Harper government under fire for spying on environmental groups

Green leaders and members of Parliament react to FOIs obtained by the Vancouver Observer that revealed the National Energy Board was coordinating spying efforts on environmental groups.

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He called the relationship between the board and CSIS disturbing: “It’s very Canadian to be involved in your community. It’s very un-Canadian to run the country like Joe McCarthy looking for enemies of the state just because they disagree with you.”

Liberal Party MP and environment critic John McKay expressed similar outrage. “If Canadians can't intervene on an issue in a manner where you feel comfortable, and without being ‘blacklisted,’ then this speaks to the diminishing quality of democracy,” he said.

McKay was referencing how environmental groups were allegedly blacklisted as enemies of the Government of Canada last year.

He further slammed the board for its coordination efforts with CSIS and the RCMP. "These are ‘sham hearings – a moot court’ only carrying out the work of the Harper government,” McKay argued.

Liberal MP Joyce Murray said that the NEB's neutrality had been compromised by the current administration. 

"It's supposed to be a neutral agency. In fact it is controlled by the government, so the question in my mind is, was it the government that instructed the NEB to do this?"

NDP environmental critic Megan Leslie said, "Canadians should push back".

Council of Canadians environment campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue said, "The NEB is meant to be an independent federal agency, not a spy watch dog. This is yet another example of the NEB failing to meet its mandate." 

"Third World police state"

Grand Chief Stewart Philip was outraged that the Idle No More movement was spied upon, he said, adding,  “I’m shocked that the National Energy Board would do such a thing. It’s a gross infringement on our freedom of speech and freedom and right to free assembly. It smacks of Third World police state."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, head of Union of BC Indian Chiefs. Photo by David P. Ball (davidpball.com)

One environmentalist is worried the government taps her phone line. "It makes any person who acts openly on their desires to see Canada have a clean future become second-class citizens,” said Valerie Langer, with ForestEthics Solutions. "Everything we do is perfectly clear. We do not hide from what we see as industrial exploitation that is threatening the environment and the people."

She added that, "We will keep doing what we do best which is to mobilize people. We will continue to do our work."

Will Horter, of the Dogwood Initiative said the spying was a waste of taxpayers’ money. One email in particular, that focused on the Dogwood Initiative’s event in a Kelowna church on Jan.27, was “farcical”, he said. “We were training participants on how to be better story makers and sign makers. What appears to have triggered the surveillance is that we worked with a number of people to participate in a public process,” he said. “This will reinvigorate us if anything.”

Harper will stop at nothing, he said, adding that "he has gutted the environmental laws, changed the hearing policies midstream, cut funding for vital organizations. He's done a lot of things governments haven't done before. I can see him fix the spy agencies on Canadians."

Cullen said he will file for his own access to confidential government documents, but added that it will be hard to get CSIS to disclose anything.

“The government would be able to say they operated at arms length… so we need to drag the CSIS national director into this,” he said.

Grand Chief Stewart Philip plans on talking to his legal counsel. He will also consult with British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International, he said. “We will not stand down, regardless of this secret state mentality of the Harper government  infringing upon our legal rights."


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