The government has been keeping lengthy records of nearly 800 public protests, rallies, and demonstrations since 2006, newly released documents show.
The events mentioned in the report included a series of peaceful vigils in Montreal for missing and murdered Aboriginal women, a Maritimes lobster fishermen protest, and a public Idle No More gathering in San Francisco.
The 34-page report requested by Liberal MP Scott Brison on June 5 was processed and released Sept. 15. It reveals a list of domestic and international events by date, location, and includes citations identifying who was responsible for its report. The reports were collected by the Government Operations Centre, a wing of the Public Safety department which describes itself as "providing emergency response" to events of national interest.
Several of the reports were written by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA), Foreign Affairs, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney did not respond to a HuffPost Canada request for comment about the exhaustive list, but his office responded with a statement.
“The role of the Government Operations Centre (GOC) is, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to lead and support the coordination of the federal response to events affecting the national interest. This requires that the GOC maintain awareness of a wide range of issues that could affect the safety and security of Canadians at home and abroad,” said a Public Safety spokesperson in an email.
Blaney’s office reaffirmed the GOC “does not conduct surveillance operations” and “does not conduct intelligence gathering and does not obtain or hold any private or personal information pertaining to Canadian citizens.”
It’s a response that P.E.I. Liberal MP Wayne Easter laughs at.
“All sounds well and good, but does anyone really trust this government out there anymore?” Easter asked. “The government can come back and say what its GOC is or isn’t doing certain things.”
Easter noted a “really significant” number of First Nations groups listed on the report, which he says is symptomatic of a need for better consultations. He said explicitly the government needs to do a better job listening to aboriginal and environmental communities.
Concerns about the report were raised by NDP public safety opposition critic Randall Garrison in question period on Thursday, calling the revelation is “a new low” and is evidence of a “Conservative campaign” to “silence anyone who disagrees with them.”
“Not only has the government ordered audits of charities, including environmental and anti-poverty groups in an attempt to silence potential critics,” Garrison said. “Now we’ve learned that the Government Operations Centre spied on nearly 800 public demonstrations across Canada.”
He pressed the government to reveal expenditures.
“How much is the government spending on surveillance on Canadians who are only exercising their democratic rights?”
Conservative MP Roxanne James did not answer the question, but reiterated the government’s due diligence to protecting Canadians’ security.
“The GOC monitors any event that may be a risk to public safety,” James said.
The department of Public Safety was created in 2003 and coordinates activities of three review bodies and five agencies including the National Parole Board, Correctional Service Canada, the RCMP, CBSA, and CSIS.
Read the full document here, via the Toronto Star:
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