An intelligence officer with the Canadian Forces has been arrested for allegedly passing secrets to a foreign entity or terrorist group.
Jeffrey Paul Delisle, who lives in the Bedford area of Halifax, was arrested over the weekend. He is to appear in court in Halifax on Tuesday morning for a bail hearing.
Delisle is a member of the Royal Canadian Navy. The Defence Department said the 40-year-old officer is a sub-lieutenant in the navy and an intelligence officer.
Court documents filed Monday indicate he is accused under the Security of Information Act of passing secrets to a foreign entity.
The alleged incidents occurred between July 2007 and Jan. 10 or 13, 2011, in Ottawa and Kingston, Ont., and Halifax and Bedford, N.S.
The documents also allege Delisle committed breaches of trust "in connection with the duties of his office," in violation of the Criminal Code.
There was no indication what information Delisle is accused of passing or to whom it was passed.
The charges are rare and serious. A breach of trust under the Criminal Code can net a five-year prison sentence, and convictions under the Security of Information Act can lead to life in prison.
While a copy of the charges allege information was passed to a foreign entity, the section of the act under which Delisle is charged also says the offence can include communicating information to a terrorist group.
Member of naval intelligence
A senior defence official told CBC News that Delisle joined the reserves in 1996 and became a regular Canadian Forces member in 2001. He was promoted to officer in 2008.
The official said the alleged breaches did not pose a threat to public safety. He said Delisle worked for a unit called HMCS Trinity.
Trinity is an intelligence facility at the naval dockyard in Halifax. It tracks vessels entering and exiting Canadian waters via satellites, drones and underwater devices. The centre is a multi-national base with access to secret data from NATO countries.
A source says the Canadian Forces counter-intelligence branch is conducting a damage assessment as a result of this case.
The accused would have had clearance to at least top secret information, if not higher, depending on which project he was assigned to, according to the official, who would not say which other country was involved.
He said the Canadian Forces is working closely with the RCMP in the investigation.
No threat to public, RCMP say
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson issued a statement saying it is the first time someone has been charged under that section of the Security of Information Act, which was introduced after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.
"Notwithstanding the seriousness of these charges, the RCMP is not aware of any threat to public safety at this time from this situation," he said.
"This investigation demonstrates that Canada is not immune to threats posed by foreign entities wishing to undermine Canadian sovereignty. We must be ever vigilant to the real threat of foreign espionage, and continue investing time and resources into the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of such acts."
Calls to Delisle's home off Hammonds Plains Road went unanswered.
None of the neighbours CBC News spoke with knew him well.
The Security of Information Act lays out an array of breaches ranging from threatening the safety of the Forces to selling software and the technical details of operations.
The Crown asked that Delisle be kept in custody. He will be held until a bail hearing Tuesday.
Criminal prosecution for espionage rare: expert
An expert in security matters said even when espionage activity is suspected in Canada, it rarely ends in criminal prosecution.
"There are other techniques that we use to try to break up such activities to ensure the people involved know they're under surveillance or sent back to their home countries or something," said Wesley Wark, a professor at the University of Toronto.
Speaking about such cases in general, Wark said the risk of revealing classified information in court can prevent authorities from laying charges.
"The game has to be worth the candle," he said.