Access to information can be a wonderful thing. Some of the latest information to surface through this method was the fact that in January 2006 the newly formed Harper government intensified intelligence and surveillance of First Nations with an emphasis on splinter groups, such as the Warrior societies. With the Department of Indian…er… Aboriginal Affairs taking a lead role in the information-gathering process. Also included are First Nations leaders, participants and outside supporters of First Nation occupations and protests.
Every one of these target subjects and their actions are closely monitored. Non-Aboriginal groups were included as they are classed as potentially threatening. Aboriginal Affairs also expressed concern about “non-Aboriginal counter-protest groups.” An example of this would be the protestors in Chateauguay, Quebec who attacked police confronting the Kahnawake Mohawk blockade during the Oka Crisis in 1990. The Sûreté du Québec was caught between the two groups with no retreat possible.
Our friends in Aboriginal Affairs have been given the lead and hold weekly reports on communities that have engaged in direct actions when their lands or rights are believed to be threatened. It’s called the Hot Spot Reporting System and involves a close relationship with the RCMP. Hot spots First Nations that display unrest and an increase in militancy as determined by past and present actions. The Standing Information Sharing Forum is headed up by the RCMP and includes CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service), Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada in weekly teleconference calls. Aboriginal Affairs continuously updates the information they send out to these participants.
This is certainly an interesting mandate for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs but one that is hardly surprising. As much as we would all like to say that it is outrageous and a blow against the pillars of democracy, it is not any such thing. Without some limits upon our action, chaos and anarchy would occur in its absence. When one feels strongly enough about an issue to challenge the limitations that a state will place upon its citizens, then one must acknowledge the risks and take responsibility for their actions.
Surveillance or spying on certain members or groups has always been a tool of government. I will admit that today the intrusion of intelligence and law-enforcement agencies has become ever more sophisticated as we are monitored by satellites, public surveillance cameras (just look at the British CCTV system where even the average computer literate person can monitor them), our computer data is mined and profiled, our emails are scanned and phones are routinely tapped.
So First Nations are monitored and this is to be expected. The Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement were closely followed by the FBI. I am sure parts of the Muslim community in Canada receive the same treatment as First Nations.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada doesn’t want another Burnt Church surprise. Natural Resources Canada expects that some First Nations communities will not want certain types of development on their land. Transport Canada looks at possible blockades of roads, air runways and train tracks. All of them want to be prepared for the inevitable and this is why First Nations and their supporters or detractors are monitored.
I am not saying I am against the actions and means people will undertake when they believe they have no alternative, but merely that they be aware of the state’s actions and potential responses. If you are uncomfortable with the levels by which we are spied upon it is up to you to make your position clear to your elected representatives and vote in a new government if need be.