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Canadian government accused of spying on pipeline activists

Attorneys for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed a complaint with the Security Intelligence Review Committee.


Dell Cameron


Posted on Feb 8, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 6:54 pm CDT

Two top Canadian agencies are being accused of spying on environmental activists who oppose oil pipeline construction.

Attorneys for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed a complaint with the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

During a press conference at the Vancouver Public Library, Josh Paterson, executive director of BCCLA, said, “While the Enbridge and Northern Gateway hearings were in process, the RCMP and CSIS were involved in systematic spying and monitoring against Canadians.” The Enbridge Northern Gateway is a proposed pipeline intended to stretch 1,177 miles and run through Northern British Columbia.

The formal complaint was filed after BCCLA reviewed documents released by the Canadian government following an information request. According to BCCLA, the documents reveal that pipeline opponents were regularly monitored at the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. The groups allegedly spied on include ForestEthics Advocacy,, and members of the First Nation’s Idle No More movement, among others.

#Spying on anti-#Enbridge groups was illegal & undemocratic. @bccla calls for accountability. #DontSpyonMe

— BC Civil Liberties (@bccla) February 7, 2014

Additionally, BCCLA claims that information obtained from the surveillance of activists was likely provided to the NEB, oil industry representatives, and Natural Resources Canada (NRC), the ministry responsible for safeguarding Canada’s environment.

In a statement, Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, denied requesting the surveillance: “The NEB will often work with the RCMP to protect the safety of everyone involved. Neither I, nor any member of my department, gave instructions to any federal agency in this matter.” One of the documents released to BCCLA, however, discusses a briefing held by the NRC, which reportedly included presentations by both RCMP and CSIS, according the Globe and Mail.

“I was shocked and disgusted to learn that the police and the National Energy Board colluded to keep track of First Nations people who are simply speaking out, including those who participate in Idle No More,” Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said in a press release from BCCLA. “This is the kind of thing we’d expect to see in a police state, and it’s a violation of our freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”

“It is unclear whether covert surveillance, wiretaps or other means were used in gathering the intelligence,” BCCLA’s statement concluded.

The allegations follow the recent leak of classified documents that revealed a separate incident in which Canadian intelligence allegedly collected metadata on thousands of travelers at a major airport. The new software that allowed the hack was intended to be shared between Canada, the U.S., Britain, New Zealand, and Australia, the so-called “Five Eyes.”

H/T Globe and Mail | Photo by Saffron Blaze

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*First Published: Feb 8, 2014, 3:49 pm CST