Trans Mountain monitoring anti-pipeline activists, labelling some as ‘persons of interest’

Trans Mountain monitoring anti-pipeline activists, labelling some as ‘persons of interest’


The federally owned Trans Mountain Corporation is monitoring pipeline opponents and designating some as persons of interest who warrant closer scrutiny, according to internal records provided to CBC News. 

The Trans Mountain documents show its security officials recorded the names of individuals who posted anti-pipeline videos and statements on social media, along with the names of those tagged in the posts or who shared the content. 

Trans Mountain also singled out two individuals it considered to be persons of interest — labelled “POI” in the documents — and compiled information on their movements and their interactions with different protest groups targeting other resource projects.

A person of interest is a police term used to identify an individual who may be a witness or connected to a crime, but is not a suspect.

In one instance, outlined in the documents, a Trans Mountain security official reported the company had uncovered the legal name of an activist, labelled a “core POI” who was using an alias. The documents detailed the movements of the individual, past activist history and their relationship with other protest and Indigenous groups.

Scrutiny of Tiny House Warriors

“New information about a core POI confirms the Tiny House Warrior Camp [which refers to a protest camp in northern B.C.] is attracting some fringe and more extreme activists,” the document says.

The Tiny House Warriors set up five tiny houses last year in an area around Blue River, B.C., which is about 230 kilometres north of Kamloops. The group also has a second camp about 60 km north of Blue River, in an area around Valemount near the Moonbeam Bridge, where they have set up a yurt. 

The area where both camps are set up is in the path of the pipeline project and within the territory of the Secwepemc Nation, which those in the camp say has not consented to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, though some bands in the nation have signed onto the project.

The activities of individuals connected to the Tiny House Warriors is a prime concern in the documents.​​​​​

Ottawa bought Trans Mountain Corp. for $4.5 billion in 2018. It is a Crown corporation accountable to Parliament through the Canada Development Investment Corporation, which reports to the minister of finance. It is subject to federal laws and policies on privacy.

Trans Mountain Corp. is responsible for a pipeline expansion project that would twin an existing pipeline from a terminal east of Edmonton to a marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

Who else sees this information?

The corporation would not say what it does with the names it gathers in its reports or how it determines someone to be a person of interest. Nor would it answer questions on whether it shares this information with other federal departments or the RCMP. 

“Trans Mountain’s first priority is safety and we are committed to protecting the integrity of our facilities, the safety of our employees, contractors and the general public,” the corporation said in an emailed statement to CBC News. 

“We are aware of publicly available commentary, including posts on social media related to the industry, our operations and the expansion project.”

The documents, about 55 partially redacted pages, were obtained under the Access to Information Act and provided to CBC News by Joe Killoran, a lawyer with the Jensen Law Group in Kamloops, B.C.

Joe Killoran, an articling student with Jensen law and part of the team representing Kanahus Manuel, provided the documents to CBC News. (Jensen Law website)

Killoran represents Kanahus Manuel, a Secwepemc warrior who has been one of the leading spokespeople for the Tiny House Warriors, a group which is opposed to the Trans Mountain expansion. Manuel is one of the main subjects in the documents.

Many of the documents are “activity reports” compiled by Trans Mountain. The activity reports provided to CBC News appear to cover a period between Dec. 6, 2018, and Dec. 12, 2018, and an area between Hope, B.C., located 150 kilometres east of Vancouver, and the Alberta border. 

They seemed to perceive them as the enemy who needed to be spied on or checked on, even though they didn’t have any evidence of anything being illegal​​​​​​– Joe Killoran, lawyer for Kanahus Manuel

The activity reports primarily contain social media information, along with short commentaries on anti-pipeline social media chatter on Facebook and Twitter, planned demonstrations, along with analysis and descriptions of the situation on the ground. 

“Tensions are rising between locals and pro-pipeline individuals … and the Tiny House Warrior camp,” reads one entry.  “Further incidents between THWs and locals are likely.” 

Another entry noted that Greenpeace Canada had tweeted in support of some members of the Tiny House Warriors who had been arrested following a protest in Kamloops, B.C., on Dec. 10, 2018, and that video was circulating of the event.

“The Tiny House Warrior protest at the Kamloops meeting was again a publicly stunt that will be used to gain attention for the group and for Greenpeace,” said the entry. “The video and arrests will be used to gain sympathy from Indigenous people in order to build support and legitimize their own campaigns.”

Killoran said he was surprised by one of the documents in their description of the activists. 

“They seemed to perceive them as the enemy who needed to be spied on or checked on, even though they didn’t have any evidence of anything being illegal,” he said.

The dates of the reports cover the time period when Frank Iacobucci, a former Supreme Court justice, was holding consultation meetings with First Nations leaders on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Kamloops, Vancouver and Victoria. 

Iacobucci was appointed in 2018 by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to lead a new round of consultations after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed cabinet approval of the expansion project partly because Ottawa failed to adequately consult Indigenous communities.

New appeals by First Nations

The Federal Court of Appeal also recently allowed a new round of appeals from several First Nations who are challenging the adequacy of the last round of consultations.

Manuel is facing mischief and intimidation charges related to two incidents in September and October involving a Trans Mountain facility — where the RCMP said a padlock was stolen and workers faced confrontation from demonstrators — and involving a road-work crew near Valemount, B.C.— where the RCMP said demonstrator disrupted their work.

Killoran said Manuel is pleading not guilty in both cases. 

Killoran said Manuel’s wrist was fractured during her last arrest near Valemount on Oct. 19. Manuel said her wrist was put in a cast after a hospital visit following her release. The RCMP denied she was injured.

Jeffrey Monaghan, associate professor at Carleton University’s Institute of Criminology and Justice, is concerned that the monitoring interferes with right to free expression. (Courtesy of Jeffrey Monaghan)

Jeffrey Monaghan, an associate professor of criminology at Carleton University, said the documents raise troubling questions about the type of information Trans Mountain is gathering, how it’s being stored and who has access to it.

“It raises all kinds of questions about what it means to have rights of expression in a democracy,” said Monaghan, who co-wrote a book called Policing Indigenous Movements, which examines how Canadian police, military and intelligence agencies surveil activists.

Monaghan said he saw this type of information gathering around the Idle No More movement, a national Indigenous rights movement that sprang up during the winter of 2012-2013. 

He said some of the information contained in the documents — the tracking of movements of some activists — seemed to suggest it came from sources beyond social media posts. 

“This data is travelling. This is kind of a non-policing entity that is doing all kinds of surveillance and data accumulation that is patched in to the policing establishment,” he said.

Monaghan referred to an incident report in the documents about a small but boisterous protest on Dec. 10, 2018,  at Thompson River University in Kamloops, B.C, that used drums and red paint — which was used to leave hand prints on the wall of a university building and dumped on the sidewalk — to disrupt one of Iacobucci’s consultation meetings with First Nations leaders. 

The incident report shows Trans Mountain discussed security plans for the meeting with Natural Resources Canada security, the RCMP and security for the university.

Natural Resources Canada referred questions to Trans Mountain.

The RCMP did not respond to a request for comment.

Asked for a response to Trans Mountain’s tactics, Pierre-Olivier Herbert, a spokesperson for Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office, said in an emailed statement that the government “expects Trans Mountain to adhere to the highest ethical standards and in a manner that is respectful of individual privacy.”

Kanahus Manuel, centre, pictured here doing construction, says she is undeterred by on-line surveillance. (Courtesy of Kanahus Manuel)

The activity reports primarily focused on Manuel’s posts in connection to protests, while listing those she tagged, as well as those who responded with comments or shared her videos. 

Manuel said the ongoing surveillance won’t deter her opposition to the pipeline expansion. 

She said the majority of Indigenous people oppose the pipeline expansion and the resistance is much deeper than what surfaces on social media. 

“A lot of the underground is getting prepared and is getting strong culturally, spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally,” she said.

“I don’t stand alone. I don’t hold that fear of them. I know I am not alone. They don’t want to make a martyr out of me, because the whole country will uprise.”

The documents also designated two additional individuals, who have participated in Tiny House Warrior actions, as persons of interest. 

The POIs

Trans Mountain gathered an extensive amount of information on one of those individuals, Freddy Stoneypoint, an Anishinaabe man who attended Carleton University and was involved in the 2017 Canada Day teepee protest on Parliament Hill, the documents show.

In a section subtitled, “POI Freddy Stoneypoint aka Zaagaasige GIIZIS,” the document says Trans Mountain discovered his real name. 

“It was recently learned that GIIZIS’ legal name is Freddy Stoneypoint, approximately 31 years of age and was a Carleton University student in 2017.”

Freddy Stoneypoint, far left, was labelled a core person of interest by Trans Mountain Corporation security reports. Stoneypoint is pictured here with Candace Day Neveu during the 2017 Canada Day teepee protest. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

The document, which identifies Stoneypoint as a “core POI,” does not say how the corporation learned this information. It does say Stoneypoint was involved in the Canada Day teepee protest and a blockade on an oil exploration well in August 2017, 20 kilometres north of Gaspé, Que. — information available online. 

The report notes that Stoneypoint arrived at a Tiny House Warrior camp in the summer of 2018, but that he had since left to join a Line 3 protest against an Enbridge pipeline replacement project in Manitoba. The report says he had a “falling out” with the “matriarch” of the Line 3 protest and refers to posts on Facebook as evidence.

CBC News provided screen grabs of the report to Stoneypoint, who said the information they had on him was “flimsy.” 

Stoneypoint said he wasn’t surprised because he already knew the RCMP had a file on him based on what he saw in Gaspé.

“I guess it kind of like affirms the level of attention I am receiving for essentially nothing,” he said.

“It speaks to the level of uncertainty my defence work poses to the state. As a result, their reaction is to tighten whatever rule of law amplifies repressive tactics against Native people just for being on the land.”

An excerpt from a Trans Mountain Corporation ‘activity report’ that indicates Freddy Stoneypoint as a person of interest. (CBC News)

Another entry documents social media activity around the Dec. 10, 2018, protest of Iacobucci’s consultation meetings with First Nation leaders at Thompson River University. 

The protest resulted in the arrest of two of Manuel’s sisters and her brother-in-law.

“Kanahus Manuel was not present at the protest, but rather remained in Blue River at the [Tiny House Warrior] camp. Her posts demonstrate she watched the livestream through her phone,” the document says.

“The anti-TM community has joined in on sharing the videos, expressing their outrage over the arrests.”  

The document then lists the names of four people who responded to the videos and included screen images of Facebook and Twitter posts. 

‘Really creepy’

Another partially redacted activity report notes that Manuel commented on a video that was posted to her Facebook timeline. 

It says Manuel tagged a woman named Denise Douglas, who lives “in Rosedale near Chilliwack.” This information is publicly available on Douglas’s Facebook page. 

Denise Douglas, of the Cheam First Nation, crouches on the ground in front of police officers as she demands access to a building where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was meeting with the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee, on the Cheam First Nation near Chilliwack, B.C., on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The entry then names another individual, indicating that she “also shared this video on her timeline” and that she tagged six other people, who are all named in the report. 

Douglas, who lives in Cheam First Nation, said she has never been to any of the protest sites set up by Manuel. Douglas said she and Manuel’s family have known each other for generations. 

“I’d say it was an infringement of my privacy, especially if they are following me now,” she said. 

Douglas said that while she opposes the pipeline expansion, she has focused on challenging her band council for signing a deal with Kinder Morgan, the previous owner of the pipeline.   

“Are they singling me out? Are they profiling me? Because you know, it feels like it,” she said.

“I do care that my name is out there … I find it really creepy.”

An excerpt from the Trans Mountain Corporation documents that shows the name of Denise Douglas recorded in report along with other individuals, redacted by CBC News, who interacted with the posted video. (CBC News)

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