Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Put Protest Activity under Microscope in Compiling National 'Risk Forecast'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Put Protest Activity under Microscope in Compiling National 'Risk Forecast'

Article excerpt

Feds put protest activity under microscope

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OTTAWA - Use of social media, the spread of "citizen journalism," and the involvement of young people are among the key trends highlighted by a federal analysis of protest activity in Canada over the last half-decade.

A growing geographic reach and an apparent increase in protests that target infrastructure such as rail lines are also boosting the impact of demonstrations, says the Government Operations Centre analysis, obtained under the Access to Information Act.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service included the spring 2014 risk forecast in materials prepared for two meetings of the deputy ministers' committee on resources and energy last April.

The meetings were driven by the federal government's desire to plan for protests that might happen in response to resource development decisions on projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline.

The newly released documents heighten fears about government anti-terrorism legislation that would allow much easier sharing of federally held information about people, said Josh Paterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

"To us, this just looks like the example of exactly why we ought to be concerned about these provisions."

The operations centre -- an Ottawa-based hub that would figure heavily in responding to a national emergency -- based the forecast for the spring and summer protest season on statistics gleaned from more than five years of significant demonstrations in Canada. It also drew on the results of an April 2014 meeting that included nine other federal partners.

It found demonstrations generally fell into four primary issue categories: social, political, environmental and First Nations.

The "notoriety and success" of civil society efforts such as the Arab Spring, the aboriginal Idle No More movement, the Occupy protests, and anti-pipeline demonstrations have inspired Canadian citizens to start grassroots initiatives and make their voices heard, the study notes.

Few demonstrations rise to the level of national interest, and most are peaceful and short-lived, the analysis adds.

The operations centre predicted a low risk during the 2014 protest season, with the possibility of medium-level events -- such as disruption to transportation routes.

Officials felt opposition to pipelines and oil-and-gas fracking, as well as broader environmental and aboriginal issues, could lead to "large, disruptive, or geographically widespread protests" but no one had information to indicate "significant organizing activity" in this regard. …

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