Archive | January, 2016

Tip of the Fear: These Three Things Should Keep Anti-Pipeline Activists Awake at Night

15 Jan

This article originally posted for Stop C-51: Toronto at www.stopc51to.org/blog

Syndicated with permission.

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Hopefully you read my primer earlier this week about actions being taken by anti-pipeline activists here in Canada and potential risks under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015. I’m opining on this subject because through my own activism with groups like STOPC51TO, PipeLeaks, 350.org and Greenpeace I’ve become a passable expert on two things: pipeline politics and fighting the police state. I actually joined the C-51 campaign last February precisely because I was concerned about ways in which the legislation could be applied to the anti-pipeline advocacy for projects like Enbridge’s Line 9 and TransCanada’s Energy East. For anti-pipeline activists, we’re operating on the cutting edge or “the tip of the fear”, so I’ll try to break down what it is that we need to be concerned about.

Relevant portions of the Act:

“activity that undermines the security of Canada” means any activity, including any of the following activities, if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada:

((including))

(c) espionage, sabotage or covert foreign-influenced activities;

and

(f) interference with critical infrastructure;

Immediate Risks to Pipeline Activists under Bill C-51

These risks are particularly present at this time for participants in land defence initiatives and the actions of Line 9 opponents opposing Enbridge’s pipelines in Ontario.

 

1. Information Sharing

There is now essentially blanket access with an incredibly low threshold of proof required for 17 different agencies to pull information from government databases including the tax history, medical records, police-interactions, vehicle registration information, travel history, union membership, education records etc. of suspects in security cases.

This means that a huge amount of metadata that would normally be protected under the privacy act can be aggregated and combed through by state security agencies in a manner which can only be described as invasive. The low evidentiary threshold required to access this data means that an individual can be targeted even just because they fall under suspicion of opposing a pipeline (this could theoretically include posting on social media or writing blog articles like this one.)

 

2. Preventative Detention

Activists involved in plans which directly target or advocate for the targeting of infrastructure are subject to an increased likelihood of preventative detention. While the language on C-51 in the media has mostly revolved around terrorism, it is important to note that the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 does not sufficiently discriminate between activism and terrorism in its definition of “threats to the security of Canada” and the evidentiary threshold for proving such threats has been significantly lowered.

Opposing or shutting down a pipeline is treated the same under this definition as planning a Mumbai/Paris style infantry raid with a jihadist cell. If you’re an activist who is suspected of planning to carry out an action which might be subject to the above definition, you’re in danger of being preventatively arrested using the same laws that would be used to target Daesh affiliates in Canada or Canadians seeking to travel to join terror groups.

 

3. “Disruption” Policing

If you or your associates have been identified as being suspects in interference with “critical infrastructure”, it is now entirely plausible for police or state security to engage in disruption policing. Disruption is a broad-brush term for proactive interference with perceived “criminal” operations where those actions do not explicitly lead toward an arrest under the Canadian Criminal Code. Here’s an example of a disruption operation from a Climate Camp in Kent, England.

Under C-51 this can mean taking down sympathetic websites or social media accounts, (justified as removal of terrorist propaganda) infiltrating groups, (intelligence led policing) blocking or interfering with communications or physical access, (disruption) inciting people to commit crimes, planting evidence, discrediting movement leaders or pretty much any practice which serves to prevent the execution of a plan to threaten the security of Canada and which does not kill the target or violate their sexual integrity.

 

No Crystal Balls: What happens next?

I don’t own a crystal ball, so I can’t tell you what comes next, but here are some suggestions based in credible scenarios:

Emergent anti-pipeline actions present a “networked threat”. In coordination with Enbridge, state Security will use portions of C-51 to engage in a similarly networked response. This approach might look like a major investigative effort involving provincial and municipal police in multi-agency coordination with federal intelligence agencies. It might mean asking American, Australian or British “Five Eyes” (FVEY) partners to spy on activists in situations where CSIS, RCMP or the CSE have investigative blind-spots.

A popular and (unfortunately, overused) acronym in Canadian security circles is the “Integrated National Security Enforcement Team” or INSET. Using new powers under C-51, such a team could engage in identifying and proactively undermining the operations of perceived threat actors. Through interagency and intergovernmental information and intelligence sharing agreements the INSET team also turns a frontline municipal police officer in Canada into a de-facto extension of American, British, Australian (etc.) security apparatuses. INSET and FVEY are huge threats to both liberty and sovereignty.

INSET teams patrolled the Vancouver Olympics and 2013 Anti-Fracking protests in Rexton, New Brunswick. The involvement of First Nations in opposition to infrastructure (as with the Rexton standoff or the Unis’tot’en land defence camp near Houston, BC) looks more like Low Intensity Conflict than traditional activism when contrasted to the militaristic approach taken by state security. These legitimate actions by the original inhabitants of this land are not subject to anything even close to resembling a proportional response from the state.

Sabotage actions against infrastructure and land defence initiatives result directly from the failure of the state to obtain consent of First Nations or other communities. These actions and many others are clearly at risk of suppression or disruption legalized by new powers under the Act. This concern about the impact the language of the Act might have on First Nations campaigners was expressed by Amnesty International as early as March 2015.

It is already public knowledge that CSIS has spied on pipeline opponents in BC, while leaked RCMP documents identify ‘anti-petroleum extremists’ as a growing threat to the security of Canada. Both of these incidents occurred before Bill C-51 was even tabled in the house and well before the anti-pipeline battle had escalated to physical interference with infrastructure. If you thought that state security was interested in the anti-pipeline movement before these actions, you haven’t seen anything yet.

 

Not Doctors, Not Lawyers:

Please bear in mind that at STOPC51TO we’re experts on the Anti Terrorism Act, 2015 but we’re definitely not legal experts. None of what we tell you or post on our website should be taken to construe legal advice. The best advice that we do have for you: in any uncertainty around legal matters, you should direct your query to a qualified legal expert.

 

 

 

Image used in this article from here made available under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0

Sabotaging Pipelines is Reckless and Dangerous, but Not For Reasons You Might Expect

11 Jan

This article originally posted for Stop C-51: Toronto at www.stopc51to.org/blog

Syndicated with permission.

There’s an old adage: “Mess with a bull and you’ll get the horns.” I’ll expand that rustic logic with a further analogy: “Mess with a Canadian fossil fuel company and you’ll get the police state.”  December 7th, 2015 is a significant day in Canadian history. It may never make it into textbooks and it’s unlikely that the story of what happened will be echoed in the media anytime soon. That day marked the opening of a major new frontline in the struggle against corporations engaged in the destruction of the planet. It may also have marked the first significant material challenge to Canada’s new anti-terrorism legislation, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 (Formerly Bill C-51) since it became law this summer.

On December 3rd, after years of legal and political battles, Enbridge Inc. began moving crude oil through its controversial Line 9B pipeline system. Line 9B is a 40 year old pipeline that runs 640km from North Westover, ON to Montreal, QC. In the early hours of December 7th, three self-styled “anarchists” traveled to an Enbridge pipeline valve site on the Quebec/Ontario border near the community of Sainte-Justine-de- Newton.

Valves are surface infrastructure which control or moderate flow of oil in a pipeline. The valve in question was a manual type valve. The activists who attended the site proceeded to operate the valve and effectively shut the pipeline down. They then locked themselves to the valve wheel in order to prevent it from being easily reopened. The unplanned operation of the valve forced Enbridge to stop the flow of product in the pipeline, which remained closed for hours as activists were removed from the site. This shutdown presumably cost the company millions of dollars.

(Thanks to SubMedia.TV for the awesome Video!)

 

Why was this reckless and dangerous?

December 7th marked a radical departure from the previous phases of the fight against Enbridge’s controversial pipeline. The action effectively tied up the flow of crude oil to the east coast for 10 hours. By the activists’ own account published on Earth First Journal’s online platform the action was intended as a direct challenge to C-51, which became law in Canada in July 2015.

“This whole action was a test of Canada`s new anti-terrorism law C-51” –unnamed Quebec activist.

Over the last month there have been two further actions inspired by what I will call the “New Model Action”. The second action on December 21st occurred in Sarnia, ON. It followed the design of the first, and was staged by First Nations activists from Aamjiwnaang and their allies. In this second case, activists were slapped with draconian criminal charges including Mischief over $5000 and Mischief endangering life.

A third action on January 4th, 2016 was near Cambridge, ON and targeted Enbridge’s Line 7 that connects Sarnia to Hamilton, ON. In this case activists used a ‘block, lock and walk’ methodology. They shut down the valve, locked the wheel in place to slow Enbridge’s contractors down and left the site without any direct contact with the company or the police. The replicable and scalable idea of direct interference with fossil fuel infrastructure is obviously evolving.

That’s right, these awesome, heroic individuals are taking it upon themselves to ratchet up the rhetoric to meaningful action! It’s reckless and dangerous because nobody knows what the reaction will be when it comes to dealing with the repressive police state that C51 created. In an article later this week I’ll try to give some clues as to what we might be expecting. Until we see how the state reacts, this is all just emergent experimentation: messing with a bull. These actions are highly effective and definitely necessary, but as someone who works between both issue-spaces my honest advice: brace yourselves, the police state is coming.

From my perspective at the nexus of this issue, evolving sabotage actions are important because they challenge the hard-power of industry and state security. I believe in the value of these actions. Admittedly, I support them. STOPC51TO has also conferred its endorsement to the activists who were willing to test the law. We additionally believe it is important to support activists from First Nations communities like Aamjiwnaang or the Chippewas of the Thames as they express very legitimate concerns about infrastructure built and operated in violation of treaties and without either dutiful consultation or free, prior and informed consent.

More to come:

There’s a lot more which I can say and will say in the coming weeks and months as this issue unfolds. I’m looking forward to providing a more detailed analysis of the overlap between environmental activism and the police state as actions continue. Keep checking back to this space for new content and analysis on this or other issues. I’ll make every effort to keep you up to date at the cutting edge of the interplay between state security and environmentalism.

 

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