BCCLA Releases Documents Showing CSIS Illegally Spied on Environmentalists and Indigenous People for Fossil Fuel Industry

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BCCLA Releases Documents Showing CSIS Illegally Spied on Environmentalists and Indigenous People for Fossil Fuel Industry

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has released thousands of pages of heavily-redacted documents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service(CSIS) showing that CSIS illegally spied on Indigenous groups and environmentalists opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. These documents can be read at: https://bccla.org/secret-spy-hearings/

Thousands of pages of heavily-redacted documents suggest Canada’s spy agency gathered information on the protest activities of Indigenous peoples and environmentalists, according to the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA). On Monday, the BCCLA published the entire cache of documents –which were disclosed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) – making them publicly searchable on a website called the “Protest Papers.” ...

These documents “suggest the spy agency illegally spied on the peaceful protest and organizing activities of Indigenous groups and environmentalists who were opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project,” said the BCCLA.

The release of the documents comes as the result of a process which began in 2014, when the BCCLA filed a complaint alleging that CSIS was illegally monitoring Dogwood Initiative, ForestEthics (now Stand.earth), Sierra Club BC, Leadnow.ca (who were opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal), and the Indigenous #Idlenomore movement and sharing this information with the National Energy Board (NEB) and petroleum industry companies.

The BCCLA further alleged that this spying activity “was deterring individuals from associating with environmental groups and expressing their opinions, through actions such as protesting, or signing petitions.”

In a release, the BCCLA said the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) – the body responsible for CSIS oversight – “held secret hearings” in 2015 to further try and determine what happened. During the hearings, “SIRC made an unprecedented gag order preventing witnesses in the hearing, including volunteers and staff of several of the organizations involved, from speaking to anyone about their testimony, forever, at the risk of being held in contempt of court.” The gag order still remains in place and is being challenged by the BCCLA in Federal Court. The association also argues that CSIS legislation strictly restricts Canada’s spies to sharing information only with the Government of Canada or law enforcement. ...

“People can look at these documents and decide for themselves,” said BCCLA Meghan McDermott. “If CSIS claims it wasn’t tracking conservation groups in BC, why did they collect thousands of pages of files relating to groups who engaged in peaceful advocacy and protest?” Calling it a “shocking violation” of freedom of expression, McDermott further questioned why witnesses in the hearing – including staff and volunteers from different groups – are “still under a legal gag order, forever forbidden from repeating what they said in the hearing?”

In a statement, Stand.earth’s Sven Biggs called the case “another example of how the power of big oil subverts Canadian democracy.” Canada’s elected leaders, he said, “need to restore confidence that public institutions, especially law enforcement, are working on the public’s behalf instead of doing the bidding of fossil fuel corporations.”




This state surveillance is a major threat to fredom of expression and speech.

[British Columbia Civil Liberties] Association lawyer Meghan McDermott said it is not known whether the decision to monitor the groups came from within CSIS or from higher in the government.

 McDermott denounced the state surveillance, saying it puts a chill on speaking out against issues, signing petitions and engaging in peaceful protest.

“This all amounts to a shocking violation of freedom of expression,” she said. ...

“People can look at these documents and decide for themselves,” McDermott said. “If CSIS claims it wasn’t tracking conservation groups in B.C., why did they collect thousands of pages of files relating to groups who engaged in peaceful advocacy and protest?” She said the association intends to appeal the SIRC decision to the Federal Court of Canada.

“The documents show there was surveillance going on,” McDermott said. “There was no proximity to violence or any security threat.”

[BCCLA Executive Director]  Josh Paterson was one of those who testified at the hearings. Under a SIRC order, he is forever gagged from saying what he said, heard or saw at the hearings - as are other participants. He said it was CSIS which did the redaction work. A SIRC confidentiality order prevented the association from making a decision and documents regarding the complaint public, but has been partially lifted.

Sierra Club BC campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon said illegal spying on those concerned about protecting the environment is an attack on Canadians’ freedom. “Why should speaking up for clean drinking water and air free from wildfire smoke make us enemies of the state?” Vernon said. “We won’t stand for it.”

International anti-fossil fuel group 350.org spokesman Clayton Thomas-Müller said such surveillance criminalizes dissent, behaviour he characterized as repression. “The state is surveiling and criminalizing Indigenous peoples who are acting within their right to exercise jurisdiction over their lands. This is an abuse of democracy and the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous nations and the state. It is clearly about providing a right-of-way for the mining and energy sector.”

Biggs said one of the revelations was that a ForestEthics meeting in a Kelowna church basement was attended by someone from either CSIS or the RCMP. And, he fears those who have opposed the Trans Mountain pipeline twinning from Edmonton to Burnaby have also been watched using “intimidation tactics by the state.”

Neither the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the prime minister’s office or Northern Gateway proponent Enbridge have responded to requests for comment.



Thanks for posting this! This is an outrage, of course! Listened to some comments on the CBC, totally complacent re the blatant violation to our democratic and civil rights...so guaranteed nothing will be done!
Who is fighting to demand accountability?


Although the BCCLA lawsuit that forced the release of the thousands of pages of documents showing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP started in 2014 during the Harper government, the Liberals have failed to release this information since they came to power, using a gag order from  Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) to block its release until forced to do so by the courts. Obviously, neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals wanted the public to know that illegal spying was occurring in order to support the fossil fuel industry's growth and consequent emission of more greenhouse gases. 

SIRC held an in-camera hearing in 2015 and acknowledged that "ancillary information" might have been gathered on people who were not targets of any CSIS probes. In the end, SIRC cleared CSIS of any wrongdoing.

The BCCLA stated that a "gag order" remains in effect on witnesses at the hearing. ...

Meanwhile, environmental groups are raising an alarm about the threat that CSIS's action poses to democratic discourse in Canada.

“Our movements are about justice," 350.org senior campaign specialist and prominent Indigenous activist Clayton Thomas-Müller said in the BCCLA news release. "To spy on and criminalize Indigenous dissent, then, is to repress Indigenous rights in Canada, and our responsibilities to protect the land. We are transparent, open, base-driven movements that take a nonviolent, peaceful direct action approach.

"The state is surveilling and criminalizing Indigenous peoples who are acting within their right to exercise jurisdiction over their lands," he continued. "This is an abuse of democracy and the nation to nation relationship between Indigenous nations and the state. It is clearly about providing a right-of-way for the mining and energy sector.”

Caitlyn Vernon of Sierra Club B.C. questioned why anyone speaking up for clean drinking water and air free from wildfire smoke should be deemed an enemy of the state.

"Carbon pollution from the oil industry is causing extreme weather, hitting our communities with flooding, wildfires and drought. Illegal spying on concerned residents trying to protect themselves from the impacts of fossil fuels is an attack on our freedoms and our future," she said. "We won’t stand for it.”

Stand.earth's Sven Biggs said that allowing CSIS "to spy on the activities of peaceful, democratically engaged Canadians in order to inform multinational oil companies is the mark of a petrostate".

"This is a tactic aligned with antidemocratic regimes around the world," he added. "Our leaders need to shore up the integrity of our institutions to protect Canada from the global trend toward the erosion of democracy." 

The BCCLA is challenging the gag order imposed by the committee.



Meanwhile, Trudeau's Minister of Foreign Affairs lectures the world in London at a Global Media Freedom conference on the importance of a free and democratic discourse. One may unfortunately safely assume the Canadian police state including a msm highly subservient to official and corporate power will not be a topic for discussion.


Here's the BCCLA backgrounder on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for allegedly spying on the activities of peaceful community groups and activists.



Canadians tend to be complacent, that despite the increasingly authoritarian, extensive monitoring of people's lives elsewhere, many think it couldn't happen here, even though the evidence is it is widespread. 

Kevin Taft, a former three-term Alberta MLA and author of Oil’s Deep State, said the public should be concerned about evidence in the “Protest Papers” that related to the BC Civil Liberties Association’s complaint that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was spying on conservation groups.

“This is one more step in the troubling capture of Canadian democracy by foreignowned oil companies,” Taft said.

“I think Canadians need to be very careful that we are being monitored and tracked and influenced by our own government agencies on behalf of foreign-owned oil companies when we’re really just trying to exercise our democratic rights.”

He said CSIS and the RCMP should be monitoring how companies like Shell, Chevron, Imperial Oil and China National Offshore Oil Corporation are interacting with Canadian politicians and democratic institutions.

China National, he noted, is owned by the Chinese government.

In 2014, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed a complaint with the CSIS watchdog, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, alleging it overstepped legal boundaries by spying on conservation and community groups opposed to the now-defunct Northern Gateway Pipeline in northern B.C.



The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is providing a new tool for people to disccover whether the federal government is spying on them, which is very timely considering the BCCLA's release of more than 8,000 pages of Canadian Security Intelligence Service(CSIS) documents showing that it illegally spied on Indigenous groups and environmentalists. 

With the federal government’s monitoring of Northern Gateway pipeline critics, revealed last year, civil liberties advocates yesterday unveiled a new online tool that helps people find out if authorities are keeping tabs on them. ...

While the B.C. Civil Liberties Association admits there may be no data at all on most people, advocates hope the exercise will shed light on the right of citizens to file Access to Information requests on themselves. Revelations of government monitoring environmentalists and First Nations activists could prove the exercise a fruitful one, they say.

Several weeks before launching the resource, the BCCLA’s executive director gave it a shot himself, and discovered there was enough data on him that an information officer asked him to narrow his search, although as a prominent advocate he added he’s not surprised or concerned as he routinely interacts with the agency. “There’s a number of places my name appears,” Josh Paterson said. “So far, I haven’t hit pay-dirt and haven’t got any of these requests back.”...

The new website is part of the organization’s Don’t Spy On Me campaign, and offers users suggested templates for personal information requests to federal departments including the RCMP, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, the National Energy Board, and Natural Resources Canada. 

While some might dismiss the initiative as a publicity stunt or overly paranoid, Paterson pointed to federal documents obtained last November by the Vancouver Observer which revealed that law enforcement kept tabs on First Nations and environmental activists’ online activities, had knowledge of their private meetings, and had shared intelligence with oil companies.

In February, the chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP revealed he had opened an investigation into a BCCLA complaint over the allegations of spying on citizens.




Here is the url that provides a simple step-by-step guide on how to check whether the Trudeau government has been investigating you.