The Security Intelligence Review Committee began hearings Wednesday to determine if Canadian secret service spied a little too close to environmentalists.
The Association for Civil Rights in British Columbia had filed a complaint about it in February 2014, following reports that raised the possibility that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and other government agencies consider all opposition to the oil industry as a “threat to national security.”
The recent adoption by the Conservative government of a new anti-terrorism law (“C-51”) did nothing to reassure the groups of individual freedoms, which are already concerned about the monitoring of which would be the subject of environmentalists and indigenous activists opposed to oil pipelines, among others.
In its complaint, the association of civil rights suggests that CSIS shared with the National Energy Board (NEB) information concerning so-called environmental groups “radicalized” who wished to participate in public hearings on the NEB Enbridge pipeline project. The Northern Gateway pipeline is to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta down on the west coast of British Columbia for export to Asia, in particular.
Yves Fortier, a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, began preliminary hearings in Vancouver on Wednesday behind closed doors – and in the absence of the complainant for reasons of national security. A final decision of the committee is not expected before several months – or even more than a year.
Counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in British Columbia, Paul Champ, also denounces the fact that CSIS has provided so far that few details of the argument that it will present at the committee hearings This complicates the work of the complainant.
The Committee had nevertheless asked the parties to submit before the hearings began their evidence and the summary of the evidence they will hear, CSIS filed only “copies from its website,” Mr. Field. The Secret Service did not even confirm in documents filed, whether they actually spied environmental groups, deplores the lawyer.
CSIS did not respond to questions from The Canadian Press on it.
Field me raised the issue during a conference call on July 24, with Mr. Fortier and counsel for the SRCS, which promised to provide the committee “any documents necessary” for examining the complaint. But she would not confirm, in the presence of counsel for the association, whether CSIS had actually investigated a particular group or individual in this case, argued Me Champ.
The Association for Civil Rights in British Columbia could now require the Committee to assign members to appear CSIS whose names appear in documents obtained through the Law on Access to Information. Yves Fortier Field asked me to wait until the end of the preliminary hearings, which are expected to last three days.