By: Alex Boutilier | Toronto Star, Published on May 14 2015
OTTAWA—Canada’s spies are warning the federal government about an “extremist” threat to natural resource development, internal documents show.
“Extremists” have united both in person and online in their opposition to Canadian natural resource projects, according to a September 2014 “threat overview” prepared by CSIS for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.
The heavily censored document does not outline specific threats or projects, nor does it single out particular groups. But it lists the threat between sections on terrorist travellers and a growing anti-Muslim movement advocating violence in Canada.
The CSIS report, obtained under Access to Information law, mirrors strong language in a January 2014 report from the RCMP warning of an “anti-Canadian petroleum movement.” The report, obtained by Greenpeace, said that movement is well financed and organized, and includes “peaceful activists, militants, and violent extremists.”
The RCMP specifically referred to 2013 shale gas protests in New Brunswick, where protesters from the Elsipogtog First Nation clashed with police.
Canada’s spies and police have monitored all manner of protests — including environmental activism — even if those demonstrations remained peaceful.
The Conservative government has defended the practice of monitoring that dissent, saying even peaceful protests can turn ugly and public safety must be maintained in the event of violence.
Activists have expressed concerns that expanded powers for CSIS, contained within the government’s anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51, will mean increased monitoring and “disruption” of environmental and First Nations protests.
Craig Forcese, who specializes in national security law and has been a vocal critic of Bill C-51, says violent protests may fall under CSIS’s purview. The question for Forcese, however, is how many people fall under CSIS’s definition of extremist.
“It’s not improper, it seems to me, to be concerned about someone who might be preparing a pipe bomb, or might be involved in the sabotage of a pipeline,” Forcese said in an interview Thursday.
“The question is how broad the brush stroke is, and that’s really difficult to answer.”
The Star requested an interview with Blaney’s office, and included specific questions about how the government defines “extremist” activity and what natural resource projects have been threatened by extremists.
“The safety and security of Canadians is of the utmost importance to our government, and we take any threat to the security of Canadians and their livelihood seriously,” said Blaney’s spokesperson, Jeremy Laurin, in a written statement.
“Our police officers have a mandate and responsibility to investigate threats as they arise.
“Our government respects and protects the right of Canadians to participate in lawful protest activities.”
NDP environment critic Megan Leslie said there are valid reasons to monitor people suspected of plotting attacks or violence. But Leslie worries that the “extremist” label could be applied too broadly.
“Because of the way (the government is) so carelessly using language, or purposefully using language to be very broad and apply to everyone, that’s where the danger lays,” Leslie said Wednesday.
“Either they’re tossing around words like ‘extremist’ willy-nilly, which is pretty terrible, or they’re doing it intentionally, which is just as terrible. People are going to get scooped up in this who are not threats to national security.”
Seems to me that Bill C51 has people more worried over being “labeled” than trying to find out Stephen Harper’s real reason for passing this bill as Law. His behavior is darker than Keystone’s Black Snake.