West Coast Environmental Law expresses concern about TMX surveillance of Secwepemc land defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

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The Canadian government owned Trans Mountain Corporation has set up a surveillance tower to monitor Secwepemc land defenders opposed to the construction of a tar sands pipeline on their territory without their free, prior and informed consent.

This 2-minute video includes representatives from West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL) and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) visiting the Tiny House Warriors site at Blue River and commenting on the situation.

Eugene Kung, a staff lawyer with the Vancouver, BC-based West Coast Environmental Law, comments: “I’m really glad that we were able to come here in person in order to witness for ourselves the set up and how creepy it is. It looks to me and it feels to me like there’s a real deliberate intimidation attempt.”

And Meghan McDermott of the BCCLA says: “This just seems completely over the top. People just walking in public are being captured. We don’t even know if they are listening to us, recording us, able to distinguish who we are in live time. It’s very problematic to have the state, or corporate subcontractors, doing this kind of level of surveillance.

Their concerns reflect those that have been raised by other bodies.

UN General Assembly

In December 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 70/161 that calls upon all States to ensure that: “Information and communications technologies are not used in a manner that amounts to arbitrary or unlawful interference with the privacy of individuals or the intimidation of human rights defenders.”

Derechos Digitales

The Latin American organization Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights) has also highlighted: “Mere availability of low cost surveillance technology, or its offer by a vendor, does not justify acquisition or deployment.”

It adds: “The excuse [for surveillance] is often the need to ensure public safety, or the efficiency of policing systems. However, these technologies are increasingly invasive, and can adversely affect fundamental rights.”

And Derechos Digitales further cautions: “Any private or public entity considering or carrying out the development or acquisition of surveillance technologies must be legally required to perform a prior human rights impact assessment, involving experts in technology, social sciences, fundamental rights, among others.”

Interference with land defenders

Peace Brigades International-Canada echoes these concerns about the surveillance of Secwepemc land defenders on their territories.

We further highlight that the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on Canada to stop the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline until it secures the free, prior and informed consent of the Secwepemc people.


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