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Government Operations Centre to monitor all protests

Democracy rally in Ottawa

The Council of Canadians denounces the Harper government’s order to monitor all political demonstrations across the country. Rather than this ‘big brother’ surveillance and criminalization of social justice activism, we implore the government to hear and respond to the concerns being expressed including the protection of water against fracking, Indigenous rights, and the threat posed by the government’s reckless pursuit of oil and gas extraction that defies scientific evidence about its impact on climate change.

The Ottawa Citizen reports, “The federal government is expanding its surveillance of public activities to include all known demonstrations across the country, a move that collects information even on the most mundane of protests by Canadians. The email requesting such information was sent out Tuesday by the Government Operations Centre in Ottawa to all federal departments.”

The article notes, “The Government Operations Centre has also been involved, as an intelligence clearing house, in compiling information on Aboriginal protesters. Tuesday’s email, however, significantly expands its surveillance activities to include all demonstrations by any person or group. …Last year the Government Operations Centre was involved in coordinating a response to Aboriginal demonstrations against fracking. The GOC distributed a map of the area where the RCMP had conducted raids on protesters who had seized an oil company’s vehicles. It also produced a spreadsheet detailing 32 planned events in support of anti-fracking. Those included a healing dance in Kenora, Ont., a prayer ceremony in Edmonton and an Idle No More ‘taco fundraiser, raffle and jam session’ planned at the Native Friendship Centre in Barrie, Ont., according to documents obtained through the Access to Information Act by APTN National News.”

The Government Operations Centre is “compiling a comprehensive listing of all known demonstrations”, but as the news report notes its mandate is to “assesses the requirement for developing plans to prevent or deal with emergencies such as pandemics, earthquakes, forest fires and floods.”

This appears to be part of a disturbing pattern of monitoring by the Harper government of those who oppose its reckless oil and gas extraction agenda.

In late 2011, the Toronto Star reported that an RCMP unit was created “in early 2007 to monitor protests by First Nations, including those that would attract national attention or target ‘critical infrastructure’ like highways, railways and pipelines, according to RCMP documents.” The article highlights, “The documents, obtained through access to information requests, include an RCMP slideshow presentation from the spring of 2009, which says the intelligence unit reported weekly to approximately 450 recipients in law enforcement, government, and unnamed ‘industry partners’ in the energy and private sector.”

And late last year, the Vancouver Observer reported, “Before the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel hearings on the proposed Enbridge (Northern Gateway) oil pipeline, the NEB coordinated the gathering of intelligence on opponents to the oil sands. The groups of interest are independent advocacy organizations that oppose the Harper government’s policies and work for environmental protections and democratic rights, including Idle No More, ForestEthics, Sierra Club, EcoSociety, Leadnow, Dogwood Initiative, Council of Canadians and the People’s Summit.”

While the Harper government criminalizes protest, polls show that protests are actually popular among most Canadians. Polls have shown that 62 per cent of Canadians supported the Occupy movement, 56 per cent supported the protests in Quebec over increased tuition fees, and 40.6 per cent supported Idle No More.

Further reading
Anti-G8/G20 groups were under police surveillance
Police spying on community organizations and activists
Council condemns surveillance of First Nations
RCMP reportedly monitoring anti-fracking activists
RCMP to lead new security unit to ‘protect’ Alberta’s energy industry
RCMP spying on the Yinka Dene Alliance