#CyberFLASH: There’s a Secret Hearing Into Allegations Canada Illegally Spied on Environmental Activists

gavel-stock-image-2A federal watchdog committee is set to begin a round of secret hearings to probe complaints that Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has been illegally snooping on environmental activists working against oil pipeline projects.

In 2014 the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed two complaints against CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) accusing both agencies of spying on environmental and First Nations groups who were organizing against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry crude west from Alberta to BC. The groups allegedly subjected to surveillance include the Sierra Club of BC, the Dogwood Initiative, and ForestEthics Advocacy.

“This kind of activity, what’s being alleged, has no place in democracy. The government and its spy agencies should not be busy surveilling and gathering intelligences on citizenships who are simply living their lives and participating in their communities,” Josh Paterson, BCCLA’s executive director, told VICE News. “There are plenty of undemocratic countries where governments spy on people they don’t agree with. And Canada should not be one of them.”

The BCCLA’s complaints, based on government documents obtained under access to information requests, further allege the spy agency also shared their intelligence about “radicalized environmentalist” groups with the National Energy Board.

CSIS has long denied the BCCLA’s allegations. “CSIS investigates — and advises government on — threats to national security, and that does not include peaceful protest and dissent,” a CSIS spokesperson told the CBC last year.

New federal anti-terror legislation, known as Bill C-51, that recently came into force gives CSIS more powers to probe and disrupt extremist activities and has raised further worries that environmental and aboriginal groups in Canada could be subjected to more surveillance than ever before.

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