#CyberFLASH: Canada’s energy sector braces for rising threat from activists

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Canadian security experts are increasing their vigilance against activists’ threats to the country’s energy infrastructure, as civil-liberties advocates worry about the use of improper surveillance on peaceful opponents to major projects.

In what is billed as a training workshop, Carleton University’s Infrastructure Resilience Research Group is playing host to a closed-door conference on Monday and Tuesday for lawyers, police, regulators and industry representatives on “the challenges of dealing with natural resource development projects and activism.”

One of the organizers, professor emeritus Martin Rudner, said there are significant threats from “domestic extremists” to Canada’s energy infrastructure, including pipelines, generating stations and transmission lines. Prof. Rudner is active on several industry-government-academic networks that consult on protection of critical infrastructure, including the energy and utilities-sector network managed by Natural Resources Canada.

“A lot of these concerns are overblown,” Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ said. He is a board member of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association that has alleged RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) engaged in illegal surveillance of Canadians protesting against Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

The lawyer acknowledged there can be serious threats to existing critical infrastructure – both physical and cyber, from both domestic sources and foreign ones – and that they must be monitored and dealt with. But he said police and security agencies should not be involved in gathering intelligence against opponents of specific resource projects.

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