Federal agencies mishandled sensitive documents more than 5,000 times last year

People make their way along Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

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 Conservative MP Jamie Schmale show 38 agencies reported more than 5,000 incidents between Jan. 1 and Dec. 10 in which classified or otherwise protected documents were stored in a way that did not meet security requirements.

That averages out to about 20 such incidents across the government each working day.

The real 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.

The government says violations are identified through routine security sweeps, an ongoing awareness measure designed to continually improve practices.