SOURCE: Real Estate Agent Gillian Burnside

October 29, 2014 10:00 ET

Ottawa Commercial Real Estate Agent Gillian Burnside Receives Apology From RCMP in Settlement That Acknowledges Damages From Unknown Source Who Provided RCMP Information to the Media

Harmful Half-Life of Online News Media Contributed to Three Years of Professional Torment

OTTAWA, ON--(Marketwired - Oct 29, 2014) - It started out as an honour -- an opportunity to secretly assist the RCMP's Technical Investigation Services Branch with commercial real estate services to secure and lease premises for a national covert security project identified only as project RAVE.

It descended into a nightmare of negative publicity when Ottawa commercial realtor Gillian Burnside ultimately came to see her name featured in a front-page story in the Ottawa Citizen's City section on Saturday Oct. 5, 2011. The headline read, "RCMP lease case leads to search of realty office."

The article followed a series of earlier stories beginning on Feb. 5, 2010 that linked Burnside's then boyfriend, an RCMP Superintendent and "top covert operations expert", to an alleged fraudulent $3 million lease agreement, and falsely stated among other things that his "realtor girlfriend" benefitted from a $70,000 commission on the deal.

Burnside started legal action to defend her reputation and has reached a mediated settlement with the RCMP. The two sides have issued a joint statement.

Joint Statement Re: Settlement of Ontario Superior Court file No. 13-56724

October 29, 2014 - The RCMP and Gillian Burnside, an Ottawa commercial real estate agent, have agreed to settle the action brought by Ms. Burnside to their mutual satisfaction.

The RCMP hereby offers a public apology for any damages caused to Ms. Burnside's personal and professional reputation as a result of the publicity garnered after an unknown source provided RCMP information to the media about her acting on behalf of the RCMP in a 2009 real estate transaction. The RCMP apologies to the Plaintiff for any damage caused to her reputation.

Further and in hopes of correcting negative publicity when Ms. Burnside was named in media reports, the RCMP acknowledges that Ms. Burnside acted professionally and provided valuable commercial real estate services to the RCMP. The RCMP has never asserted that Ms. Burnside acted improperly when providing those services. The RCMP would not hesitate to recommend Ms. Burnside's commercial real estate services to others.

"What happened after that newspaper story came out has been a nightmare. The article and associated negative comments spread on news sites and blogs across the Internet," stated Burnside, who was not able to defend herself against any of the allegations due to her real estate agreement with the RCMP. The matter, ironically, was to "be accorded a high degree of confidentiality for the safety and security of our Members".

"With this agreement in place, and with the incorrect and biased tone of the disclosed information given to the media, I felt defenseless," she said. "Anyone who did an Internet search on my name with the words 'Ottawa' or 'real estate' would incorrectly assume that I was involved in some sort of fraudulent activity with the nation's police force. My reputation as a realtor was tarnished, something that I have had to overcome.

"The insult in all of this is that it took years to disclose the truth -- that the process of my selection as a realtor to help the RCMP find a location for project RAVE was completely legitimate. I was a strong candidate because I had the right skill set, and in fact I represented the key 'known and trusted' element of a covert operation," said Burnside.

After her name appeared in the local news, as well as being splashed across web sites including Canada.com, Castanet, Fairwhisleblower.ca and WikiWorldBook.com, Burnside, her family, friends, colleagues and anyone on earth with access to the Internet could read about themes of secrecy, covert activity, and the then-couple's misrepresented fraud.

The crux of the matter -- investigations of her then partner on several allegations, one being he concealed the relationship, by the OPP and RCMP -- garnered no criminal charges whatsoever and all internal RCMP charges were dismissed. The final verdict was announced and published in the Ottawa Citizen Jan. 31, 2014. RCMP Inspector James Knopp, who chaired the hearing, declared that the investigation was "absent of evidence", and confirmed, "the Superintendent not only disclosed the relationship early on, but that he was under no under obligation to do so."

The RCMP acknowledges that despite their investigation into the source of the information that affected Burnside, they have not yet identified the "unknown source" that prompted the writing of a series of stories for the Ottawa Citizen.

As part of the proceedings and in a letter in support of Burnside, her present boss, Michael Church, Managing Director of the Ottawa Commercial Real Estate office of Avison Young Canada Inc., offered the following observations about the impact of the RCMP and OPP investigations that followed her for three years.

"All we have to trade on is our reputation and integrity. A story like the one that appeared in the local paper, and now lives in perpetuity on the Internet, can cast a long shadow."

"After my name appeared in the newspaper in Ottawa I quickly learned the powerful and enduring impact the media and Internet can have on your reputation, and how little control I had due to the circumstances of the matter. I realized that I had to retain my lawyer David Jewitt, to protect my reputation," said Burnside. "It's been a long and difficult road and I appreciate his support and diligence in the matter.

What I can now say is that I have turned the page on this difficult time. I needed the RCMP to act on the integrity they stand for, and I am pleased that in the end, they did the right thing."

Details of any financial compensation are not available under the terms of Burnside's mediated settlement.

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