Documents show EcoSociety under surveillance by federal government agency over pipeline protest
A local environmental organization says an independent federal government agency has been actively working to stifle its opposition to the Alberta oil sands and associated developments after federal documents revealed that the National Energy Board has been spying on British Columbia activist groups.
An article from the Vancouver Observer, posted by the West Kootenay Eco Society on its Facebook page recently, reveals federal documents that were obtained under Access to Information Act which indicate that the National Energy Board (NEB) coordinated the gathering of intelligence on opponents to the oil sands ahead of the NEB’s Joint Review Panel hearings on the proposed Enbridge pipeline held earlier in 2013.
“The groups of interest are independent advocacy organizations that oppose the Harper government’s policies and work for environmental protections and democratic rights, including Idle No More, ForestEthics, Sierra Club, EcoSociety, LeadNow, Dogwood Initiative, Council of Canadians and the People’s Summit,” The Vancouver Observer reported.
According to David Reid, executive director of the West Kootenay EcoSociety (WKES), the Nelson-based environmental group was included in that surveillance when the WKES and the Nelson chapter of the Council of Canadians organized a bus to take area residents to participate in hearing and the peaceful Idle No More demonstration in Kelowna earlier this year.
“They identified that the EcoSociety did that,” he said, noting that was the extent of the spying.
“But I don’t want to downplay it because it’s concerning that government agencies are working with private companies to make sure their private interests are preserved and to potentially stifle the voices of concerned Canadian citizens.”
Reid said that the purpose of organizing the bus was not only to take people there to participate in the Idle No More demonstration, but also to bring local residents who were registered to give presentations at the hearings.
“So it’s concerning to me that the NEB and the RCMP would call it a disruption to have people show up at the hearings and listen to the proceedings and see what’s going on.”
NEB says actions required for safety purposes
“What we do is in advance of any hearing or large public event is do a security assessment,” said Sarah Kiley of the NEB, noting that such an assessment includes making sure meeting environments and public events are safe for staff and board members.
“The first priority here is always going to be safety; not only for staff, but anyone who chooses to participate. The purpose is to have a space where people can share their views and the panel can take information and make decisions . . . We need to make sure we can get information that’s on the record. That can only be done in an environment that’s respectful for everyone.
Wiley added that the NEB has no interest in deterring peaceful protest, and doesn’t collaborate with oil companies or any other party. She said the NEB adheres to the principles of natural justice.
Surveillance concerning – Atamanenko
BC Southern Interior MP, Alex Atamanenko said spying on private citizens by the federal government and national police force is unacceptable in a democratic society.
“I think this is obviously unacceptable in a democratic society, to have our police force spying on people. It’s something that’s done in totalitarian states . . . taking notes and watching people. If this, in fact, is happening it’s totally unacceptable.”