APTN National News
The RCMP closely monitored the movements of an Indigenous environmental activist as it tightened surveillance around possible protests in northern British Columbia targeting the energy firm behind the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, according to “confidential” documents obtained by APTN National News.
Documents from the RCMP’s Suspicious Incidents Report (SIR) database show police closely monitored the movements of a member of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) during the summer of 2010 in northern British Columbia. According to the documents, the RCMP considers IEN an “extremist” group and a trip by an IEN member to a direct action camp in July of that year created a flurry of database activity involving RCMP officers with the force’s national security operations in B.C. and Ottawa.
The documents were obtained under the Access to Information Act by academic Jeffrey Monaghan, who is a criminology instructor at Carleton University and completing a doctorate at Queen’s University.
“When you read the document closely it shows an intimate surveillance,” said Monaghan. “(The documents) show the breadth of and the normalization of the regular systematic surveillance of protest groups, of people who criticize government policy and critics of energy policy. You have national security bureaucracies, agencies, focused on domestic protest groups and it has nothing to do with terror, but with the energy economy.”
IEN is headquartered in Bemidji, Minn., and describes itself as a grassroots organization focused on climate and social justice issues, according to its website. IEN is headed by prominent Dine’-Dakota environmentalist Tom Goldtooth. Goldtooth could not be reached for comment.
The documents record entries from RCMP officers into the SIR database. The entries focus on concerns around possible protests in July 2010 against energy firm Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project. The controversial Gateway project would transport bitumen from Alberta’s tarsands to the B.C. coast for loading onto tankers headed to Asian markets. The project received federal cabinet approval but now faces an onslaught of legal challenges from B.C. First Nations.
Enbridge provided the RCMP a list of its events planned for that July. The company was concerned the events could become targets of demonstrations. The list of Enbridge’s activities included a golf tournament in Prince George, B.C., Go Karts for Girls in Fort St. John, B.C., and the Riverboat Days Concerts in Terrace, B.C.
The activities of one individual, however, captured the RCMP’s attention that month.
“Although there is no specific criminal threat, we do have information that a known member of the Indigenous Environmental Network will be heading to Northern B.C. tomorrow for a planned ‘Wetsuweten Direct Action Camp (sic),’” according to the “occurrence report” dated July 7, 2010, written Craig Douglass, with the Southeast District RCMP in British Columbia. “We would like to anticipate and monitor any protests in order to keep you informed if these protests happen in your detachment areas.”
APTN National News contacted a former member of IEN late Wednesday who said they attended the Wet’suwet’en camp during the stated time period. APTN National News failed to connect with the individual, who is currently travelling, for a planned interview Thursday.
The RCMP created a file on the IEN member’s planned trip to the action camp. The file was dated the same day as Douglass’ email.
“Information file opened to gather information involving demonstrations to the Northern Gateway Pipeline,” according to the file, number 20103467. The file was classified as a “Critical Infrastructure-Suspicious Incident.” The file summary goes on to state that the “known member of (IEN)” would be heading to the action camp on July 8, 2010.
The file, which remained active, included three “associated occurrences” dated in 2011. Little detail is provided about these occurrences. The list included the date, whether it happened in the same area, employed a similar modus operandi or was a similar event.
The file also listed a number of groups as “involved persons.” The groups listed include the Defenders of the Land, Direct Action in Canada for Climate Justice, Ontario Public Interest Research Group, Ruckus Society, Global Justice Ecology Project, Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance, Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, the Indigenous Action Movement and the Wet’suwet’en Direct Action Camp.
“These groups listed out are being registered and their names are going into national security databases and when something comes up their names would come up. This has very significant repercussions down the road, it creates perpetual suspicion and perpetual surveillance,” said Monaghan.
The RCMP officers involved on the file included several officers with B.C.’s E Division’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), intelligence analysts from Ottawa and a supervisor from the federal policing operational analysis sector at RCMP headquarters in the capital city.
Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation held an anti-Enbridge pipeline protest in Smithers, B.C., on July 16, 2010. IEN was involved in the protest, along with the Rainforest Action Network, Ruckus Society, Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians, according to the Flickr site of a Six Nations photographer who was at the event.
The file on the IEN member, however, seemed headed for a downgrading.
On July 12, 2010, an analyst with B.C. INSET concluded the file did “not fall within the suspicious incident categories” and would not require imputing in the SIR database. A supervising INSET sergeant then reviewed the file and came to the same determination.
The sergeant, however, was overruled by a senior officer at Ottawa RCMP headquarters. The officer determined the file should be uploaded because IEN was an “extremist” group. The file was also forwarded to the now dismantled Aboriginal Joint Intelligence Group (JIG) and to the RCMP’s main liaison with the energy sector.
“File pertains to extremist groups organizing training for potential disruption of Enbridge pipelines,” reads the overruling entry from Ottawa headquarters. “Request to SIR administrator…to complete a SIR report on the incident in order to capture information of analytical value that pertains to pre-incident training that targets a critical infrastructure sector.”
An RCMP spokesperson said the force could not immediately respond to stated questions from APTN National News on the issue.