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Harper government's extensive spying on anti-oilsands groups revealed in FOIs

The National Energy Board, supposedly an independent federal agency, has directly coordinated efforts between CSIS, the RCMP and private oil companies against environmentalist groups and indigenous-rights activists.

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O'Neil then ordered the escalation of RCMP and CSIS intelligence measures following the opening of an SPROS/SIR database file. According to the Government of Canada, SPROS is the new National Security Program’s primary database for the electronic storage, retrieval and management of national security criminal investigations and information, and on a required basis, classified criminal intelligence and other sensitive cases.

"It is highly likely that the NEB may expect to receive threats to its hearings and its board members," O'Neil, said. However, in the same memo he states that there is "no intelligence indicating a criminal threat to the NEB or its members" and "I could not detect a direct or specific criminal threat."
In closing, O'Neill advises recipients to discuss their concerns with the security officials at the National Resources May 23rd classified briefing.

"What is particularly chilling about the Harper administration's approach is the conversion of government agencies to private spy agencies for private sector corporations," Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May said, upon learning about the emails. "What is unacceptable is the marginalization, demonizing, and threat of criminalization of healthy debate in a democracy."
On May 23, 2013, Natural Resources Canada hosted a 'Classified Briefing for Energy & Utilities Sector Stakeholders' in collaboration with CSIS and the RCMP at CSIS's headquarters in Ottawa.

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The briefing has occurred twice annually since 2005: its stated purpose is to discuss national security and criminal risks to critical energy infrastructure. Attendees include government officials, federal ministries, law enforcement agencies and energy stakeholders with high-level security clearances. These meetings have been described as an opportunity for government officials and companies to exchange information "off the record" and form "ongoing trusting relationships" in the protection of national energy infrastructure.

An agenda obtained by Tim Groves and Martin Lukacs at The Guardian last month revealed that breakfast, lunch and coffee was sponsored by Enbridge and a networking reception held at the Chateau Laurier was co-hosted by Bruce Power and Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners. Meetings during this conference included "challenges to energy projects by environmental groups."

Given proof of CSIS and RCMP intelligence resources being afforded to the NEB, and evidence of disclosure across the private sector, it is undetermined how much information is being provided to corporations such as Enbridge and TransCanada Corporation, and to what extent international entities such as CNOOC are also benefiting.

Since coming to power, Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, has used his government apparatus to serve a natural resources development agenda, the Guardian recently wrote, "while creating sweeping domestic surveillance programs that have kept close tabs on indigenous and environmental opposition and shared intelligence with companies.

"Harper has transformed Canada's foreign policy to offer full diplomatic backing to foreign mining and oil projects, tying aid pledges to their advancement and jointly funding ventures with companies throughout Africa, South America and Asia."

The National Energy Board has no spying mandate, according to its website, but serves to function as a regulatory agency over the gas and oil industry, answering to Parliament and the Canadian people.

(24) Comments

zipidachimp November 19th 2013 | 11:11 AM

Thank God someone is paying attention to all the rabble, sponsored largely by foreign interests. My tax dollars at work! Thank you Mr. prime Minister.

Steve Mennie November 19th 2013 | 2:14 PM

Thes 'assholes' as you call them..many of whom are full time employees are the last line of defense between us and a roasted planet..wake up people!


Davey November 19th 2013 | 4:16 PM

Maybe the symbol of the fasces needs to be updated in Canada to represent a bundle of drill rods and pipelines wrapped around the blunt and bloody axe of Conservative ideology?

By the way, the spying automatically extends to everyone who communicates with an activist, or is a member of any First Nation or any environmental organization. Trolls who try to derail the discussion are noted as possible recruits for the PMO.

Feel a cold wind yet?

farmerswithavoice November 19th 2013 | 6:18 PM

if oil/gas industry is good wy are they not liable for there actions. Wy do they need protection by our government.

Leigh November 19th 2013 | 7:19 PM

Only those who are intent on violence or vandalism need be concerned with being watched by security forces.  Then again, this does describe many of the groups opposed to oil and gas production and transportation so I can understand their concerns.

John Taylor November 19th 2013 | 7:19 PM

Who is writing these comments? Does any one of them have basic grade 9 writing skills? Express yourself, yes. But do it with some class.

Forward Thinker November 19th 2013 | 7:19 PM

You seem to believe that anything which does not promote bitumen development and sale is anti Canadian. You might recall that in the sixties the RCMP intelligence arm spied on Quebec separatists and in the process violated the privacy of many law abiding citizens. The outrage led to splitting intelligence off to form a civilian agency known as CISIS. T his seems to indicate a misuse of the agency designed to protect Canadians to once again violate our human rights. when this happens, it is not a big step to the role the KGB and the Gestapo played in other totalitarian states. Freedom is defined by the rights citizens have. You think they should be trampled on to help Foriegn companies make profits while risking our environment and even our economy? Perhaps you should spend some time living in a totalitarian state and experience what you seem to support.

glenn dunn November 19th 2013 | 7:19 PM

Of course our wonderful, responsible Fed.Gov is watching and listening to these Radical Terrorists, backed by foreign monies. It would be a complete dereliction of duty if they did not, clearly. Thank God someone is watching and listening and more Citizens should be.....and don't "you" ever forget it. 

Leona Peterson November 19th 2013 | 8:20 PM

What you fail to realize crime minister harper, is that if I was funded by any interested parties, I would flood the world with so much propaganda, Enbridge would add me to their enemies list just like Harper did.

Now knowing the RCMP are watching my every move( im so darn bad to be a non supporter of the gas and oil industries), maybe I will get asked out on a date as I can pay for the meal, you know I have to spread the wealth around.

What should be noted about me, Tsimshian( Salmon People) and yes my whole objective is to get the tar sands  SHUT DOWN!
Now that you now my exact position , please feel free to come and watch me smoke a joint and hug a tree. Bill Mahr  will be in attendance.

thank you for your wonderful unhostile presence I feel watching me.

Leona Peterson November 19th 2013 | 8:20 PM

At the first JRP  meetings, the RCMP threatened to arrest my sister because she hit her drum with her drum stick in support of what our MP was saying during his statement against Enbridge.  The lawyers for Enbridge were snakey and ugly people. I hope they read this statement and have difficulty sleeping at night as they are wicked  and deserve no rest.

Lori Roberts November 19th 2013 | 8:20 PM

The gate is closed and the way will never be opened to Enb ridge.. We will continue to say NO and my objective is to continue to have the tarsands shut down!!!!! I want an earth with a beautiful ocean and rainforest to be here for my grandchildren. Do I care if the Prince Rupert detachment is spying on my facebook posts.. Lmao no not in the least.. I will stay strongly opposed to the oil and gas industry shoving pipelines and oil in my backyard.. this is mine and mine to protect.. God gave us this earth for man to live equally and together no borders no rulers no taxes no raping the earth of its minerals and resources to keep us viable for eons.. Sorry to disappoint the prime minister of Canada Harpercrit spy away we already knowed you were doing it and put it out there two years ago.. still laughing the police know us and we are not radical we are people who care for our lands and waters.. giggling at spying on Prince Rupert!!!!! they  were scared of a drum being hit in favor of our MP wow this is soooo amusing . she did not beat it for Enbridge or harper she did it for our own MP.. spy away Harpercrit you are on your way out you are a lieing frauding bully. you should not be In power you frauded the election .. talk about needing spies we need em for harpercrit.. and his cronies.....the one thing I noticed is our MP and MLA walk freely around Rupert with no security what does that tell ya.. oh man the fearmongering the cons like to do is shameful..

W November 19th 2013 | 9:21 PM

The title of the article says the gov't used "extensive spying", which is not supported by one single fact in the article, and is frankly a bald faced lie. Look at the Rick Garber email, it says they conducted a thorough review of OPEN SOURCE intelligence and social media feeds. So basically they searched out info posted in the public domain, like group websites, face book pages or whatever to see if anyone was dumb enough to post that they were going to do something stupid. That's not spying. If the journalist had evidence of wire taps on phones, bugged offices, spy cams, etc., then it would be spying. Looking up publicly available info isn't spying, if it were, then any time you, I or anyone else would be considered to be spying when visiting some group's web page or news feed. Thus it can only be concluded that the journalist and editorial staff are going for sensationalism as opposed to substance - way to lower your standards and integrity.

My second issue is: what's the problem with the NEB getting security assistance from RCMP and CSIS? The NEB is a federal regulatory body, not some private company - whom else would you expect a federal body to consult with? If Canada Post was worried about a security threat and consulted RCMP/CSIS would the journalist raise the same alarmist and false concerns? It sounds like NEB may have had some security concerns (threats) and reasonable concerns about security at meetings. Most people and groups (99%) aren't a risk. However, it's the small percentage that security people have to worry about and prepare for, which means doing research to identify where a threat might come from. Oil sands, pipelines, etc. are heated issues and frankly some of the people opposed to it are unstable nutters that security agencies need to prepare for.

Finally, what's the issue with the briefing meeting. Security concerns for energy infrastructure are a serious issue. Stakeholders need to be prepared for dealing with these issues, so it's not unreasonable to have a conference on how to identify and deal with such issues. Almost all conferences have sponsors who pay for things like breakfast, etc. to defray costs for the people organizing the conference. The journalist may be shocked and horrified to discover that sponsors are usually companies involved in the industry on which the conference is based. Whom else would you expect to sponsor an energy security meeting, Tampax? Give your head a shake.

Don November 20th 2013 | 4:04 AM

Joseph Stalin lives on in the body of Steven Harper. For all you right wing nuts ; who do you think is looking out for your drinking water , the air you breath , the food you eat ; Harper ?  Maybe you forget that he muzzled the science community. Who do you think leaks this information to the protesters ? Quit being so short sighted & stupid . These people have obvious concerns about Embridge & the Chinese plans for YOURS & MY futures . 

Earl Richards November 20th 2013 | 7:07 AM


Joseph Stalin lives on in the body of Steven Harper. For all you right wing nuts ; who do you think is looking out for your drinking water , the air you breath , the food you eat ; Harper ?  Maybe you forget that he muzzled the science community. Who do you think leaks this information to the protesters ? Quit being so short sighted & stupid . These people have obvious concerns about Embridge & the Chinese plans for YOURS & MY futures . 


quote]Harper is Canada's George Bush, the oil thief of Baghdad.

Earl Richards November 20th 2013 | 8:08 AM

Why doesn't Enbridge and Trans Canada provide their own security and not the public taxpayer? Since when is the National Energy Board in charge of the security service?

MYNAME November 20th 2013 | 9:09 AM

this cannot be acceptable practice. Just because these groups diasagree with Herr harper's  sell off of Canadian oil does not give the RCMP or CSIS probable cause to warrant spying on them. Regardless of the fact that it was 'open source' spying; thats akin to a police cruiser following me in public just because I have an anti-harper bumper sticker. 

Michael Cozens November 20th 2013 | 12:12 PM
Leigh wrote:

Only those who are intent on violence or vandalism need be concerned with being watched by security forces.  Then again, this does describe many of the groups opposed to oil and gas production and transportation so I can understand their concerns.

Somebody go tell MLK Jr. and all those anti-Putin Russian journalists that keep mysteriously dying that their persecution at the hands of their own security forces, which was enabled by the unrestricted domestic spy operations of said forces, was "nothing to be concerned about". Leigh said so.


Is this really the level of debate in our democracy?


Matt Foulger November 20th 2013 | 6:18 PM
Leigh wrote:

Only those who are intent on violence or vandalism need be concerned with being watched by security forces.  Then again, this does describe many of the groups opposed to oil and gas production and transportation so I can understand their concerns.

Oh that's interesting. Which groups are intent on violence or vandalism? Please, enlighten us with your secret intelligence on the great eco-terrorist conspiracy! These documents from the intelligence establishment don't seem to implicate ANY environmental groups.

You're also incredibly wrong to say that only those with violent intentions have anything to fear from unchecked government surveillance. That's just absurd, really. Say that to the female love interests who were spied on by perverts at the NSA (the same outfit our spooks are collaborating with to spy on foreign heads of governments, on behalf of mining and energy companies). And institutionalized spying on groups just because they have different political views? That's even more reprehensible.


John W. November 21st 2013 | 4:16 PM

You have to realize what you are dealing with, and that is a pool of people who have spent their careers looking for criminal conspiracies and terrorism. They have a different set of filters on their eyes and in their minds, and they often come from socially and politically conservative backgrounds. They see conspiracies because they want to see them. That is what their work trains them to do. Unfortunately, if they can't find what they are looking for, they will focus their attention and resources at the next closest thing. Trouble is, that nearest thing may not be remotely threatening and may be difficult to separate from what is freedom of expression in a democracy.


Many years ago, a co-worker talked about a previous job, where because of a visit by a Chinese delegation, they had a visit from a young RCMP officer for a security briefing. It was a mind-boggling experience for my co-worker. Here was a young man, similar to himself in age, background and education, who saw communist conspiracies everywhere he looked. That was this guy's job, and after the official briefing, he regaled those who would listen with stories of other communist conspiracies. This cop's whole life was dominated by the idea of communist conspiracies threatening Canada.


Some of the info that came out about the Olympic games security effort is indicative of this whole suspicious mindset. There were no overt threats to the Games and nothing happened. But the intelligence division of the security effort went to great lengths to gather info about the most vocal and persistent critics of the Olympics, Dr. Chris Shaw, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. Dig around on the net for some of the stories. I can't recall that Shaw ever said anything that could be considered a threat, nor did he condone any overt action against the games. I can only assume because of Shaw's prominence in the anti-Olympic 'movement', he was seen as likely to know what others might be planning.


My fear is that people will end up in this criminal database for baseless reasons. The problem with such databases is that the policies that govern these institutionalize suspicion. "There must be a reason your name came to our attention, so we won't remove your name from a suspects list for 10 years."


That institutional suspicion may damage some completely innocent lives.



A Monk November 21st 2013 | 10:22 PM

I've always been chastised for being a pessimist in this whole environmental battle.  I look at the power of corporations arrayed against a bunch of loosely organized but committed volunteers and sorry, I don't see a great deal of hope.  Of course we must continue to resist but... really!  Not too long ago the BC electorate was almost 70% opposed to Northern Gateway.  Add hundreds of millions of dollars from Enbridge, Cenovus, CAPP and our own government (!) spent on the best marketing and PR guys you can get and produce the best ads possible and voila: we're now pretty well neck and neck according to today's news.  Surprise, surprise.

Add to this the deep connection of the oil industry to the media and to government... and well, like I say, I'm concerned.

But this... this story shocked even me.  The government using public money to spy on the behalf of private corporations and disclosing to them what they discovered about people who disagree with them?  It's preposterous.   Forget that it's about pipelines or oil or slave produced goods or tortured animals or starving people or toxins in our household products or, or, or,...  The fact of the matter is, people trying to make money for themselves will not always be acting on the best interests of the general public.  They're salesmen.  Some of what they give us might even be good but certainly not all of it.  We MUST have a system that allows us a completely unbiased forum to openly discuss the pros and cons of any proposal.  If we do not actively insist on allowing those who disagree with a particular point of view to have exactly the same platform and opportunity to make their point, we are turning our backs on truth itself and the sacrifice of those who died for such principles is defiled.

Millions of corporate marketing dollars communicating through a media that is both owned and beholden to corporations and allowing the government to unilaterally act on behalf of those same privileged corporations is not, by any means, a level playing field...  God help us.

Louisette Lanteigne November 21st 2013 | 11:23 PM

Enbridge Line 9 hearing revealed HUGE national security risks by way of the extremely limited scope study that negated 98% of the pipe! Crack clusters exist according to Enbridge's own reports that would blow out at 740 psi or less but Enbridge doesn't want to do Hydro-static testing. Instead of the testing, they simply want to move diluted bitumen at 750 -1000psi! These pipes highest pressure to date was 666psi in Cardinal for 5 minutes. They should test it at 1500 psi to be safe! The National security risk isn't the concerned public or NGO's, it's the fact that industry's narrow scoped studies is based on horrible planning that is attempting to negate risks for the sake of approvals.  The RCMP should flip the table and hold the Government and Industries accountable instead if they really act to serve the public interest and National Security. 

Roy Kaiser November 23rd 2013 | 7:07 AM

To lump protestors in with terrorists and trouble makers is like saying Martin Luther King was wrong to stand up for equal rights for blacks. Lest we forget that he too was branded a terrorist but today he is a hero and a hero he was and is. At the heart of every true free nation must be the right to protest but protest is sometimes not enough. There must equally be a channel in which those views are heard. Corporations by their very nature have an almost endless supply of money in which to "convince lawmakers" to create the conditions with which they can generate revenue at the least cost to them. The cost is transferred to the taxpayer, the consumer or the environment.

A true free nation has laws that at the heart have the welfare of its citizens in mind, NOT the corporation. The corporation should be forced through regulation to improve the lives of its citizens.....all of its citizens....not just its shareholders. When this is achieved, that is the hallmark of a "just society" where citizens are its most important concern.

Corporatism is a dangerous path to tread and it is time for the power to be transferred back to the citizen where it ought to have been all along.

Ellin Callvis November 28th 2013 | 7:07 AM

Our P.M. Harper would spy on, and possibly arrest and imprison an environmentalist for the smallest of crimes, and yet as the Leader and PM, Mr. Harper is flouting the Rule of Law at every turn - the Robocalls, appointing Senators who are not residents of the Province they represent, and if you read Hansard you would "hear"him dodging and obfuscating on a daily basis - his tactic to keep Elizabeth May from asking questions contradicts the intentions of the rules of the House.

  Hypocrit Harper is walking a razor's edge on the Rule of Law and the intention of the Rule of Law.

   Funding studies of the proposed oil tanker routes, and dredging the harbour where the Gateway Pipeline ends - all before the JRP work is done - tells us that Harper has allready decided the pipeline is going in.

  Cutting science funding and shutting up the remaining scientists is clearly dictatorial. Our PM has little or no credibility to be taking the high road required to be spying on Canadians "in the national interest".

  "Economic concerns in the national interest" should raise suspicions when it involves private interests who stand to make huge profits. The corruption potential is obvious.

 A hypocrit such as this does not have the moral authoriity to be spying on anybody.

  But then again who am I, a radical environmentalist, declared to be a potential terrorist because I value a healthy Ecosytem, to be pointing fingers...

luke December 12th 2013 | 3:15 PM

according to the picture, this would be mr. harper's new summer vacation resort...

sorry, you don't have embed

Alberta Oil Sands Summer Resort, Canada's new tourist haven!