Canadian spy agency refuses to release records on actions in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

Wet’suwet’en solidarity rally, Ottawa, February 7, 2020.

On October 2, CBC reported: “Canada’s spy agency has refused to release internal records on Indigenous-led actions in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs by using an exemption under the access to information law normally reserved for information related to gathering intelligence to detect or suppress terrorism.“

That article adds: “CSIS withheld internal records under a section of the Access to Information Act that allows exemptions for records connected to intelligence activities related to ‘detecting, preventing or suppressing subversive or hostile activities’, according to a letter from the agency’s Access to Information branch.”

The solidarity actions began in February of this year following an RCMP raid on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia that dismantled blockades established by land defenders against the construction of the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline that lacks the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en.

The RCMP had also raided Wet’suwet’en territory the previous year and arrested 14 land defenders on January 7, 2019.

In an affidavit signed the day after that raid, RCMP Sergeant John Uzelac stated: “I am aware that critical infrastructure can be targeted by persons with radicalized ideology.”

And notes from a RCMP strategy session showed that RCMP commanders argued that “lethal overwatch is req’d” (a term for using lethal force) and that officers were instructed to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” ahead of the operation to remove the roadblock established by Wet’suwet’en land defenders.

In this most recent news report, CBC received two heavily redacted emails through their access to information request, one of which references the “CGOC”.

That likely refers to the Government Operations Centre.

The CBC has previously reported: “An operations centre charged with alerting the federal government to potential threats to public safety monitored demonstrations calling for an inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women.”

That article adds: “Other movements that were monitored included Idle No More and protests against the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, the Northern Gateway pipeline, the Energy East and Eastern Mainline Projects, and the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Generation Project.”

In June 2014, the Ottawa Citizen reported: “Last year the Government Operations Centre was involved in coordinating a response to Aboriginal demonstrations against fracking.”

That article continues: “It also produced a spreadsheet detailing 32 planned events in support of anti-fracking. Those included a healing dance in Kenora, Ont., a prayer ceremony in Edmonton and an Idle No More ‘taco fundraiser, raffle and jam session’ planned at the Native Friendship Centre in Barrie, Ont. …”

Additionally, a long-awaited Civilian Review Complaints Commission report on the actions of RCMP officers in 2013 against Mi’kmaq water protectors opposed to seismic testing for fracking being conducted on Elsipogtog territories without their consent by Houston-based SWN Resources is expected to be released this fall.

Peace Brigades International-Canada expresses concern that the RCMP viewing climate-killing fracked gas pipelines as “critical infrastructure”, Indigenous land defence struggles as a “radicalized ideology”, instructions to use “as much violence … as you want” against defenders, and refusing to release information under the guise of national security, establishes a police culture that can view land defenders as enemies of the state.

This criminalization of Indigenous land defenders in this way makes attacks on them seem legitimate, which in turn also makes them more likely.

PBI-Canada reaffirms that defending rights is not a crime.

Categories: News Updates


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