Canada’s momentous spy trial comes to a close

Canada’s historic spy trial wasn’t quite as exciting as a James Bond movie — it featured zero cool cars or giant lasers — but it was an important test for the judicial system. 

What happened: Cameron Ortis, the former director general of the RCMP’s intelligence unit, was found guilty on all six charges related to leaking state secrets brought against him. 

  • Ortis sent documents without authorization to a trio of straight-up criminals, including a now-convicted felon and suspected money launderers with ties to terrorist funding. 
  • He also attempted to leak info to Farzam Mehdizadeh, a money launderer who fled Canada in 2017 and has ties to “the most important money launderers in the world."

Ortis, who pled not guilty, said his actions were part of a plan to combat an undisclosed “grave threat” to Canadian security, and that he leaked the material as a way to lure the criminals into using an encryption service where authorities could intercept their messages. 

  • The jury, obviously, did not buy this exciting tale, and the encryption service Ortis claimed he was working with called his story "completely false" and "salacious."

Why it matters: This was the first time a charge brought under the Security of Information Act went to a jury trial. It was seen as a test of whether espionage cases could be tried in public without unveiling top-secret national security matters — which it seemingly passed.  

Yes, but: Ortis’s defence would disagree with this assessment. They likened the trial to fighting “with one hand tied behind your back” since their client was not allowed to disclose certain details that they believe could have given a clearer picture of his situation.—QH