“Totalitarian” state surveillance on First Nations adds to “demonization” of pipeline critics: Grand Chief
Canadian police have been conducting extensive surveillance on First Nations critics of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, newly released documents reveal.
As protesters confronted Enbridge's annual meetings in Toronto today, RCMP documents reveal that police spied on meetings between Native leaders and environmental groups, monitored activist communications, and described critics as a potential security threats, according to the Toronto Star.
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The new information, obtained by journalists Tim Groves and Martin Lukacs for the Star, also provides a glimpse into the extent to which the federal government is beefing up their anti-environmental rhetoric with police action.
“In their efforts to demonize First Nations and environmentalists for opposing large-scale resource development projects, now these groups are under surveillance,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, told the Vancouver Observer. “It certainly consistent with the Harper government attack on First Nations and environmentalists. . . (Natural Resources minister) Joe Oliver has essentially declared First Nations and environmentalists the enemies of Canada.
“All of this is very, very disturbing – certainly regressive – and it's a step backward into the past. Obviously, the Harper government and Minister Oliver are taking all measures to silence our voices. It's moving towards a very totalitarian approach to Canadian values like freedom of speech.”
Citing the likelihood of “acts of protest and civil disobedience,” the documents showed that authorities have been carefully monitoring Native and green groups, but in particular the Yinka Dene Alliance, an anti-pipeline coalition of northern BC First Nations which travelled on a “freedom train” to Toronto this weekend.
Police intelligence gathering on pipeline critics included monitoring a private meeting last November between environmental groups and First Nations people in Fraser Lake, BC, the documents state – a meeting intended “to strengthen the alliance between First Nations and environmental groups opposing Enbridge,” according to one December police report obtained by the Toronto Star.
The documents also show that police gathered intelligence from Facebook and Flickr accounts, plus “industry reports” and websites.
“It's very disturbing that the RCMP are reverting back to a darker period in their history,” Phillip said. “They're monitoring environmental and First Nations groups that are simply practising the democratic right of free expression.
“I don't think this is about security. This is about the fact that the Yinka Dene Alliance has been very effective and vocal at shining a very bright light on the obvious downside of Enbridge Northern Gateway project, in terms of the risks that project that represents and its threat to the environment. They've proven themselves to be extremely effective at getting their message out.”
But he added that the new revelations will only serve to strengthen First Nations opposition to the $500 billion project, which would cross 700 rivers and streams on land that has never been ceded to the Crown or signed away in treaties.
It is also not the first time police have been caught spying in recent years on Native groups. Previously obtained documents unveiled a three-year surveillance program which ended in 2010 into First Nations – information which was reportedly shared with energy companies, according to the Toronto Star.
“This will only strengthen our resolve,” Phillip said. “When you repress and oppress the democratic rights of First Nations, environmentalists or anyone, there's a strong reaction – a count-reaction resisting those efforts.
“If anything, it's only going to encourage groups to speak out or to be more vocal in opposition to this project.”
Police did not comment on the documents, but told the Toronto Star they are confidential and only shared with law enforcement officers.
Today's protests by the Yinka Dene Alliance and supporters at the Enbridge annual general meetings saw hundreds in the streets. According to Nikki Skuce, with ForestEthics Advocacy, several proxy shareholder voters to the convention were barred from entering by security.
The RCMP documents warn of “increasing propensity and likelihood of utilizing blockades and confrontation to deter industry from accessing disputed territory” by the Yinka Dene Alliance and other First Nations groups.
Chief Martin Louie at Enbridge AGM says company plans to push forward with pipeline: live blog
Posted: May 9th, 2012
Video by Jeanette Ageson
1:16 PST: At the Enbridge shareholder meeting, there was a motion to get the company to report back on legal risks based on First Nations opposition.
The motion by Ethical Funds was to push Enbridge to address the risks (such as a possible court battle, delays from protests or blockades and damage to Enbridge's reputation) regarding First Nations’ opposition the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The motion got 28 per cent of votes, with 60 per cent voting against.
"28 per cent is a spectacular indicator that the shareholders are losing faith in the decisions of their chairman and board," said Canadian Indigineous Tar Sands Organizer Clayton Thomas Muller.
Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel admitted the YDA presence last year phased him.
Daniel said that Enbridge doens't want to force the project through, but refused to speculate when pushed on whether he would cancel their project if First Nations consent isn't obtained.
1:12 PST: Chief Martin Louie comes out. He says Enbridge plans to push forward with the pipeline.
Video by Emma Pullman
11:57: Only four out of nine First Nations chiefs allowed in to shareholders meeting. I caught up with Chief Tsohdih. He was, along with many others, denied entry to the shareholder meeting. He personally asked an Enbridge executive why they never responded to his Nation's questions.
Chief Martin Louie at Enbridge AGM says company plans to push forward with pipeline: live blog
Posted: May 9th, 2012
- aboriginal law
- Enbridge AGM
- Enbridge annual general meeting
- Enbridge Northern Gateway
- Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline
- Freedom Train
- Le Meridien King Edward
- Pat Daniel
Video by Jeanette Ageson
They came to his community three years ago, and he asked them date-specific questions. To this day, Enbridge has never answered. He asked for answers today.
11:45 PST: From Canadian Indigineous Tar Sands Organizer Clayton Thomas Muller: "the feeling outside is that the water ceremony brought rain. We're feeling unity and solidarity with the Yinka Dene Alliance. We're going to stay out here until they [Enbridge] come and celebrate victory when they come out those doors"
10:30 PST: Saik'uz First Nation Chief Jackie Thomas: "I felt strong the whole way. The support we've gained across the country is awesome…it's just awesome. Enbridge has already started to (respond). I think they're worried. I'm going to address it at their shareholder meeting. I have a specific question. Why it took 358 days to send me a letter about our meeting last year."
Photo of Chief Jackie Thomas from Yinka Dene Alliance
8: 50 PST – Today, the Yinka Dene Alliance will head into Enbridge's annual shareholder meeting with a message for Enbridge and their shareholders: they will not allow the Northern Gateway Pipeline on their traditional, unceded lands and territories.
The Alliance has gathered over 14,000 petitions calling on Parliament to recognize the decision that has been taken by the Yinka Dene Alliance and other First Nations to ban tar sands pipelines and tankers in their lands and waters and to protect their land from tar sands crude coming in from Alberta.
The historic Freedom Train represents the largest public opposition of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to date. At a press conference in Edmonton, Chief Martin Louie of Nadleh Whut’en personally thanked Enbridge for uniting the First Nations across British Columbia.
According to Hereditary Chief Na'Moks of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, the Harper government's policies are helping to unify Canadians in opposition.
"The Prime Minister of Canada and his environmental minister are changing policies and the protections of the environment across Canada as a whole, just to enhance a project. If they do it once, they'll do it again," he said. "In the process that I see happening, the swing, the shift is to actually take the voice away from the people."
The Yinka Dene Alliance formed in 2004 around opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, and their alliance includes Nadleh Whut'en, Nak'azdli, Takla Lake, Saik'uz, and Wet'suwet'en First Nations. To date, over 100 First Nations have banned tar sands pipelines and tankers using their own indigenous law.
The "Freedom Train", as it has come to be known, departed Vancouver on April 29, 2012 with over 50 members of the YDA and allies. Like the Constitution Train of the early 1980s, the Freedom Train symbolizes unity and solidarity across Canada between Canada’s first peoples, and developing unity between First Nations and non-First Nations as well. On the ten day journey across canada, solidarity events and rallies were held in five Canadian cities including Jasper, Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Toronto.
Following a press conference today at 11:00am, people will march to Le Meridien King Edward, where the Enbridge AGM will be taking place.
Aboriginal pipeline opponents seek support from China
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in China, B.C.'s Yinka Dene Alliance attempts to sway Chinese opinion with an open letter condemning Canadian oil sands projects.
Posted: Feb 6th, 2012
In an open letter released Monday by the Yinka Dene Alliance, Aboriginal leaders in B.C. made a passionate appeal to the Chinese government, urging President Hu Jintao to reconsider investment in Canadian oil sands projects.
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The letter was timed to coincide with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s much-anticipated trip to China, where he is expected to work on trade relations with the Asian leaders to secure a market for Canadian energy products. The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker route—currently in the midst of a drawn-out review process—is the key to making this trade possible.
Since delays facing TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline have limited exports to the US, the Prime Minister has made no secret of his government’s agenda to ship oil sands products across the Pacific. But Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik'uz First Nation, one of the outspoken leaders with the Yinka Dene Alliance, says Aboriginal communities on the pipeline route will do whatever they can to get in the way of Harper’s plans.
“We wanted to talk to the Chinese people before our Prime Minister got there,” Thomas explained, “to let them know the concerns we have in Canada about this proposed project, and the value we place on our wildlife, water and fish."
The Alliance's letter addresses a number of oft-stated Aboriginal concerns about the pipeline and tanker routes, including the hazards of crossing salmon-bearing streams and the threat of oil spills on the pristine coast. It also references a number of alleged human rights abuses that the Canadian government has committed against First Nations, and introduces Chinese readers to important Aboriginal land rights that are legally upheld by the United Nations.
Thomas says she hopes the letter will encourage the Chinese community to learn more about this issue and its implications for Canadian First Nations. In addition to the letter sent to the Chinese government, another version was also being published in Chinese-Canadian newspapers. However, Thomas understands that these preliminary attempts at gaining Chinese support may not be enough.
“We’re probably going to have to make a trip over there and talk to them face to face,” said Thomas.
“It’s just one of our strategies, to let people know that everything isn’t hunky-dory here in Canada.”
Dr. Paul Evans, Director of the Institute of Asian Research at UBC, says the Yinka Dene Alliance’s letters to China are not likely to have quite the impact they’re hoping for. He says that’s partly because in China, the general public probably doesn’t know or care much about their country’s trade relations with Canada.
“In China, people on the street scarcely know how to use the word ‘Canada’, much less know Stephen Harper’s name,” Evans explained.
“This is not a public issue in China, but it is an issue that will attract international attention because it is a litmus test to Chinese elites about how open investment opportunities are in Canada.”
Although the Chinese public may not appreciate the First Nations’ concerns over the pipeline, there are a number of other stakeholders in Asia who are keeping an eye on the internal debate here in Canada. Evans says it’s unlikely that President Hu will be influenced by Aboriginal matters involving international law, but many in China’s business and investment community will at the very least be paying attention as things progress.
“Who is responding to Canadian opinion on this? There’s a lot more audiences than just the President and the most senior members of the Chinese Communist leadership,” said Evans
“Their investors, their state-owned enterprises and their private businesses are looking for signals about the business environment.”
Evans explained that in his own conversations with Asian investors, he has simply warned people not to consider this pipeline project “an instant slam dunk”. Given the amount of opposition from First Nations, environmental groups and members of the Canadian public, he says foreign interests need to understand that even if the project does get approval, it’s likely to take years before the bitumen starts to flow.
“All we’ve been saying to them is that it is going to be complicated, despite the signal from Ottawa on this, and the boosters of the Enbridge project in particular,” said Evans.
“I don’t think the Chinese are going to pay very much attention to the international law and the UN Declaration stuff, because the legal opinions in committees that I’ve seen don’t see that as an important barrier. But if there are court challenges to this, it could be years.”
Bill McKibben and First Nations lead, as 2,000 march in Vancouver, BC against Enbridge
Posted: Mar 26th, 2012
<img border="0" height="333" alt="Description: http://www.vancouverobserver.com/sites/vancouverobserver.com/files/imagecache…” width=”500″ />
Bill McKibben alongside Aboriginal leaders at the Vancouver Art Gallery | Photos by Alexis Stoymenoff
“We say no to Enbridge oil,” was the resounding message heard across downtown Vancouver Monday afternoon, as more than 2,000 people gathered in the rain for a rally opposing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.
In full ceremonial regalia, members of the First Nations marched through Vancouver's business section, beating drums. Out the windows of Canada's largest natural resource extraction companies, employees looked down at them. And behind them, a procession of mostly well-dressed mostly twenty-somethings followed, chanting anti-pipeline slogans. <img border="0" height="333" alt="Description: http://www.vancouverobserver.com/sites/vancouverobserver.com/files/resize/ima…” width=”500″ />