Government tracking of protests

spyNewly released documents show that the federal government has tracked some 800 demonstrations across Canada and around the world since 2006, including “uneventful protests” and public university lectures.

These surveillance reports, in some cases provided by CSIS or the RCMP, were collected centrally by the Government Operations Centre, an agency ostensibly assigned to prepare the federal government’s response to emergencies. Some reports on international protests were collected by Foreign Affairs, but the majority focused on domestic events, especially First Nations protests and environmental activism, the Toronto Star reports.

The documents, tabled in Parliament, indicate that the level of surveillance is not consistent with simply monitoring protests. Examples of these surveillance reports include that of a September 2013 panel discussion at Concordia University on historical colonialism and race relations in Quebec, prepared by the RCMP. Another covers a May 2012 rally in Ottawa by the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. And the list goes on:

“Protests against a Canadian mining company in Brazil last September. A Montreal march and vigil for missing and murdered aboriginal women in September 2013. A public discussion in Toronto on the oilsands in August 2013. A workshop in non-violent protest methods in Montreal in October 2013. Public Safety reported a protest of ‘lobster fishers’ in New Brunswick in May 2013, while a shrimp allocations protest in Newfoundland was reported by Fisheries and Oceans a year later.

“Larger events that made national news – the Idle No More movement, Occupy groups, various student protests in Montreal – were also included in the list.

“But the Government Operations Centre received information on much smaller events, like an account of the occupation of a band administration office on the Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation in 2011. The southern Saskatchewan community has a population of 383 people, according to government records.

“Numerous departments have contributed to the Government Operations Centre’s intelligence collection, including Aboriginal Affairs, the RCMP, CSIS, and the Privy Council Office – the bureaucrats that support the prime minister and cabinet.”

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