01/16/2012 03:31 EST | Updated 03/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Jeffrey Paul Delisle, Canadian Forces Member, Charged With Giving Information To Foreign Entity

UPDATE: CTV News is reporting that naval intelligence officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle was allegedly sharing classified information with Russia. Sources told CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that Delisle was allegedly caught in the act last week. Read more here.

HALIFAX - A Canadian navy intelligence officer has been charged with communicating information to a foreign entity in a case the RCMP commissioner says is an indication that Canada is not immune to threats of espionage.

Jeffrey Paul Delisle, 40, appeared in Halifax provincial court on Monday on two charges under the Security of Information Act that deal with communicating information over the past five years that could harm Canada's interests.

The Defence Department said Delisle is a sub-lieutenant in the navy and an intelligence officer. Defence sources say he worked at CFB Stadacona's Trinity section, a naval communications and intelligence centre in Halifax that was a multi-national base with access to secret data from NATO countries.

A source said the Canadian Forces counter-intelligence branch is conducting a damage assessment as a result of this case.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson issued a statement on the charges, but didn't reveal any details about what information is alleged to have been disclosed.

"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."

Court documents say one of the alleged offences happened between July 6, 2007, and Jan. 13, 2012, while the other offence is alleged to have happened between Jan. 10, 2012, and Jan. 13, 2012.

The Halifax-area man also faces a breach of trust charge under the Criminal Code that is alleged to have happened between July 6, 2007, and Jan. 13, 2012.

All the offences are alleged to have happened in or near Halifax, Ottawa and Kingston, Ont.

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. The act says anyone convicted of the offence Delisle is charged with faces life in prison.

Cameron MacKeen, who is listed in court documents as Delisle's lawyer, could not be reached for comment.

Sources say Delisle joined the navy as a reservist in 1996, then became a member of the regular forces in 2001, and was promoted to an officer rank in 2008 after it is alleged he passed on information.

At his court appearance on Monday, Delisle was ordered to remain in custody and is due back in court on Tuesday.

The Security of Information Act was passed by the House of Commons after the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and replaced the Official Secrets Act. The RCMP say the charges against Delisle mark the first time that anyone has been charged under that section of the act.

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 the authorities from laying charges.

"The game has to be worth the candle," he said.

Wark said the Official Secrets Act was also rarely used.

The only time he could recall a serving military member being charged under the Official Secrets Act dates back to the Igor Gouzenko affair in 1945. Wark said a Canadian squadron leader was charged with providing unauthorized training maps to the Soviet authorities, but was later acquitted.

Gouzenko, a Soviet cipher, defected from the Soviet embassy, bringing with him documents containing information that helped expose the existence of an espionage network operating in North America. His defection resulted in 20 espionage trials and nine convictions.

Paulson said the investigation involved the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Canadian Forces and the Canada Border Services Agency.

"Through their dedication and commitment, the men and women of the RCMP who worked diligently on this investigation, have made a difference in the safety and security of Canadians and the protection of our nation's sovereignty."

— With files from Murray Brewster in Ottawa

Court documents relating to charges against Jeffrey Paul Delisle