The Council still opposes RCMP and CSIS surveillance of activists

Amanda Polchies raises an eagle feather to RCMP officers raiding a Mi'kmaq camp on October 17, 2013. Photo by Ossie Michelin.

The Council of Canadians is concerned by the RCMP and CSIS monitoring of Indigenous and environmental activists, and especially alarmed by these bodies sharing information with fossil fuel corporations.

As the National Observer reported this week in an investigation called ‘Canada’s spies collude with the energy sector’, the RCMP and CSIS have been surveilling activists involved in fossil fuel resistance and Indigenous activists involved in efforts like Idle No More.  Beyond surveillance, the RCMP and CSIS share this information with government other government agencies as well as private fossil fuel companies:

“Starting in 2005, Natural Resources Canada, in collaboration with CSIS and the RCMP, began hosting twice-yearly classified briefings with executives from energy companies at CSIS’s headquarters in Ottawa - which continue to this day.”

RCMP surveillance of Indigenous and environmental activists is not new. We have been aware of this surveillance through frontline experiences for over a decade.

Just after the January 2006 federal election, the federal government stepped up surveillance of First Nations to monitor protests over land claims, according to internal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and RCMP documents. In 2007 an RCMP unit was established to monitor protests by First Nations that they believed could pose a threat to 'critical infrastructure' like pipelines and railways.

In November 2013, we expressed dismay that the National Energy Board’s 'security team' had coordinated intelligence gathering with the CSIS and the RCMP on opponents of the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline. Those opponents included the Council of Canadians, Idle No More, the Sierra Club and the Dogwood Initiative.

In 2016 we learned about Project SITKA - a highly coordinated surveillance effort developed by the RCMP after the growth of the Idle No More movement - and called on the federal government to stop criminalizing Indigenous activists. APTN reported "Rattled by Idle No More and Mi’kmaq-led anti-shale gas demonstrations [at the Elsipogtog First Nation in 2013], the RCMP compiled a list of 89 individuals considered 'threats' as part of an operation aimed at improving the federal police force’s intelligence capacity when facing Indigenous rights demonstrations, according to an internal intelligence report."

We believe that this surveillance is a breach of activists’ civil liberties. From the National Observer:  “[Human rights lawyer Paul] Champ argues that the Mounties and CSIS have no legal grounds to spy on people who are opposed to projects that don’t even exist – which is true for most of the pipelines being discussed.” We agree with this assessment, and urge the Trudeau government to respect the rights of all Canadians, including those who oppose fossil fuel projects and ongoing colonization.

We call on the Trudeau government to respect the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its guarantee of the right to free, prior and informed consent. Without that fundamental respect for Indigenous rights and the obligation to protect land and water from extreme energy projects, Indigenous peoples and their allies will once again be put in the position of having to assert those rights.

We will continue to support frontline and grassroots people fighting to protect land and water from the risks of fossil fuel and other unwise developments, and we are grateful to those who fight for our collective future.