The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Federal agencies mishandled sensitive documents more than 5,000 times last year

That averages out to about 20 such incidents across the government each working day

As a senior RCMP intelligence official faces charges of disclosing secret information, new figures reveal thousands of incidents last year in which federal agencies, including the national police force, mishandled sensitive documents.

Answers tabled in Parliament in response to a query from Ontario Conservative MP Jamie Schmale show 38 agencies reported a total of more than 5,000 incidents between Jan. 1 and Dec. 10 in which classified or otherwise protected documents were stored in a manner that did not meet security requirements.

That averages out to about 20 such incidents across the government each working day.

The number is likely higher given that one large department, Global Affairs Canada, did not provide figures for the year but reported thousands of such incidents in a 2016 survey.

The agencies say no one lost their security clearance as a result of the 2019 lapses, which Schmale finds concerning.

“As we all know, it only takes one incident for the wrong information to get into the wrong hands,” he said in an interview. “These procedures are in place for a reason. It’s disappointing that there are so many violations per day.”

Schmale would like to know more about the infractions.

“How serious were the violations? Is it computers left open? Is it documents left on a desk? Is it briefcases left wide open?” he asked.

“I think there needs to be an evaluation done as to what is causing this to happen so frequently. And once you get an idea of that, then you can take steps to fix it.”

The government says it is committed to the highest standards of document security. Violations are identified through routine security sweeps — a measure designed to continually improve practices.

Cameron Jay Ortis, the director general of the RCMP’s National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre, was arrested in September for allegedly revealing secrets and planning to give additional classified information to an unspecified foreign entity. His criminal case is before an Ontario court.

In response to Schmale’s query, the RCMP reported three cases of improper document handling last year.

The cyberspies at the Communications Security Establishment noted 197 incidents, while the Canadian Security Intelligence Service reported 52.

Both spy services stressed that the documents in question were in secure areas with restricted access.

“Additionally, the Communications Security Establishment applies rigorous security measures to ensure the protection of classified information, including random security checks on all security personnel entering and exiting the building,” the CSE said in its explanation.

At the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, security personnel collected the mishandled material in each of the 543 cases identified last year. “Documents were returned to the employees only after they were briefed on the importance of proper safeguarding practices.”

Employment and Social Development Canada, which handles a large volume of personal data, reported 811 cases of mishandled information from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30. It said this represents a 48 per cent reduction in monthly averages since the last report.

Notices are left at workstations where unsecured classified or protected information is found during sweeps, the department said. Follow-up inspections are done for serious infractions, such as those involving a large number of protected documents.

“Meetings with employees, management and security officials are held for repeat offenders to establish plans to improve security habits,” ESDC added.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said immediate action was taken to address the 26 incidents there, with all staff receiving mandatory security briefings. “Steps have also been taken to ensure they are provided with the necessary training on how to appropriately store and handle sensitive information.”

PHOTOS: Cars, semis turned around due to flooding at Sumas border crossing

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Haitian foster children arrive in Nelson after months-long lobbying effort

Marie-Paule Brisson and Sebastien De Marre have parented girls age 12 and 8 since they were babies

Nelson hospice starts Walk and Talk group in Lakeside Park

The Walk and Talk Grief Group is offered free to anyone grieving the death of a loved one

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

RDCK to implement new emergency alert notification system

System also includes sends alerts for water advisories

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Most Read