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The official graduation photo of Jeff Delisle -- a naval officer arrested and charged with espionage -- who finished Sackville High School in suburban Halifax in 1990 (Oliver Moore/ The Globe and Mail/Oliver Moore/ The Globe and Mail)
The official graduation photo of Jeff Delisle -- a naval officer arrested and charged with espionage -- who finished Sackville High School in suburban Halifax in 1990 (Oliver Moore/ The Globe and Mail/Oliver Moore/ The Globe and Mail)

Family 'just coping' as intelligence officer faces espionage charges Add to ...

His voice coming from a speakerphone in Halifax court, patched through from a local prison, the naval intelligence officer at the centre of espionage charges sounded calm Monday, his clear tone betraying no concern about the situation he is in.

But as the charges reverberate across the country, Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle’s family and ex-wife are coping with the fallout.

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Reached at her home in the Ottawa area, SLt. Delisle’s former spouse said she was “overwhelmed” by the reports.

“Of course, I didn’t know. It was shocking and my head is just reeling with all this news,” Jennifer Lee Delisle said. “We’re just coping. The family ... we’re just managing.”

Days of investigation by Globe and Mail reporters in Nova Scotia and Ontario have produced a clearer picture of the accused – and offered glimpses of personal problems that have dogged him since shortly after entering the military.

In 1996 the suspect joined Halifax-based 3 Intelligence Company as an intelligence operator reservist. He married Jennifer in May of 1997 in Lower Sackville, N.S., the same suburb of Halifax where he went to high school.

Less than one year after the wedding he declared personal bankruptcy. The filing cites $18,587 of debts and only $1,000 of assets. The address listed is assigned now to a half-basement apartment on a busy commuter road in the suburbs of Halifax.

At that point the couple had two children, of the four they would eventually have.

In 2001, five years after joining the military, he left the reserves and enrolled as a member of the regular forces. Around that time or a bit later, according to former neighbours, the Delisles moved into a co-op in Lower Sackville designed for families of modest means.

Upon joining the regular forces, the serviceman held the rank of private, the lowest possible. That same year, in the autumn of 2001, he completed a leadership course and was promoted to corporal.

The family settled into the suburban Halifax co-op, making friends with neighbours. But even there their difficult financial circumstances were noted. And, in another hardship during that time, their two young daughters were hit by a vehicle while walking barely a block away from their home.

Neither was permanently hurt but the 2004 accident put one in hospital. And, years later, SLt. Delisle was still trying to try to get money – to be put in trust for his daughters – from the man who hit them.

In 2006 he received another promotion, to sergeant, and the family transferred to Ottawa, where he took a job with the Chief of Defence Intelligence group. For two years he worked there and at the Strategic Joint Staff, a central office within the military.

It was while they were in Ottawa in 2007 that the RCMP alleges the spying began. This was not long before the marriage fell apart.

They separated in April of 2008, according to court documents that cite unspecified “certain differences.” As part of the separation agreement, Mr. Delisle assumed the couple’s debts on three credit cards and a consolidated loan.

After the separation, the oldest child, now 19, stayed in Ottawa with Ms. Delisle.

SLt. Delisle had custody of the couple’s remaining children and moved with them to Kingston, Ont. He began a Bachelor of Arts program in 2008 and received his commission as a naval officer that same summer.

The family split up for good in 2010, with the divorce finalized shortly before SLt. Delisle transferred back to Nova Scotia.

He and his three youngest children moved back East so he could take a posting at the Land Force Atlantic Area Headquarters. He later moved to HMCS Trinity and was serving at the intelligence nerve centre when arrested.

The charges shocked many who knew him.

In a brief message to the Globe and Mail the couple’s oldest child, wrote simply: “My father is an amazing dad.”

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