The National Energy Board worked with the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service to monitor the risk posed by environmental groups and First Nations in advance of public hearings into Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway project, documents released under Access to Information regulations reveal.
In one e-mail, dated April 19, a member of the RCMP’s Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Team warns that the federal government’s efforts to exclude activist groups from regulatory hearings could result in protesters “targeting” NEB panel members.
“These new hearing procedures have refocused protest activity from the content of the hearings to the conduct of the hearings,” Tim O’Neil, an Ottawa-based RCMP “research specialist” says.
The e-mail – with the subject heading “Security Concerns – National Energy Board – was sent to a number of federal officials, including NEB’s chief security officer Richard Garber.
Noting “sustained opposition” to oil sands expansion, Mr. O’Neil said it was “highly likely that the NEB may expect to receive threats to its hearings and its board members.”
However in an extensive e-mail chain, Mr. Garber and other RCMP analysts said they had not identified any threats or criminal activity, and that protests against the project had so far been peaceful.
The police monitoring of regulatory hearings reflects the growing tension around certain resource projects, as pipeline companies seek NEB approval for a series of highly controversial plans aimed at bringing Alberta crude to new markets. Those include Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway through B.C. and the Line 9 reversal, which would transport western crude through Ontario to Montreal, as well as TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East line that would ship 1.1-million barrels per day to refineries and export terminals in eastern Canada. The projects face fierce opposition from environmentalists, as well as some First Nations communities.
Activists in the U.S. are pledging a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience if President Barack Obama approves TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.
The documents were obtained under Access to Information by an Ottawa-based media outlet Blacklock Group and released to ForestEthics Advocacy, which was among the groups monitored by the RCMP.
“This a light-year leap in the level of paranoia and government action to protect the profits of private companies,” Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby said Thursday. Mr. Ruby, who is chairman of ForestEthics Advocacy, said environmental groups typically endorse only lawful protests. In the rare instances civil disobedience is used as a tactic, it remains peaceful, he added.
The documents make it clear that police have informants from movements like the aboriginal Idle No More movement. They also make reference to police monitoring of the websites, press releases, social media and other public statements of environmental groups including the Council of Canadians, the Dogwood Initiative, the Sierra Club of British Columbia and ForestEthics.
According to other documents previously disclosed under Access to Information, The RCMP and CSIS have identified “extremist” environmental groups and aboriginal protesters as a potential source of domestic terrorism, thereby justifying the monitoring and infiltration of such groups. An RCMP spokesman was unable to comment on the documents on Thursday.
NEB spokeswoman Sarah Kiley said the board was merely doing routine security reviews to ensure the Northern Gateway hearing would remain safe and peaceful.
“Under the Canada Labour Code, we are required to ensure the safety of our NEB staff and NEB members and we would extend that to participants in the hearings,” Ms. Kiley said. “As part of that, we would have a look at the environment to see if there is anything that we should be aware of and make our plans accordingly.”
She added she was not aware of any threat that prompted the contact with police and CSIS.