Ecojustice demands National Energy Board answer for spying on anti-oil sands groups

Following the publication of documents obtained by the Vancouver Observer showing the National Energy Board oversaw the spying activities of the RCMP and CSIS on oil sands opponents, 

Barry Robinson, Staff Lawyer for Ecojustice, sent a letter today to National Energy Board (NEB) legal counsel Andrew Hudson and NEB CEO and Chair Gaétan Caron demanding answers.

When asked if Ecojustice plans to litigate against the NEB and if so, what the grounds would be, Robinson told the Vancouver Observer: "We would pursue litigation against the NEB around the procedural fairness and bias in the conduct of the hearings process."

"In the context of the documents obtained under Access to Information, they do indicate that the NEB was in communication with the RCMP and CSIS," Robinson said.  "The thing that bothers me the most is an April 19, 2013 email from the RCMP".

Robinson is referring to an email authored by Tim O'Neil, Senior Criminal Intelligence Research Specialist with the RCMP. O’Neil said that the “CIIT (Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Team) will continue to monitor all aspects of the anti-petroleum industry movement to identify criminal activity”.

Included in this email was “RCMP’s CIIT Divisional analysts and Ms. Manon Tessier and Mr. Tom Lanzer (CSIS)”. Both Tessier and Lanzer’s names appeared to be previously redacted.

"What bothers me is they are looking into those who are simply opposed to the pipelines, with no criminal wrongdoing, and are sharing that information with the NEB - the regulatory body that's supposed to make independent decisions," Robinson said.

Ecojustice has asked the National Energy Board  to answer 15 direct questions, including:

  • Who directed the collection of information relating to safety and security concerns posed by the organizations and individuals?
  • Were the organizations and individuals aware that the information was being collected?
  • Was the information shared with Northern Gateway Pipeline Inc. or Enbridge Inc.?
  • Were there any other NEB employees, agents, contractors and legal counsel informed or aware of the intelligence gathering?

Ecojustice is a Calgary-based non-profit environmental law firm that represents three clients who are registered as intervenors in the NEB hearings on the Northern Gateway pipeline project. The clients, Forest Ethics Advocacy, the Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, are concerned that the NEB, in conjunction with the RCMP and CSIS, has illegally spied on their activities and those of other organizations and individuals prior to or during their appearance at the hearings, Robinson said.

The release of information has led to questions over the compromise of procedural fairness and bias at the NEB  Joint Review Panel Hearings on the proposed Enbridge pipeline, especially if information was disclosed to NEB board members, Enbridge and any other third parties or federal agencies, Robinson also said.

Emails contained in the disclosures last week show NEB Board members Sheila Leggett, Kenneth Bateman and Hans Matthews copied on information circulated by Richard “Rick” Garber, “NEB Group Leader of Security”.  Robinson has questioned if the board members were aware that the NEB was collecting or had collected information on anti-oil sands organizations.

Legget appears to have had some knowledge of the intelligence gathering.  In one email she seems to be asking for less surveillance and police presence and she tells NEB staff:  “It sounds like we are in vehement agreement that, at this point, there is no indication of a requirement for an on-site police presence.  Let’s proceed on this basis and amend if Gord’s on the ground assessment and any further intelligence indicated that this presence is required”.

Email from Sheila Leggett regarding Prince Rupert security

Robinson has also asked for further information on the means and sources used in open source intelligence gathering from social media.

Since the publication of the documents last week, knowledge of the NEB’s activities have negatively underscored the participation of individuals and advocacy groups in the continued hearing process. “Knowledge that this is occurring is sure to have a chilling effect on participation in Board proceedings,” Robinson said. 

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