Trudeau reassures allies amid alleged spying case

Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauImage copyright

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PM Justin Trudeau says Canada is taking the allegations against Cameron Ortis “very seriously”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has moved to reassure allies in the wake of an alleged spying case with possible international implications.

A senior intelligence official was charged last week with violating national security laws.

Cameron Ortis had access to information coming from Canada’s global allies, the RCMP national police force said.

Canada is in close contact with its intelligence partners over the case, Mr Trudeau says.

“We are in direct communications with our allies on security,” the prime minister said while campaigning in Newfoundland on Tuesday.

“We are also working with them to reassure them, but we want to ensure that everyone understands that we are taking this situation very seriously.”

Canada is a member of the Five Eyes – the intelligence alliance that also includes the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

What are the charges against Mr Ortis?

Mr Ortis, who was a director general with the police force’s intelligence unit, is accused of breaching the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code.

The charges filed against him include the “unauthorised communication of special operational information”, possessing a device or software “useful for concealing the content of information or for surreptitiously communicating, obtaining or retaining information”, and breach of trust by a public officer.

Few other details have been released about the alleged offences, though they took place during his tenure as an RCMP employee.

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Cameron Ortis, shown in a court sketch from his court hearing in Canada on 13 September

How damaging is the case?

On Monday, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said the charges have “shaken many people” throughout the national police force and conceded that the leaks could have hurt allied nations’ intelligence operations.

She said in a statement he had access to information the Canadian intelligence community possessed and intelligence coming from allies both domestically and internationally.

“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,” she said.

CBC News reports that Mr Ortis had highly classified material that, if it were released, would cause a serious damage to Canada and its allies.

Mr Ortis was looking into allegations that Russian tax fraudsters had laundered millions of dollars through Canada, a US financier told Reuters.

Bill Browder, a high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he had met Mr Ortis twice in Canada in 2017 after alerting the RCMP to the matter.

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