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RCMP say they have arrested and charged an Alberta Mountie they accuse of gaining access to a “non-top secret” police records system “in order to assist a foreign actor.”

The force identified the foreign actor as the African country of Rwanda.

Constable Eli Ndatuje has been charged with breach of trust and unauthorized use of a computer under the Criminal Code. He faces a second breach of trust charge related to “safeguarded information” under the Security of Information Act.

According to documents filed last Saturday in the Alberta Court of Justice, Constable Ndatuje is accused of trying to benefit Rwanda by using his privileged police access to a cross-Canada records database known to police as CPIC.

The charge sheets allege that Constable Ndatuje “on or about the 23rd day of April, 2022, at or near Red Deer, Alta., did intentionally and without lawful authority communicate, or agree to communicate, safeguarded information on the Canadian Police Information Centre system to a foreign entity, to wit: the Republic of Rwanda.”

No further information is given in the charging documents about the alleged query of CPIC. The police-controlled database exists to provide law-enforcement officers with immediate information about people living in Canada, including any contacts with police or the criminal justice system.

The charges against Constable Ndatuje have not been proven in court. The RCMP said his first court appearance will be March 11 in Provincial Court of Alberta in Calgary.

“The RCMP is committed to combatting foreign-actor interference at all levels and is actively leveraging all tools at its disposal,” the force said in a statement. “Foreign interference takes on many forms and it is critical that all organizations are aware of the potential harm at any levels.”

The RCMP added it will “pursue any form of interference, whether internal or external.”

A police source told The Globe and Mail that the RCMP first noticed a low-level data breach in Calgary. When they investigated, they saw that information was being shared with either Rwanda’s diplomatic mission in Canada or an individual with a diplomat passport from Rwanda. The Globe is not identifying the source as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the case.

Stephanie Carvin, a national-security expert at Carleton University in Ottawa, said the databases that were likely accessed could provide all sorts of identifying information, including residential addresses, licence-plate numbers, driver’s licences and past criminal charges. “You could use it for targeting individuals or interference operations or blackmail,” she said.

Dr. Carvin said if the RCMP is characterizing this as foreign interference, the case has to be related to threats or harassment or covert activity.

David Himbara, a Rwandan-Canadian economist and scholar who often criticizes the Rwandan government, said the arrest of the RCMP officer is welcome news.

“As an outspoken Rwandan-Canadian who writes about Rwanda’s transnational repression, I have faced all manner of threats and intimidation in Canada and Rwanda,” he told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday.

“Members of my family are serving 25 years of imprisonment as revenge. Here in Canada, I have informed government authorities of the relentless harassment by Rwandan agents that I face. But the outcome was minimal.”

Mr. Himbara, who worked for Rwandan President Paul Kagame for six years but later became a leading critic of the government, said he has been waiting since 2019 for information about the police investigation into the harassment that he has faced in Canada. The police have not shared any information with him because they said their investigation was still under way, he said.

“The arrest of Eli Ndatuje may change the attitude of the Canadian authorities who do not take the threats of the Rwandan totalitarian regime seriously,” he told The Globe.

The Rwandan Patriotic Front, led by Mr. Kagame, has ruled the country since 1994. Washington-based democracy watchdog Freedom House says the country has “suppressed political dissent through pervasive surveillance, intimidation, arbitrary detention, torture, and renditions or suspected assassinations of exiled dissidents.”

A 2021 Freedom House report on transnational repression documented cases of overseas harassment and intimidation by the authoritarian Rwandan government. “The government has physically targeted Rwandans in at least seven countries since 2014, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Kenya, as well as farther afield in South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and Germany,” it said. “Rwandans as far-flung as the United States, Canada, and Australia report intense fears of surveillance and retribution.”

In a report last year, Human Rights Watch described how the Rwandan government has used systematic methods of “surveillance and intimidation” in countries such as Canada to quash dissent and maintain control of Rwandan refugees and diaspora communities.

The report, based on interviews with more than 150 people in 13 countries, documented more than a dozen cases of killings, kidnappings, enforced disappearances and other attacks on Rwandans living abroad.

“The authorities have created an environment where many Rwandans abroad, even those living thousands of miles away from Rwanda, practise self-censorship, refrain from engaging in legitimate political activism, and live in fear of travelling, being attacked, or seeing their relatives in Rwanda targeted,” the report said.

It cited the case of Philippe Basabose, a Rwandan refugee and survivor of the 1994 genocide who lives in Canada. After he helped establish an organization of genocide survivors to oppose the Rwandan government’s politicization of the genocide and its jailing of some survivors, he was subjected to a campaign of online attacks by government-affiliated groups and social-media accounts.

One pro-government YouTube presenter went to the home of Mr. Basabose’s mother in Rwanda and used the footage in an online attack on him.

Last summer, the Mounties charged a retired RCMP inspector, an expert in organized and financial crimes, with conducting foreign interference on behalf of China.

The RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in Montreal alleges that William Majcher used contacts and expertise to help the Chinese Ministry of Public Security in support of its Operation Fox Hunt and Operation SkyNet projects. Beijing casts these efforts as global anti-corruption campaigns but Western security agencies have said they have also been used to target and silence dissidents.

Mr. Majcher’s lawyer has denied that his client has done anything illegal, calling the RCMP evidence an “entirely circumstantial case.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray and Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault have characterized Operation Fox Hunt as a campaign to instill fear, silence dissent and put pressure on political opponents outside China.

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