Doc Shows Canadian Police View Environmentalists, Not Climate Change, as Real Threat

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Doc Shows Canadian Police View Environmentalists, Not Climate Change, as Real Threat

RCMP document says 'small but violent-prone faction' of groups could pose 'a credible threat' to security

A demonstration in Ottawa in 2011. (Photo: Ben Powless via tarsandsaction/flickr/cc)

Canadian environmental organizations could pose a potential threat to national security and are attempting to make the fossil fuel industry look bad.

Such was the assessment of what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) referred to as the "anti-petroleum movement" in a document dated Jan. 24, 2014, and titled Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Assessment.

The existence of the document, obtained by Greenpeace, was revealed by the Globe and Mail on Tuesday and by French language newspaper LaPresse last week. Common Dreams saw a copy of the document Tuesday.

"There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels," the document states.

It cites fracking protests that took place in New Brunswick in 2013 as "the most violent anti-petroleum actions" the country has seen and "indicative of the growing international opposition to" fossil fuel projects underway or planned, and therefore a sign of what law enforcement "must be prepared to confront."

The revelation comes less than three weeks after the government's tabling of controversial Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act 2015, and has added to concerns that the new legislation will be used to cast a wider net over those who can be surveiled.  The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association described the legislation as being able to "dramatically expand the powers of Canada’s national security agencies and violate the rights of Canadians without making us demonstrably safer."

The RCMP document says there is a "small but violent-prone faction" of environmental groups, and that criminal actions that target the nation's fossil fuel industry, including the tar sands industry, "represent a credible threat to the health and safety of the workers, the general public, the activists, the natural environment and the facility's operations."

As Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, writes at his organization's blog, "the RCMP document treats climate change as a hoax perpetrated by environmentalists." From the document:

Non-governmental environmental groups such as; Greenpeace, Tides Canada and Sierra Club Canada, to name a few, assert climate change is now the most serious global threat, and that climate change is a direct consequence of elevated anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions which, they believe, are directly linked to the continued use of fossil fuels….

Research and analysis done in support of ongoing RCMP criminal investigations shows that those involved in the anti-Canadian petroleum movement have an interest in drawing public attention to, and building recognition of, the perceived environmental threat from the continued use of fossil fuels.

The publicizing of these concerns has led to significant, and often negative, media coverage surrounding the Canadian petroleum industry. The use of social media, including the use of live-streaming, provides the anti-petroleum movement the ability to by-pass the traditional news networks, to control and craft its message, and to promote a one-sided version of the actual events, leading to broadly based anti-petroleum opposition.

The Globe and Mail described the document as using "highly charged language that reflects the government’s hostility toward environmental activists."

Steven Guilbeault, co-founder and senior director of the Montreal-based environmental and justice group Équiterre, told LaPresse there was already a "veritable witch hunt" going on for environmentalists and that "by giving security forces expanded powers [with Bill C-51], you open the door to other abuses."

Stewart adds, "What is genuinely alarming about the RCMP document is that, when combined with the proposed terrorism bill, it lays the groundwork for all kinds of state-sanctioned surveillance and 'dirty tricks.'"

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