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Feds 'looking into' alleged bullying by RCMP employee facing security charges

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters during a news conference following a visit to the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Royalmount Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre facility in Montreal, Monday, Aug 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
August 31, 2020 - 1:38 PM

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair is "looking into" allegations the RCMP brushed off complaints about a senior director who was later arrested on national-security charges.

Trudeau made the comments Monday about a new civil lawsuit that alleges Cameron Jay Ortis degraded and abused employees while he was director general of the RCMP's National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre.

Ortis was arrested Sept. 12 last year for allegedly sharing secrets with an unnamed recipient and planning to give additional classified information to an unspecified foreign entity.

He is charged with Security of Information Act violations, breach of trust and a computer-related offence.

Ortis is being held in an Ottawa jail as his complex case proceeds.

The statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court last Thursday by three people who worked under Ortis says he belittled them, undermined their value and work, and caused significant distress and mental suffering.

Francisco Chaves, Michael Vladars, and Dayna Young contend that by late September 2016, it had become clear Ortis intended to force out or otherwise remove intelligence co-ordination centre employees and bring in new staff over whom he had greater personal control.

"Mr. Ortis would frequently tell Ms. Young that he did not like her and that he considered her work, experience and qualifications for her job to be 'garbage,'" the statement of claim says.

"Mr. Ortis also told Ms. Young's direct supervisors that he did not believe she was a qualified or capable employee, despite Ms. Young's consistently positive performance appraisals and positive feedback from domestic and international partners."

The claim describes repeated efforts to make concerns about Ortis's behaviour known to senior RCMP management — efforts that apparently resulted in little or no concrete action.

All three plaintiffs say they moved to other positions within the RCMP to avoid working directly for Ortis, who became defensive and combative in response to their complaints.

Overall, the "group's attempt to raise concerns met with inaction and, in some cases, ridicule from members of RCMP senior management," the claim says.

"This failure to act on management's part continued into 2018 and 2019, as (centre) employees continued to attempt to raise concerns and as Mr. Ortis’s behaviour worsened."

The allegations have not been proven in court and the Mounties have yet to file a response.

There was no immediate comment Monday from the RCMP or Blair's office.

The three employees behind the lawsuit have been advised "the RCMP now believes that Mr. Ortis systematically targeted them and attacked their careers as part of his larger plan to misappropriate their work and use it for personal gain," the statement of claim says.

Further, an independent report commissioned by the RCMP, provided in redacted form to the three plaintiffs in June, concluded "a failure in leadership occurred at all levels of senior management in the handling of the concerns and complaints against Mr. Ortis," the claim says.

The report, prepared by former senior Mountie Alphonse MacNeil, also found the case pointed to a need to more carefully screen who is placed in leadership positions, and that the RCMP's harassment complaint system was not serving the force well, the claim adds.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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