CSIS spying on citizens at alarming rate, FOIs reveal

Photo by Carrie Saxifrage of coal train blockade in May 2012. Activities such as blocking roads and access to buildings, FOI documents reveal, are being viewed as forms of 'attack' by national security.

Environmental activist Rod Marining knows the feel of steel handcuffs on his wrists.

As co-founder of Greenpeace International, he sailed aboard Greenpeace ships campaigning against French atmospheric nuclear testing in French Polynesia, Japanese whaling in the Pacific and was thrown in jail for demonstrating against mahogany lumber imports to Europe. 

I am considered a national security risk,” he said, noting that the RCMP keeps a file on him, for his eco-warrior activities on the high seas.

But these days, activists can get on the security radar for a whole lot less: according to a Guardian report on documents released under freedom of information laws, the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) are increasingly blurring the line between real terrorists and average citizens who organize petitions, attend protests and express dissent. 

What's more, surveillance is not only aimed at major environmentalist groups like Greenpeace, but also civilians participating in protest activities. 

Last month, members of a Quebec-based group of shale gas opponents, Regroupement Interrégional sur le gaz de schiste de la Vallée du St-Laurent (RIGSVSL), learned through astory in La Presse news that the RCMP was watching them, believing the anti-fracking activists might one day be "radicalized" by North American “extremist” groups.

Serge Fortier, the coordinator for RIGSVSL -- a coalition representing more than 100 anti-shale gas citizen committees in Quebec -- was stunned to hear of the report, though he had wondered whether his group's phones or emails were being monitored.

Fortier told The Vancouver Observer that that his group has never done anything to merit any police suspicion. He said he didn't even know the names of U.S. extremist groups that police feared they would associate with. 

"For over two and a half years, we've never given reason for the RCMP or any security group to believe that we're in any way dangerous," he said in French over Skype. 

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