Politics

Professor 'shocked' at former student's arrest on security charges

A university professor who supervised the PhD studies of a senior Canadian security official arrested under the Security of Information Act says he is shocked by the charges against his former student. 

'Nothing in my experience with Cameron would lead me to suspect his alleged involvement'

Cameron Ortis, who civilian director general at the RCMP, has been charged with crimes under the Security of Information Act. (CBC)

A university professor who supervised the PhD studies of a senior Canadian security official charged under the Security of Information Act says he is shocked by the arrest of his former student. 

"Nothing in my experience with Cameron would lead me to suspect his alleged involvement in the activities for which he is charged," said Brian Job, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia. 

"Indeed, the exact opposite is true. I am deeply shocked by the news."

Cameron Ortis, who graduated with a doctorate from the university in August of 2006, worked for the RCMP as a high-ranking civilian and had access to information so central to national security that departments across government are now conducting in-house damage assessments. 

Job says that since Ortis left the university the pair have met socially for coffee and had dinner about once a year. 

Job supervised Ortis' doctoral thesis on the challenges governments face in maintaining cybersecurity from internet-based threats. 

"The insecurities of the digital world call into question the efficacy and legitimacy of traditional state-based security when applied to new internet-based threats," Ortis said in the introduction to his thesis. 

"But for the foreseeable future, the state remains the only actor with the authority, legitimacy, resources and governance tools to address these issues."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters in St Hubert on Friday 0:18

Over the span of his career Ortis had some of the highest access to classified and allied information within the RCMP. Sources familiar with his work said he would have had knowledge of code words and operations.

Despite his senior position, there is very little information available to shed a light on the kind of life the 47-year-old led outside of work. 

A light footprint

According to his linkedin page, Ortis' only listed interests were the universities he attended and the job he had with the government of Canada. 

Ortis, whose profile says he speaks Mandarin, studied at the University of Northern British Columbia before doing his masters in political science and international relations at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

Court documents reveal that he lived in the Clarendon Lanes apartments in Ottawa's Byward Market. Clarendon Lanes rents units that are either furnished or unfurnished and bills itself as upscale living in the heart of the city.

According to the land registry Ortis does not own property in the Ottawa-Carleton area, at least not under his name. 

Was bound to secrecy 

Ortis was charged under a section of the Security of Information Act that applies to individuals "permanently bound to secrecy" as a condition of their work — which strongly suggests he had access to top secret material.

Under the Security of Information Act, Ortis has also been charged with:

  • Unauthorized communication of special operational information.
  • Preparing for the commission of an offence by obtaining or gaining access to information, or possessing any device, apparatus or software used for concealing, surreptitiously communicating or obtaining information.

One of the charges stems from 2015, while the others span a year, going back to September of 2018.

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