It’s almost been a week since Cameron Ortis, the former high-ranking RCMP intelligence official accused of leaking classified information to police targets, began to testify in his own defence.
But what he’s said remains a mystery.
Ortis’s testimony has been held in-camera, meaning members of the public — including journalists — have not been able to listen to his version of events. Ortis has not spoken publicly since his arrest in 2019.
Journalists were promised a transcript of his testimony. On Wednesday, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada said it’s dealing with a “technical issue” that has prevented the release of the transcript.
“Due to an unforeseen and serious technical issue at the Department of Justice, the transcripts are not yet ready for release. They are being reviewed for national security reasons and will be provided as soon as possible,” said spokesperson Nathalie Houle.
“The delay is regrettable but unavoidable and the government of Canada is doing everything possible in the circumstances to provide the transcripts.”
Houle said more information may be available later Wednesday.
The Crown alleges Ortis used his position as the head of a highly-sensitive unit within the RCMP to attempt to sell intelligence gathered by Canada and its Five Eyes allies to police targets.
Defence says Ortis had a duty to act
The 51-year-old has pleaded not guilty to all six charges against him, including multiple counts under the Security of Information Act, the law meant to protect Canada’s secrets.
Last week, his defence laid out its core argument — that Ortis was acting on secret information sent by a foreign agency to protect Canada from “serious and imminent threats.”
Ortis testified Thursday and Friday and the Crown began its cross-examination Monday, said his lawyers.
A consortium of media organizations that includes CBC News fought the move to seal his testimony behind closed doors, but lost. Other details of the secrecy measure are covered by a publication ban.
Ortis’s defence team also has spoken out against the measure.
WATCH | Ortis’s lawyer calls closed testimony ‘unfortunate’
“The delay in providing the transcripts of Mr. Ortis’s testimony is disappointing,” Jon Doody, one of Ortis’s lawyers, said Wednesday.
“This delay was not contemplated when the order excluding the public was made. We hope that the technical issue is resolved quickly and that the transcripts are provided as soon as possible.”
Three other witnesses, all colleagues of Ortis in the RCMP’s operations research unit, also testified behind closed doors. Transcripts of their testimony were mostly released the day after they testified.
The case is now adjourned until Nov. 14.