Following the killing of five law enforcement officers at a Black Lives Matter protest last year in Dallas, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police sought information on any possible links between African American hate groups and Black Lives Matter in Canada.
According to a cache of intelligence reports obtained by VICE News through Canada’s Access to Information Act, the federal policing agency not only surveilled the social media accounts of Black Lives Matter Vancouver and its members, but pursued intelligence from the US State Department on hate groups calling for police killings and their links to Canada.
In the July 2016 reports, a senior intelligence officer assigned other RCMP officers to “contact [law enforcement officer] Liaison at US Consulate” regarding “Black Panther, Black Lives Matter.”
The reports were spurred on by a wider intelligence operation monitoring a planned Black Lives Matter Vancouver vigil for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both killed in high profile police shootings in Texas and were the impetus for the original Dallas Black Lives Matter protest where officers were gunned down by a sniper.
In 2015, the Toronto Star reported that the RCMP had been using dummy Facebook profiles to track activists and rallies. The documents obtained by VICE News, however, appear to be the first indication that police in Canada were actively surveilling Black Lives Matter activists.
The surveillance, assigned as part of an “ops plan,” included social media monitoring of the of various Facebook, Twitter, and GoFundMe pages linked to the movement, to “ensure public and law enforcement safety.”
The reports involve input from several units including the federal policing agency’s B.C. Hate Crime Team, their Criminal Analysis section, and Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSETs), which are known to monitor domestic terrorist threats across Canada.
In a statement sent to VICE News, the RCMP pushed back on the idea that their social media tracking constitutes “surveillance.”
“As the [Real Time Information Centre-B.C.] report makes clear, open source social media monitoring was used to ensure public and law enforcement safety for a July 10, 2016 event planned by the Vancouver Chapter of Black Lives matters,” a spokesperson said in an email. They added that the intelligence centre is supported by the RCMP as well as other law enforcement agencies.
“This report was done as a matter of conducting due diligence, in regard to public and police officer safety, as was noted. The report concluded there was no indications of violence.”
The monitoring began in mid-July, 2016, and continued until the end of the month. Around the same time, the Vancouver chapter of the activist group called on police to banned from the Vancouver pride parade.
“No indication of present threats to police in BC. Black Lives Matter group, speaking against [Vancouver Police Department] involvement in upcoming Pride march determined to be comprised of local individuals who pose no significant threat,” reads one of the reports.
The Vancouver chapter of Black Lives Matter has publicly protested against police involvement in pride the annual city pride march.
The report does conclude: “At this time there are no indications that violence will be used as a tactic.” and notes that it will be a “peaceful rally.” The report, however, was categorized as “unfolding event – serious crime”
In the same report containing threat assessments of Black Lives Matter Vancouver, it shows the RCMP looking into the Canadian connections to U.S. hate groups, namely the New Black Panther Party and the African American Defence League, but concluded they could not find a connection between B.C. and “any African American activist groups.”
Other emails obtained along with the B.C. Real Time Intelligence Centre reports show RCMP intelligence officers concerned about the New Black Panther Party operating in Canada, with one officer labeling an email as “HIGH Importance.”
“Maybe [Real Time Intelligence Centre] can consider a work up on who these groups are and what their messaging is,” says one officer, “whether this is a threat here and whether they are using their messages to radicalize others.”
In an email to an unnamed American government official, Sargeant Lundie asks for US law enforcement bulletins along with “any further details on the anti-police group known as the ‘New Black Panthers’” and if they had “a presence either in Canada or the Pacific North West.”
The US official, whose name is withheld from the documents, replies they’ve not “seen or heard anything as of yet” on the New Black Panther Party, but would “make some inquiries.”
There has been little indication that the New Black Panther Party has ever been active in Canada. In 2007, Canadian border guards stopped the chairman of the organization — classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre — from entering the country to speak at an event in Toronto.
Even in the United States, the New Black Panther Party, which has been denounced by the leaders of the past Black Panther Party, claims just a few thousand members.
Micah Johnson, the gunman who opened fire in Dallas before being killed by police, had previously been a member of the New Black Panther Party, although police concluded that Johnson acted alone.
In the documents obtained by VICE News is a media report on the shootings, entitled: “Hate group urges gangs to kill cops after Dallas shootings.” The story reports that, after the Dallas shootings, a man associated with the New Black Panther Party and the African American Defence League called on members of the black community in a Facebook posting to “ATTACK EVERYTHING IN BLUE EXCEPT THE MAIL MAN, UNLESS HE IS CARRYING MORE THAN MAIL!”
Read the full documents: