Accused RCMP leaker never spoke of doing undercover operations: former colleague

By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — A former colleague of Cameron Jay Ortis, who is accused of disclosing secrets to people of interest to police, has testified in court that Ortis never mentioned taking part in undercover operations.

Dan Morris told Ontario Superior Court that Ortis did not speak to him about contacting the targets of RCMP investigations.  

The Crown alleges Ortis, a former RCMP intelligence official, anonymously sent classified information in 2015 to people who were of investigative interest to the national police force.

Ortis, 51, has pleaded not guilty to violating the Security of Information Act by allegedly revealing secrets to three individuals and trying to do so in a fourth instance.

Ortis’s lawyers have indicated they will try to persuade the jury their client had the authority to take the actions he did.

Reporters and the general public were excluded from the courtroom for Morris’s appearances Monday and Tuesday despite objections from media. The latest transcripts of his testimony, including one with redactions, were released Wednesday.

Ortis was officer-in-charge of the RCMP’s Operations Research unit in 2010 when he hired Morris to work there. 

It was responsible for assembling and developing classified information on terror cells, transnational criminal networks, cybercrime actors and commercial espionage.

Ortis became director of the unit in 2013, leaving in early 2015 to take French-language training before moving on to another intelligence role with the RCMP in 2016.

Morris assumed Ortis’s duties at Operations Research, eventually becoming permanent director. He left the unit in September 2018 but remains a civilian RCMP member.

Morris agreed with the Crown’s suggestion that Ortis was intelligent, detail-oriented and organized.

He recalled Ortis working on “bigger-picture stuff” while analysts on the team developed intelligence research projects.

In the first few years they were colleagues, Ortis worked long hours, he said. 

“He was very often the first in to the office and often the last out,” Morris said. “I’d say that began to change around 2013, where he seemed to keep more of his own schedule.”

Ortis might come in a bit later and maybe leave a little earlier, he said. “He might say he was attending a meeting somewhere downtown. But … over the years, his schedule became less regular and less predictable.”

Morris recalled Ortis telling him at one point he ran about 14 kilometres a day, “and that he would do this for about 14 days straight, and take one day off of running.”

Ortis was arrested and taken into custody in September 2019.

Under cross-examination Tuesday, Morris agreed with the notion expressed by defence lawyer Mark Ertel that around 2010 there was a sense that the RCMP “had to get out of the habit of thinking you can only arrest your way out of problems,” and that there might be other ways of dealing with threats.

Morris said it was his understanding that Ortis had a friendly relationship with then-commissioner of the RCMP Bob Paulson that went beyond the usual chain of command. 

Morris was also questioned about the origins and role of Operations Research. He agreed with the general suggestion that someone might misconstrue the limits of their authority in a job.

“Yes, people can make mistakes in understanding the scope of their authority,” Morris said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2023.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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