Canada more at risk from environmentalists than religiously inspired terrorists: RCMP

photo of Enbridge protest by Mychaylo Prystupa
photo of Enbridge protest by Mychaylo Prystupa

Canada’s energy sector is more at risk from domestic environmental extremists than from religiously inspired terrorist organizations like Al Qaida, warns an RCMP report recently obtained via an Access of Information request.

“The Canadian law enforcement and security intelligence community have noted a growing radicalized faction of environmentalists who advocate the use of criminal activity to promote the protection of the natural environment,” alerts the document written by the RCMP’s infrastructure intelligence team. The 22-page report from 2011 was only recently released.

“It is highly probable that environmentalists will continue to mount direct actions targeting Canada's energy sector, specifically the petroleum sub-sector and the fossil and nuclear fueled electricity generating facilities, with the objectives of: influencing government energy policy, interfering within the energy regulatory process and forcing the energy industry to cease its operations that harm the environment,” the report adds.

Criminal activity associated to environmental extremism can include “unlawful protests, break and enters, mischief (damage to property, sabotage), arson, and use improvised explosive devices," according to the report.

Normalization of monitoring environmental groups

For Carleton University instructor Jeffrey Monaghan, who obtained the document, the report demonstrates how normal it has become for national security agencies to monitor environmental groups.

“This report is another indication of the wide net of surveillance, and allegations of criminality, targeting environmental groups,” he said in an email interview.

Organizations under watch by the RCMP include Idle No More, ForestEthics, Sierra Club, EcoSociety, LeadNow, Dogwood Initiative, Council of Canadians and the People's Summit, the Vancouver Observer reported in 2013.

Disruption of business a concern

But not only environmental groups have been in the RCMP’s radar lately. Last year, news reports showed how average citizens participating in protest activities have become targets of surveillance by the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Montreal’s La Presse, for example, reported in January that the RCMP was watching a group of shale gas opponents on the belief that anti-fracking activists might one day become “radicalized.”

For Monaghan, the reports indicate an effort to ensure that activists don't get in the way of federal strategies on pipelines and oil extraction.

“It is interesting to see the tone of the document, and how the RCMP underlines the oil sands and pipelines are 'essential' for the Canadian economy,” he said.

“Taken into consideration with the [report’s] conclusion that stress the threat of ‘unlawful incursions', the document underlines that the major concern from these national security agencies is the disruption of business operations -- not terrorism.”

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