After she handed the phone to him, the officer said he was calling about photographs Takaro took of a property owned by Kinder Morgan, an oil pipeline company. Takaro acknowledged that one week earlier, he had had a brief interaction with a security guard working for Kinder Morgan. But the incident was nothing serious, Takaro recounted. He was simply asked to stop taking pictures. Takaro thought it was all a misunderstanding until the officer continued to press him. “Then he said, ‘We also saw your car at a protest in November,’” Takaro continued. “And then, ‘But don’t worry, there are no criminal charges.’”
“It was definitely intimidation,” Takaro concluded.
Over the last several years, stories like Takaro’s have corroborated documents released through freedom of information requests that outline the extent to which law enforcement agencies are monitoring environmental activists. These files are notable for the language they use to describe protesters and the level of detail they include on the activities of organizations and the lives of their members.
An RCMP internal document dated December 2012 compares the First Nations movement Idle No More to “bacteria,” warning, “it has grown a life all of its own all across the nation.”
“There is a high probability that we could see flash mobs, round dances and blockades become much less compliant to laws,” it continues. “The escalation of violence is ever near.”
Two years later, a separate RCMP intelligence assessment warns, “violent anti-petroleum extremists will continue to engage in criminal activity to promote anti-petroleum ideology.” The 44-page document, made public by Greenpeace in February, calls attention to British Columbia, saying, “there is a coalition of like-minded violent extremists who are planning criminal actions to prevent the construction of the pipeline.” Yet with rare exceptions, there are almost no reports of existing environmental groups engaging in illegal actions. When asked for examples, RCMP representatives usually cite a series of attacks that occurred in the 1990s. (These were the actions of one man, Wiebo Ludwig, who in 2000 was convicted of sabotaging oil and gas infrastructure in northern Alberta.)
In March, declassified documents revealed that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s equivalent of the CIA, was involved in helping local law-enforcement agencies track protesters, particularly in British Columbia. That memo also described the role of the Government Operations Centre, another federal agency, in compiling a “risk forecast” report for the 2014 “spring summer protest and demonstration season.” A previously released Government Operations Centre document includes details of more than 800 demonstrations throughout Canada since 2009.
The names of well-known Canadian environmental groups appear in these documents. Among them are Greenpeace, Tides Canada, the Sierra Club, the Georgia Strait Alliance, the Wilderness Committee and Idle No More.