Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Civil Liberties Group Presses for More Info as Spy Complaint Hearings Begin

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Civil Liberties Group Presses for More Info as Spy Complaint Hearings Begin

Article excerpt

Group presses for more info in spy complaint

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OTTAWA - A civil liberties group says it's being kept in the dark as a federal watchdog begins looking at whether the Canadian Security Intelligence Service went too far in eyeing environmental activists.

CSIS has disclosed very little information heading into three days of Security Intelligence Review Committee hearings about the complaint from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said Paul Champ, lawyer for the association.

"It's going to make it very difficult," Champ said in an interview. "This kind of process is always shadow-boxing for a complainant. But here you're shadow-boxing with the lights turned out. There's not even shadows there, because we don't know what CSIS's case is."

The association filed a complaint with the review committee in February 2014 after media reports suggested that CSIS and other government agencies considered opposition to the petroleum industry a threat to national security.

The complaint cited reports the spy service had shared information with the National Energy Board about "radicalized environmentalist" groups seeking to participate in the board's hearings on Enbridge's Northern Gateway project, which would see Alberta crude flow to westward to the B.C. coast.

The passage of government security legislation that gives CSIS new powers to disrupt extremist activity has only heightened concerns about monitoring of environmental and aboriginal protesters who oppose oil pipelines.

The initial review committee hearings begin today in Vancouver behind closed doors and there likely will be additional sessions that exclude the association and its counsel for national-security reasons. It could take months or well over a year for the committee to conclude its probe.

The parties were given deadlines to produce bound books of evidence they will rely on as well as detailed summaries of what witnesses will say, Champ said. …

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