In what has already been described as an extraordinary case, former RCMP director general of intelligence Cameron Ortis has been defended by his lawyer, Mark Ertel, who claims Ortis was acting on secret information communicated to him by an unnamed foreign agency to protect Canada.
Ortis, who was a high-ranking RCMP intelligence official, has faced accusations of leaking classified documents to individuals of investigative interest. He was arrested in 2019 following allegations of sharing valuable, top-secret information.
“His actions were in large part a result of secret information communicated to him by a foreign agency,” said Ertel. He emphasized to the court that Ortis is “going to be forbidden from telling you what the information was or what the foreign agency was. So he’s defending himself with one hand tied behind his back.”
At the heart of the case is the Crown’s claim that Ortis sent classified material in 2015 to people who were being investigated by the national police force. Ertel countered this, stating that his client had the “duty to act” to protect Canada from “serious and imminent threats.”
Adding a layer of complexity to Ortis’s defence is the fact that he is testifying without access to work emails and other RCMP documents that might support his claims. Ertel highlighted this unique situation, stating, “There are a lot of things that Mr. Ortis is not allowed to say. But he’s going to say everything that he can say, everything that the law allows him to say, because this is a unique case where the accused person… is not allowed to tell you the entirety of the defence.”
The 51-year-old Ortis faces six charges, including four counts under the Security of Information Act (SOIA) for allegedly sharing “special operational information” without authority with four individuals in 2015. He has maintained his innocence, pleading not guilty to all charges.
Details surrounding the specific content and recipients of the leaked documents are still emerging. Among the alleged recipients is Vincent Ramos, the former Canadian CEO of Phantom Secure Communications, who has ties to the criminal underworld. Ramos is currently serving time in the U.S. for racketeering conspiracy.
When RCMP officers searched Ortis’s Ottawa residence, they reportedly found intelligence reports and other classified documents on an encrypted USB key, allegedly sent to individuals under police scrutiny.
Ertel has announced that Ortis will be testifying in-camera over the coming days, setting the stage for what may be a pivotal moment in the trial.
Given the gravity of the accusations and the sensitivity surrounding the alleged leaked information, the trial has been enveloped in an atmosphere of secrecy. Media outlets, including CBC News, fought unsuccessfully against this secrecy, with some details being covered by a publication ban.
The trial continues, with former colleagues of Ortis and other witnesses set to provide their testimonies. The case, given its high-profile nature and implications for national security, has drawn significant public and media attention. As the defence unveils more about Ortis’s actions and intentions, Canada waits for answers.