that also includes the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

“I think people will understand I can’t make any public comments on this, but I can assure you this is something that the responsible authorities are engaged with at the highest levels, including with our allies,” Trudeau said at a campaign stop in Waterloo, Ont.

Ortis studied the international implications of the darker corners of the internet before joining the RCMP. He earned his PhD at the University of British Columbia in 2006, one year before joining the Mounties, and after seven years as a graduate student.

He published two essays that were co-written with one of the university’s leading experts on China and Asia, political-science professor Paul Evans.

A 2003 paper published in The Pacific Review appears to have been prophetic about the rise of cybercrime and the use of the internet as a government surveillance tool. It was part of a broader examination of how the internet was being used by bad actors, while acknowledging that it is also sometimes a force for good.

“The walk on the dark side does not lead to the conclusion that the internet is the enemy of those wishing to construct a more stable and peaceful regional order,” they wrote.

“What we are claiming is that the proponents of a more digitized form of community building need to be aware of the risks involved and the likelihood that national governments will be more concerned than ever with surveillance and control. For individuals, whatever their level of capacity, IT poses threats of information overload, eavesdropping and monitoring, and various forms of attack including viruses and worms.”

They also predicted that non-governmental organizations and networks would face threats to their “infrastructure, confidentiality, mailing lists, electronic subscriptions and databases.”

In a statement to The Canadian Press, Evans described Ortis as the “exemplar of discretion” and said that nothing in Evans’s experience with him “would lead me to suspect he would be (in) any way involved in activities that would lead to such charges.”

Evans said he was a member of Ortis’s doctoral dissertation committee and worked with him on several projects. They also saw each other socially from time to time after Ortis started his RCMP job, but Evans said Ortis never discussed the details of his work.

The Mounties are promising a further update on the arrest at a news conference on Tuesday.

Mike Blanchfield, 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

‘Perfect storm’ causes influx of black widows in the Okanagan

The region’s only venomous spider has come out in full force this year

Okanagan College expands ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ to all students this fall

Wellness Wednesday workshops are designed to be psycho-educational

AlleyCats Okanagan: Pet of the week

Mort is available through AlleyCats Alliance

Okanagan temperatures hit 30 C by end of September

The autumn equinox takes place in the northern hemisphere on Sept. 22

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

Attorney General defends Kelowna Mountie involved in rough arrest

Tyler Russell filed a lawsuit against Const. Siggy Pietrzak in June of this year

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Suspected human remains found in burned out vehicle on OKIB land

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP hand over investigation to Major Crimes

Kamloops RCMP search for armed robber of pizza restaurant

The incident unfolded on Monday evening at the Sahali Domino’s store

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Most Read