The Bank of Canada is dealing with a serious security breach after a thief smashed the window of Governor Mark Carney's unattended car in Montreal and made off with a travel bag containing classified documents.
Confirming the theft on Tuesday, a Bank of Canada spokesman said the stolen documents had differing levels of security classification, and included staff reports and briefing notes that would not affect markets. None of the documents were related to sensitive policy areas such as the direction of interest rates.
Ian Lee, the MBA director at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business, called the theft "downright embarrassing."
"If it was sort of three levels down or four levels down from the governor, that would be one thing, but when it's so close to the 'office of,' it gives cause for alarm - and I'm sure they will rectify it," he said in an interview.
The Bank of Canada is in charge of the country's monetary policy, and tightly controls the information that it releases. Interest-rate decisions, quarterly economic forecasts and any remarks by Mr. Carney that could influence the behaviour of investors are provided to journalists under strict conditions. Reporters are escorted by an armed guard to a basement room where they turn in their electronic devices and remain "locked up" with the material until the time it's set to be released.
Bank spokesman Jeremy Harrison refused to provide the exact security classifications of the stolen documents, adding that the RCMP is investigating the matter. The bank is still piecing together the circumstances of the Nov. 1 late-afternoon incident, particularly to understand why Mr. Carney's chauffeur was not near the official vehicle in the city's downtown core.
"The governor had gone to a meeting. The car and its contents were left in the care of one of the bank's official drivers, and under his care, the car was broken into and a bag containing some items was stolen," Mr. Harrison said.
He added the theft has led to a review of the bank's "security procedures, policies and training."
Bank drivers are expected to "exercise sound judgment" and "demonstrate security awareness," according to the bank.
The RCMP's Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in Montreal is handling the investigation. It has located Mr. Carney's bag and is attempting to determine if all of the stolen objects have been recovered, the bank and the RCMP said. The police refused to say whether an arrest has been made.
Mr. Carney had gone to Montreal in a Chrysler 300, which has slightly tinted side windows and was driven by one of the agency's three official chauffeurs. Mr. Harrison described the theft as an "unfortunate incident," but refused to state whether it has led to disciplinary measures.
"We have formal security procedures in place with respect to our official vehicles, and in light of this recent incident, those procedures are currently being reviewed," Mr. Harrison said.
The incident raises questions about the Security of Information Act, which deals with the "wrongful communication, use, reception, retention and failure to take reasonable care of sensitive government information" by public servants. In particular, there is a provision that makes it an offence if a civil servant "fails to take reasonable care" of secret information.
However, the Ontario Superior Court struck down portions of the act in 2006, when Madam Justice Lynn Ratushny concluded that the provisions against leaking government data were unacceptably broad and vague.
It will be up to the RCMP to investigate whether the act was breached in this recent case, and whether it can still be applied despite the 2006 ruling.
This is at least the third security breach for federal officials during the government of Stephen Harper, after incidents involving former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier and former natural resources minister Lisa Raitt.
In 2008, Mr. Bernier resigned as the minister of foreign affairs after secret briefing notes related to a NATO summit ended up in the hands of his one-time girlfriend, Julie Couillard. At the time, Mr. Harper said the onus was on his top officials to take care of the material that is handed to them, calling Mr. Bernier's resignation a "warning."
"What matters here is that rules respecting government classified documents were broken," Mr. Harper said.
The government suffered more embarrassment in 2009, when Ms. Raitt, who was at Natural Resources at the time, left secret documents about the nuclear industry at the CTV offices in Ottawa. Her aide took the fall for the incident, leading the opposition to charge that the government was sending the wrong message to government officials.
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