Security Breaches, Money Laundering, and Wonderland

January 18, 2021 Updated: January 19, 2021


Amid the repetitive news cycle about governments saving us from COVID-19 at a blisteringly sluggish pace while Trump stinks, boo Trump, we suddenly hear that a known massive security breach in Canada also involved vast money laundering networks. Boooooring. Tell us more about how our politicians are great and Trump stinks.

Sorry. No can do. I dislike lockdowns but they are not the only story. Indeed, one of my complaints is that officialdom and many commentators act and talk as if about the only bad thing that could happen to anyone in Canada is they might get COVID. If they lose their job, succumb to despair, or watch their government plunge into insolvency while disregarding basic security duties, it is a bagatelle.

To be fair, Canadian governments were disregarding security long before the pandemic. After about 1968 the public and cultural reflex was to treat the Cold War as a figment of right-wing American imagination; the same with the threat from China, militant Islamism, and massive money laundering linking the drug trade with hostile foreign powers. (One curious feature of underground history is that organizations that initially dabble in crime to finance ideological projects tend to morph into purely criminal enterprises. For instance, the notorious Chinese “triads” tortuously descended from the Tiandihui or “Heaven and Earth Society.”)

There are moments of lucidity. But Canadians increasingly live in a sweet-smelling land of make-believe, where if a press release about compassion gets you through the next news cycle it solved any problem that seemed to exist. Hence the ubiquitous, hypnotic, smiling, “There is no war in Ba Sing Se,” as readers of a certain age or with children or grandchildren of same might phrase it.

Nevertheless, Global News just broke the disquieting story that Cameron Ortis, former director-general of the RCMP’s National Intelligence Coordination Centre, was allegedly tangled up with money laundering. Ortis was also tangled up with other things; he was arrested in September 2019 for doing bad stuff. But this being Canada, we don’t need to know any disquieting facts.

As one news story noted, “Crown prosecutors allege he revealed secrets to an unnamed recipient and was planning to give more to a foreign entity.” Such as? Hush. As another quoted RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, “At this point, the co-operation with our allies is not at all compromised.” Again, the lithium drip kicks in. Just because they put a spy in charge of security doesn’t mean anything is wrong. There is no security breach in Ba Sing Se.

So please also ignore another story, this one from The Canadian Press, about how the FBI had to call up the RCMP to tell them a spy in the Canadian Navy named Jeffrey Delisle had been funneling vital Five Eyes secrets to the Russians for years prior to his arrest in 2012. They had already told the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which then watched him do it for months but didn’t tell anyone, including the cops, for fear of having their surveillance techniques exposed in court.

Outside Wonderland, there’s no point having surveillance techniques if you can’t act on what they reveal. But in Wonderland, the RCMP sprang into committee and began an investigation so time-consuming the Americans considered luring Delisle to the United States and nabbing him. (By the way I do not deny the American government’s carefully honed capacity for massive ineptitude either. But through long necessity they have been slightly less ridiculous on security than their allies, which is why they alone in NATO fund their military at a level permitting independent combat operations.)

How bad was the Delisle delay? Never you mind. As CP reported, “The RCMP did not respond to a request for comment,” while the University of Ottawa’s Wesley Wark commented, “There has never been any public accounting of the handling by Canadian authorities of the counter-intelligence investigation.” Well, no. It might cause talk.

As might the fact of massive money laundering in Canada, which is at once obvious and taboo, on the principle that if certain ethnic groups are overrepresented in any kind of antisocial behaviour, you are ostracized if you mention the behaviour at all, let alone the overrepresentation, lest dots should connect themselves. Including about soaring house prices in some Canadian cities, notably Vancouver, because of shadowy offshore real-estate speculation.

Even so, thanks to Global we now know Ortis may have been involved with a foreign actor laundering some $15 billion a year for “Latin American, Chinese, and Mideast drug cartels, and terror groups including Hezbollah.” The question is: Do we care?

Here it is tempting to blame governments for failing to act or alert citizens. But in truth, they give us tacit permission to ignore it and we return the favour. For once, we really are all in it together. So back to those lovely lockdowns. Boo Trump.

John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.