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Canadian government mishandled sensitive documents more than 5,000 times in 2019

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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.

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