National Energy Board responds to questions on spying

The National Energy Board (NEB) responded in writing today to Ecojustice’s questions about its conduct in coordinating spying in conjunction with CSIS and the RCMP on anti-oil sands environmental organizations and individuals.

Prompted by documents published last month by The Vancouver Observer, Barry Robinson, staff lawyer for the non-profit environmental law firm Ecojustice sent a demand letter seeking firm answers to questions which would account for the apparent coordination and collection of intelligence by the independent federal agency. 

“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," said Robinson in November.  Ecojustice represents three prominent environmental advocacy groups who are registered as intervenors in the NEB Joint Review Panel hearings on the Northern Gateway pipeline project

The letter was addressed to NEB’s legal counsel Andrew Hudson and CEO and Chair Gaeton Caron. Neither Hudson, nor Caron of the NEB acknowledged the letter and instead deferred their response to Ms. Sheri Young, ‘Secretary of the Joint Review Panel’.

“The NEB did not collect information other than what you have already seen," Young said in the letter. “Information is sought from local police, the RCMP and other organizations that may help to identify and evaluate risks."

Apparently referring to the Joint Review Panel hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, Young said, “Any threats of criminal action, disobedience or disturbance to the process, however, are taken seriously so that appropriate security measures can be put in place before incidents occur to ensure the safety of the public, participants, NEB staff and presiding members. Rallies and meetings planned near to, and to coincide with, our hearings are identified in this regard."

Several peaceful meetings and gatherings were organized by Enbridge pipeline opponents around the time of the Joint Review Panel hearings in early 2013 and under watch of the NEB including:

  • “People’s Summit”: An informative event featuring keynote addresses by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.
  • A workshop from advocacy group Leadnow, teaching retired senior citizens how to use story-telling techniques to get the public more interested in political discourse.
  • “Knock the Vote”: A peaceful campaign organized by the Dogwood Initiative where hot-chocolate was distributed and door-to-door canvassing occurred in the Victoria area.

“Even when the organizers of these events are not a safety risk, the events themselves may attract individuals or groups who are," Young said.  "Events that are meant to be peaceful can turn violent despite the intentions of the organizers."

Julia Pope, director of strategic communications at Leadnow reacted with anger.  “Monitoring the actions of those using paintbrushes in church basements says a lot about the state of our democracy right now." Pope was referring to an workshop organized for retired senior citizens by the advocacy organization.

Young did not provide answers as to who directed the collection of the intelligence, when it was collected, to whom it was given or disclosed.  Nor did she say if the information was disclosed to Enbridge, Inc.

“It still raises the fundamental question of why the RCMP is gathering intelligence on individuals simply because they oppose pipelines or because, in the RCMP’s words, they are ‘anti-petroleum’ – that should concern every Canadian,” Robinson said. 

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