Martin Lukacs – Journalism

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For a blog post about the RCMP response to the story, see below.–rcmp-spied-on-b-c-natives-protesting-pipeline-plan-documents-show

RCMP spied on B.C. natives protesting pipeline plan, documents show

Published on Wednesday May 09, 2012

MARK BLINCH/REUTERSChief Na’Moks of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, left, Chief Martin Louie of Nadleh Whut’en, centre, and Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik’uz nation attend Enbridge’s annual shareholders imeeting in Toronto on Wednesday.
Martin Lukacs and Tim Groves
Special to the Star

The RCMP has been spying on a group of British Columbia First Nations whose vocal opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline has taken them to the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Toronto, according to documents obtained through an access-to-information request.

The documents show that a provincial RCMP unit has been closely tracking the potential for “acts of protest and civil disobedience” by the Yinka Dene Alliance, a coalition of northern B.C. First Nations who have been at the centre of resistance to Enbridge’s $5.5 billion pipeline proposal.

Their territory covers a quarter of the route of the pipeline, which would carry more than 500,000 barrels of oilsands crude from Alberta through pristine territory to Kitimat, B.C., for export by supertanker to Asia and other markets.

The revelations add ammunition to critics who have charged that the Harper government is waging a campaign to demonize legitimate opponents of resource developments like the Northern Gateway, by labelling them as radicals or including them in Canada’s “counter-terrorism” strategy.

Saik’uz First Nation Chief Jackie Thomas, a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance who made a cross-country trip on the “Freedom Train” to protest in Toronto against the pipeline on Wednesday, said she has had suspicions for some time about RCMP surveillance.

“We’ve always been peaceful, but this is how they try to paint us as the enemy,” said Thomas, a grandmother and mother of four concerned that an oil spill could destroy the lands she hunts and fishes on with many of her community members.

“The federal government seems to be using all its arms to push through this project against the will of anyone who opposes it, but we won’t be deterred. It is not a crime to defend our land and waters from a tarsands pipeline and to make the future safe for our grandkids.”

According to the documents, the RCMP unit gathered intelligence from unspecified “industry reports,” newspapers and websites, and Facebook and Flickr photo accounts.

They also appear to have monitored private meetings, including one between First Nations and environmental organizations held in Fraser Lake, B.C., at the end of November, which Thomas says was not announced publicly.

The meeting’s purpose was “to strengthen the alliance between First Nations and environmental groups opposing Enbridge,” an intelligence report from December states.

Enbridge declined to comment about whether it has been exchanging information with the RCMP.

The monthly intelligence reports note that the oil company “will experience increasingly intense protest activity due to the environmental sensitivity of the Northern Gateway path, combined with the fact that the territory has never been ceded to the Crown by First Nations in B.C.”

The pipeline would cross more than 700 rivers and streams, whose abundance of fish has spawned an economy integral to the region, and three vital watersheds: the Mackenzie, the Fraser and the Skeena.

More than 100 First Nations have banned an Enbridge pipeline from their territories, declaring “we will not allow our fish, animals, plants, people and ways of life to be placed at risk.”

An intelligence report notes that the Yinka Dene Alliance will show an “increasing propensity and likelihood of utilizing blockades and confrontation to deter industry from accessing disputed territory.”

With opposition growing among the B.C. population, including NDP leader Adrian Dix, likely the next premier, Enbridge will face an uphill battle to build the pipeline.

As previously reported in the Star, a national RCMP surveillance program monitoring First Nations that ran between 2007 and 2010 shared similar intelligence reports about First Nations with the private sector, including energy companies.

According to newly released documents, since the closure of that national program the surveillance has continued under different RCMP branches.

A RCMP spokesperson said intelligent reports are provided only to law-enforcement agencies.

The provincial unit has been tracking protests by other B.C. First Nations, including opposition to the Pacific Trails pipeline that would bring liquefied natural gas to the coast for export, and the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline carrying Alberta crude oil to tankers in Vancouver.

The RCMP also kept tabs on conflicts over logging, mining, and fracking, and monitored ongoing and potential court cases involving First Nations.

RCMP reacts to exposure of its surveillance of BC Indigenous protest

In response to our Toronto Star article exposing a police unit that monitored Indigenous protest in BC, the  RCMP issued a letter — see below — to “First Nations Leaders and Communities”.

They call the article “irresponsible,” “sensationalist” and “not correct.”

Sounds to me like damage control, but let’s assess their concerns.

The letter is mostly a quibble with our use of the terms “spying” and “surveillance.” This is the definition of “spying” I found in the Oxford dictionary: “to work for a government or other organization by secretly obtaining information about enemies or competitors.”

The public didn’t know an RCMP division was monitoring First Nations protests. It wasn’t exactly advertised. Wouldn’t that make it a case of “secretly obtaining information”? And wouldn’t that constitute “spying”?

The RCMP spokesperson writes: ‘the journalist used words like RCMP “spying” and “surveillance”, somehow suggesting we were infiltrating meetings and so on. I assure you this was not the case and the information was collected from open source as well as discussion with First Nations leadership.’

First, we never stated, or even implied, that they infiltrated meetings. Certainly, the kind of spying we were describing wasn’t of the break-and-entering, phone-tapping and room-bugging variety. Police use those techniques and others, of course, but the kind of surveillance we exposed was of a different sort — the political targetting of groups engaged in activities perceived as a threat to the status quo. (There is plenty of evidence to show that this surveillance, under the federal Conservative government, is escalating because of increased First Nation protest in the face of unwanted resource extraction and development.)

Interestingly, the spokesperson has nothing to say about the “industry reports,” nor how they found out about a private meeting between First nations and environmental organizations.

What also caught my eye was that the RCMP spokesperson acknowledges they gathered information from discussions with First Nation leadership (this might explain how they found out about the aforementioned meeting).

These conversations are obviously not public. Which makes it sound like the very definition of cultivating informants — another method of spying and surveillance.

Would the RCMP be able to reveal which “First Nations leadership” it consulted?  Perhaps it happened with a figure like Elmer Derrick, the negotiator with the Gitxsan Treaty Office who signed a deal with Enbridge and was then hounded by angry community members. He later received a federal post; MP Nathan Cullen suggested it was a reward for supporting the pipeline.

The spokesperson states that the RCMP’s main objective is to monitor any “challenge to public safety.” In the documents, we didn’t find a single occasion where public safety — that is, the prevention of danger to people’s bodies or lives — was at stake. We did, however, notice that the RCMP’s attention was directed at situations where the safety of corporate profits and government control over First Nations territories might be jeopardized. Which might point us to the real nature of the RCMP’s work.

Open Letter to First Nations Leadership and Communities.

From: Paul RICHARDS []
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2012 6:10 PM
Subject: Open Letter to First Nations Leadership and Communities.

Dear First Nation Leaders and Community Members:

RE: Toronto Star Article on RCMP ‘Spying’ on First Nations.

By way of introduction, I am the RCMP Officer based in Vancouver and responsible for Aboriginal Policing Services in British Columbia.

I wanted to write in an effort to be transparent and continue our open dialogue within this province with all First Nations, and the way in which this article was written, in my opinion, is not correct and creates misunderstanding.

To be clear, the documents referred to did not have any surveillance, source,  informant or other information contained in them.

As the reporter mentions in his article, it is simply a summary of issues concerning First Nation communities where dispute or legal protest is occurring, as gathered from open source information (Internet, news reports, social networks, etc).

This document is used by myself and other police managers province-wide to fully understand each and every situation throughout BC and any potential for a situation where a challenge to public safety may possibly develop.

In the article, the journalist used words like RCMP “spying” and “surveillance”, somehow suggesting we were infiltrating meetings and so on. I assure you this was not the case and the information was collected from open source as well as discussion with First Nations leadership. In my view, the way it was reported is sensationalist, irresponsible and misrepresents what is actually contained in it.

It is the expectation of our communities and leadership that we, the police, be informed of the issues in our communities and understand the dynamics for all. We support dissent and legal protest, and understanding  situations and upholding public safety means for everyone, no matter what your viewpoint on a particular issue.

I would also add that we try to maintain awareness of potential public safety issues for all communities throughout BC, not simply First Nations communities. I take issue with the journalist implying otherwise.

I thank you for hearing my voice and opinion on this matter.

Paul Richards, Supt
A/Deputy Criminal Operations Officer –
Core Policing
E Division


Martin Lukacs is a independent journalist based in Montreal.



Written by martin lukacs

May 9, 2012 at 4:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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