RCMP analysts have warned government and industry that environmental extremists pose a "clear and present criminal threat" to Canada's energy sector, and are more likely to strike at critical infrastructure than religiously inspired terrorists, according to a report released under Access to Information.
Written by the force's critical infrastructure intelligence team, the 22-page RCMP document argues there is a "growing criminal phenomenon" associated with environmentalism that aims to interfere with regulatory reviews and force companies to forego development.
"Environmental ideologically motivated individuals including some who are aligned with a radical, criminal extremist ideology pose a clear and present criminal threat to Canada's energy sector," said the report, written in March 2011. Since then, the RCMP has held regular meetings with energy companies and federal officials to review potential threats to infrastructure, and faces formal complaints that it conducted surveillance on environmental groups that oppose construction of Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway pipeline.
The paper highlighted Canada's oil sands sector as one that has attracted considerable opposition because it is a major producer of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Law enforcement and national security officials worry about a "growing radicalized environmentalist faction" who oppose the oil sands and other energy development, it said.
The oil industry has run into vehement opposition to plans for crude oil pipelines through British Columbia and across the country to the port of Saint John, N.B. But the oil sands sector needs access to new markets – whether in the U.S. Gulf Coast, Asia Pacific, or the Atlantic basin – if it is going to meet ambitious growth plans that would see production doubling to four million barrels per day by 2025.
Some First Nations leaders warned their people may resort to whatever means necessary to block construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline. But neither First Nation leaders nor environmental groups have advocated violence.
Most of Canada's counter-terrorism effort has been aimed at international jihadis, and there have been a number of high-profile prosecutions against Canadian residents who plotted to conduct attacks either at home or abroad.
"In reality, criminal occurrences attributed to environmentalists have and are more likely to, occur within Canada," the report said. It added that the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) monitors individuals and organizations that might be involved in domestic terrorism, "including the threat or use of violence by groups advocating for issues such as the environment."
Carleton University criminologist Jeff Monaghan, who obtained the document, said the RCMP authors constructed a trend from isolated incidents. He worries police and other security agencies are using anti-terrorism legislation to broaden their investigation and monitoring of groups who oppose development.
RCMP spokesman Greg Cox denied the force is targeting protesters or environmental groups in general. "The RCMP does not investigate individuals, groups or movements, but will investigate the criminal activity of any individuals who threaten the safety and security of Canadians."
Neither Mr. Cox, nor CSIS spokeswoman Tahera Mufti would comment on formal complaints launched by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association that claim the agencies have conducted improper surveillance activities against law-abiding citizens who oppose the gateway project.
Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ filed the complaints with the RCMP's Commission for Public Complaints and the Security Intelligence Review Committee, backed by numerous documents obtained under Access to Information, which, he said, show the two agencies were actively monitoring and even infiltrating environmental and aboriginal groups involved in Gateway hearings before the federal review panel, which wrapped up last year.