Shale gas: the RCMP and CSIS on high alert; Les fractivistes rendent la GRC nerveuse, RCMP and CSIS watching citizens concerned about hydraulic fracturing very closely

Shale gas: the RCMP and CSIS on high alert Translation of Les fractivistes rendent la GRC nerveuse by Amie du Richelieu, January 15, 2013
The ecologists opposed to shale gas, especially in Quebec, are in the crosshairs of the RCMP and CSIS, the newspaper La Presse has learned. Indeed, the police fear a radicalization of the movement and associations with environmental activists, or extremists of North America.

Even if shale gas extraction is controversial and politicians are not unanimously supportive of the methods in most of the concerned countries, the opponents’ rallies on site, in Canada as well as in the United States, in Pennsylvania especially, do not leave the RCMP indifferent.

The main source of concern: the serious risk of seeing civil disobedience getting violent. The RCMP warns that there is a possibility that the industry, the organizations and the people involved in this industry could be identified as legitimate targets. The RCMP is calling for vigilance and report to CSIS any suspect activity, extremist criminality or threat to national security.

That’s what can be read in alert bulletins sent out in 2011 and 2012 by the team of information regarding essential infrastructures of the RCMP and obtained by the newspaper La Presse thanks to the Access of Information Act, although the documents received were partially censured on reception.

Some documents that are of interest for opposition groups to the tar sands or the construction of pipelines in British Columbia and Greenpeace tactics or the menace of Islamic terrorism!

Observing that there are already a growing number of incidents, especially in Quebec and in New Brunswick, the RCMP foresees, with the expansion of shale gas in Canada, a growing number of events of conflict similar to those that already take aim at nuclear industries and working in the tar sands.

In June 2011, the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force, arrested a 61 year old Montrealer that had sent an anonymous letter and made menacing phone calls against the gas industry. He even recommended that workers and corporate leaders to leave Quebec. This had been considered as an isolated act.

Police seem particularly preoccupied by the emerging of extremists tied to Earth First in the United-States, or the group La Terre d’abord that claims on it’s Web site that it is a decentralized movement of radical ecology.

Another worrisome source would be the American movement called Occupy Well Street, referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the online petition called “Anti-Fracking Pledge of Resistance” (Note: I’ve signed it myself!), petition already signed by 7 radical environmental groups, can we read in the documents provided. The people who signed this pledge, some of which are from Quebec La Presse found out, accept to resist against the fracking operations and the organizations that make them possible. Considered as targets of the contestation are not only the enterprises in the field that are involved in the extraction activities, but the makers of the material, transportation facilities, lawyers, engineering firms and even the politicians, according to this manifest.

“There is a real possibility that Canadian activists get close to their American counterparts in order to compare and develop their direct action techniques and of protestation” writes the RCMP.

Besides the surveillance of 3 Websites (including one Facebook page) of environmentalists and indigenous people of Western Canada, the documents provided to La Presse do not go into details on the ways the police keep watch over the opponents of shale gas

Surprise from all sides

Anyway, the alarmist stance taken by the RCMP surprises as much the promoters of shale gas than those that oppose it in Quebec.

“It’s the first time I’ve heard of such reports.” says Stéphane Gosselin, the director of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association, a lobby group presided by Lucien Bouchard. Even if he says he trusts the work done by the police, Stéphane Gosselin assures us that nothing ever made him worry about his relations with the opponents.

The same surprise coming from the coordinator of the committee “Comité interrégional de vigilance sur les gaz de schiste de la vallée du Saint-Laurent”, Serge Fortier. The militant does not understand the RCMP fears, because his group’s aim is to make the public aware of the dangers of shale gas was always a peaceful one. “There has always been elements that want to do more, but we do not encourage them. In any case, non violent resistance or civil desobedience are not to be excluded if talking does not do the trick. We shall join forces with an international movement of resistance. The strength of the citizens is our only weapon against the lobbies.”

He does not believe in the impartiality of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Committee on shale gas instigated by the Liberals after a provincial environmental public hearings body recommendation, of which the report should become available in November.

But the new Environment Minister, Yves-François Blanchet, does not seem very favorable to this industry: “Nothing is pushing shale gas right now, not even the economy” he wrote recently in is Twitter account.

The RCMP has not been able to comment about this when La Presse contacted them last week. [Emphasis added]

Les fractivistes rendent la GRC nerveuse by Fabrice de Pierrebourg, January 14, 2013, La Presse

Shale-gas opponents have come under police surveillance by Monique Beaudin, January 14, 2013, Montreal Gazette
Quebec shale-gas opponents were surprised to learn the RCMP believes they have the potential to become radicalized and aligned with North American “extremist” groups. Two reports by the RCMP’s Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Team say companies, organizations and people involved in the shale-gas industry could become targets, La Presse reported Monday after receiving the reports under the Access to Information Act. Being the target of police surveillance has come up among members of a coalition of groups opposed to shale-gas development, said Serge Fortier, coordinator of the Regroupement Interrégional sur le gaz de schiste de la Vallée du St-Laurent. His group represents more than 100 anti-shale gas citizen committees in Quebec. “We always wondered whether our telephone lines or emails were being monitored,” Fortier, a consultant on the environment and ecological landscaping, said in an interview.

The RCMP reports, from 2011 and 2012, said there is a possibility of Canadian activists turning to “extremist” U.S. groups to “compare and develop” techniques for direct action and protests, La Presse said. The reports mentioned groups like Earth First and Occupy Well Street, which has gathered 271 signatures on an online petition pledging “acts of resistance” to stop the use of hydraulic fracturing. That’s the technique of injecting water, chemicals and sand underground under high pressure to break up rock and allow shale gas to escape. Fortier said he was surprised to learn the RCMP was interested in shale-gas opponents because his group is peaceful and has always been very open about its activities. “Our group has existed for 30 months, and since then we’ve conducted ourselves in a democratic and civilized way,” he said.

At demonstrations, the Regroupment has its own security team in place and works with police to ensure things are done correctly, he said. Controversial issues like shale-gas development can attract people who are prepared to go extreme lengths, Fortier said, but his group does not accept them. But that does not mean his group will not use acts of non-violent civil disobedience in the future, he said.
“There’s a difference between non-violent resistance and extremist revolutionary or terrorist acts,” he said. “We prefer negotiation, and presenting evidence that there is a problem to make the population aware of this industry.” The Quebec Oil and Gas Association, which represents the industry, did not return phone calls Monday.

This is not the first time police have been involved in the fractious debate over shale gas in Quebec. Former Hydro-Québec chairman André Caillé, who briefly headed up the QOGA, was told by police to leave a public meeting about shale gas for his own safety in 2010. A year later, a Montreal man was charged with terrorism-related offences over letters threatening people involved in the shale-gas industry in Quebec and Alberta. [Emphasis added]

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