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Saint John chapter concerned by RCMP surveillance of anti-Energy East pipeline activists

More than 550 people marched in Saint John against the Energy East pipeline at this May 2015 protest.

The Council of Canadians Saint John chapter is raising concerns about RCMP surveillance of environmental activists.

National Observer reporter Bruce Livesey has written this feature article titled, Spies in our midst: RCMP and CSIS snoop on green activists.

Livesey reports on how RCMP Constable Joanne Spacek, who works for a ‘Special Projects Unit’ in Moncton, approached Saint John chapter activist Lynaya McKinley last summer after a National Energy Board hearing in Fredericton about the proposed 1.1 million barrel per day TransCanada Energy East tar sands pipeline.

In the article, McKinley recounts, “All of a sudden she started talking to me and she said my first name – and she even knew how to say my first name, which is unusual. And she said ‘Oh you are with the Council of Canadians aren’t you’ and I said ‘Do I know you?’ I felt it was quite intimidating. It makes me wonder ‘Are these people spying on me? Do they have a file on me somewhere? Why would this person know my name?’… I thought it was an invasion of privacy, really.”

The article adds, “McKinley says Spacek told her she had seen McKinley at a march against Energy East held the previous year.”

That very likely refers to the May 30, 2015 ‘March to the End of the Line’ protest.

The chapter recently sent a letter to the RCMP saying that Constable Spacek had also attended a meeting in January without identifying herself.

The article notes, “This past January Spacek, ‘invited herself to a meeting organized by Red Head residents with the Saint John Fire Department and Police Department, a meeting dedicated to Emergency Measures (e.g. warning notices, evacuation) issues of concern to the residents. ‘This meeting … was not an open, public meeting but was arranged through invitation to Red Head residents… During the meeting, Constable Spacek never introduced herself, or her role, at the meeting, and spent the meeting observing and making notes in a black hardcover note book.”

Livesey highlights, “Documents released through Canada’s access to information laws – requested by media, academics and NGOs – reveal who the government is spying on, how they do it, whom they select as targets, and by which government agencies. The espionage network includes the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), along with the National Energy Board (NEB), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and departments of Public Safety, Natural Resources, Transport, Indigenous Affairs and Defence. It also involves provincial police, such as the Sûreté du Québec and Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), as well as some municipal police forces.”

And he notes, “Moreover, these agencies and departments share the information they gather with one another and, more importantly, with numerous energy sector companies, such as Enbridge Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., to name two. In fact, evidence suggests the federal government has, in effect, become the security arm of the energy industry.”

In November 2011, The Council of Canadians and Unifor (then CEP) issued this media release asking, “Why is the RCMP spying on activist groups and then briefing energy corporations and banks?”

The Council of Canadians rejects the surveillance and criminalization of climate justice activism, which has been particularly focused on Indigenous peoples.