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MLA raising red flag after spying allegations

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice is disturbed by reports alleging anti-oilsands groups were wrongfully monitored by the government.

Rice said it's disturbing that government resources were used by the National Energy Board (NEB), an independent federal agency, to gather intelligence on organizations opposing the Northern Gateway Project. Even more disturbing, she said, is that the information may have been shared with oil companies.

"Canada isn't supposed to be a corrupt country," she said.

This comes after an article was released by the Vancouver Observer last week, reporting that prior to the Joint Review Panel hearings on the Northern Gateway Project, the NEB coordinated gathering of information on groups opposing the oil pipeline project. The report was based on 140 pages of emails obtained under the Access to Information Act by the media outlet.

The documents show security plans being organized by the NEB, Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and RCMP in four British Columbian communities, one of which being Prince Rupert, with the Vancouver Observer claiming the NEB directed RCMP to protect its board members, as well as officials from Enbridge and TransCanada Corporation.

An email shows the NEB's group leader of security, Rick Garber, requesting Sgt. Vic Steinhammer of the Prince Rupert RCMP provide police presence at Prince Rupert hearings.

"Would it be possible for you to provide a visible uniformed presence the first day or two of the hearings – to both deter illegal activity and get a sense of the evolving/changing conditions (if any), coupled with periodic tours the remainder of the hearing sessions?" reads the email.

Garber also sent an email to members of the Joint Review Panel in January entitled "Prince Rupert security assessment" which stated the energy board's security team "consulted with CSIS at national and regional levels; RCMP at national, regional and local (Prince Rupert Detachment) level and conducted a thorough review of open source intelligence, including social media feeds.

"Based on the intelligence received, we have no indications of threats to the panel at this time ... the security team, together with our police and intelligence partners, will continue to monitor all sources of information and intelligence and promptly advice the panel of any changes to the current threat assessment," reads the email.

Rice said it's wrong to view oil opponents as threats or "as terrorists" in a hearing process that allows public participation.

"This is Canada. We're suppose to have open debate and dialogue. We have the right of freedom of speech and to assemble," she said, adding this has further discredited the federal hearings on the Northern Gateway Project.

Another email raises concerns for Rice, which was sent by RCMP senior criminal intelligence research specialist Tim O'Neil in April to integrated security officials saying the NEB "may expect to receive threats to its hearings and board members", but there was no intelligence indicating a criminal threat to the NEB or its members.

What's frightening to Rice is that O'Neil told recipients they could discuss concerns they had with security officials at National Resources Canada's classified briefing for energy and utilities sector stakeholders in May.  Enbridge sponsored breakfast, lunch and coffee for one day of the gathering, and Rice believes intelligence gathered on Northern Gateway-opponents was shared with Enbridge at the briefing.

"Taxpayer money went to help an oil company," she said.

"It shows the influence and power of corporations, and how things have shifted to no longer protect the needs of individuals but the needs and desires of corporations. It's a huge erosion on democracy."

Rice said she wants to view the blacked out sections in the access to information documents to see which oilsands opponents were looked into, and to what extent. While she doesn't have proof at this time, she believes she may have been one of the people.

"I was an outspoken environmentalist involved with different environmental groups ... I'm speculating I was one of the targets they spied on," she said.

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