List of protests tracked by government includes vigil, ‘peace demonstration.’ The Government Operations Centre compiled reports on more than 160 protests, community events since last May by Alex Boutilier, March 29, 2015, Toronto Star
What do Canadian veterans, advocates for the disabled and the country’s largest union have in common? Their activities were monitored and reported on by police and government agencies over the last year.
Documents show the central Government Operations Centre received reports on more than 160 protests, community events, and demonstrations between May 2014 and February 2015. The RCMP, Public Safety Canada, and the Privy Council Office prepared reports for the GOC — which co-ordinates the federal government’s response to national emergencies and natural disasters. While much of the monitoring focused on First Nations causes and environmental activism, the GOC showed a diverse set of interests, including:
- A rally on Parliament Hill pushing for better benefits for Canadian veterans.
- A “die-in” protesting police brutality against black Americans, including vigils for Ferguson, Mo. shooting victim Michael Brown organized by the Black Lives Matter movement.
- An event called “Paddle for Peace” in Fort St. Jean, B.C., where the report noted “public order issues are not expected.”
- Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care’s national day of action.
- An “interfaith peace demonstration” in Mississauga.
[Terrorists in the eyes of Harper?]
The RCMP also reported on the Occupy movement in B.C.’s efforts to reach out to like-minded groups to “face the Industrial Hydra.” The intelligence looks to have come from a Facebook posting.
The documents show police and government agencies have been active on Facebook, reporting on protest plans organized through social media. One report to the centre dealt with a potential “cyber protest” aimed at the oil and gas industry.
The centre was established by the former Liberal government in 2004. It was meant to provide 24/7 monitoring and “situational awareness” to government departments about potential or actual hazards on a national scale. The centre co-ordinates with federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, and other countries, including the United States. But Wayne Easter, a former solicitor general and the Liberal MP who obtained the documents, said the agency [Or Harper ordering it to stray?] seems to have strayed from its original mandate.
“They’re supposed to be there in terms of co-ordinating operations for the safety and security of Canadians and the need for an initial response to, whether it’s a natural disaster or a man-made disaster, in the most effective and efficient way possible,” Easter said Tuesday. “That’s what they’re supposed to be doing.”
A June 2014 letter leaked to the Ottawa Citizen asked all government departments and agencies to help the operations centre build a comprehensive list of demonstrations across the country.
An operations centre analysis obtained by The Canadian Press earlier this month found that few demonstrations actually meet the criteria for events in the “national interest,” leading to questions about why seemingly innocuous gatherings are being recorded by the centre.
“It’s a really ridiculous way to go about doing something,” said Michael Vonn, policy director at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “The notion that there might be something that could happen, an eruption if you will … in the context of any of these demonstrations, constitutionally-protected exercises of people’s rights, are so rare that the sense that we’re going to survey the landscape for the purpose is instantly suspect.” [Is Harper and his boss big oil trying to protect anyone but their private interests? Are they trying to censor/silence concerned, loving, compassionate Canadians via intimidation?]
The Star reported in September that the centre has received reports on around 800 demonstrations, community events, and protests since 2006. The reports vary from “open source” intelligence (such as newspaper reports), to information provided by the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Activists have raised concerns the Conservative government’s new anti-terror law, Bill C-51, would allow CSIS even greater powers to spy on their activities. Conservative MPs, including Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, have repeatedly said that “lawful” protests do not fall under C-51’s purview. But numerous internal documents reported by the Star and other outlets show law enforcement agencies already have a keen interest in “lawful” protests.
“We asked about this some time ago, and the government assured us that they were concerned these groups were about to turn violent, and they were going to keep monitoring them,” said Randall Garrison, the NDP’s public safety critic. “I just can’t understand how they could continue to waste public resources on this.” [It’s not wasted. Increased profits to big oil if Harper succeeds in criminalizing innocent, law abiding Canadians.]
The Star requested an interview with Blaney’s office, as well as the RCMP, for this article. Detailed questions were sent to both. In a brief prepared statement, Blaney’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe de la Rue said the government respects Canadians’ right to protest peacefully, and that the operations centre does not conduct its own surveillance. [Emphasis added]
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