The trial of Cameron Ortis, a former high-ranking RCMP intelligence officer accused of leaking sensitive information, has entered a critical phase as the jury begins deliberations. This landmark case marks the first trial in Canada to test charges under the Security of Information Act.
Ortis, who led a unit with access to national and allied intelligence, faces six charges, including multiple counts under the act meant to safeguard Canadian secrets. He has pleaded not guilty in the Ontario Superior Court.
The trial, now in its eighth week, has been a complex tableau of nearly a dozen witnesses, including Ortis himself, and over 500 pages of evidence.
Prosecutors allege that Ortis used his privileged position to leak operational information to individuals targeted by police. These include Vincent Ramos, CEO of Phantom Secure, Salim Henareh, and Muhammad Ashraf, suspected of links to international money laundering and terrorist activities.
In a pivotal moment, the Crown accused Ortis of offering to trade information for $20,000 in an email to Ramos. Prosecutor Judy Kliewer emphasized in her closing arguments, “Ortis’s version of events doesn’t have the slightest ring of truth.”
Ortis’s defense paints a different picture. He claimed his actions were part of a covert operation named “OR Nudge,” aimed at trapping criminals using an encrypted email service. This claim, however, has been contested by the service outside the courtroom.
Ortis testified about the secretive nature of his work and the necessity to keep his plans confined, citing a foreign agency’s condition of privacy. His defense stressed the challenges he faces in revealing the full extent of his actions due to the constraints of perpetual secrecy.
The jury’s task is unprecedented in Canadian legal history. Wesley Wark, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, highlighted the jury’s daunting responsibility: “This is the first time a jury has ever met to hear a secrets trial — a spy trial — in Canada, ever.”
Significance of the Trial
The Ortis trial represents a critical test of the Security of Information Act in court. The outcome of this trial could set significant precedents in how Canada handles cases involving national security breaches.