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Canadian police spied on Indigenous protesters on Parliament Hill

One protester, still barred from Parliament Hill, believes surveillance and arrests are stifling dissent

by Hilary Beaumont
Nov 10 2017, 1:09pm

Documents obtained by VICE News show the RCMP watched closely as Indigenous protesters erected a teepee on Parliament Hill this summer, with the force’s national protective intelligence unit believing activists could disrupt Canada Day celebrations, and that the ceremony attended by communists “may not remain peaceful.”

The documents show a continued pattern of Canadian police monitoring Indigenous protests, including Standing Rock and Idle No More.

Two days before Canada celebrated its 150th birthday, a group of protesters arrived on Parliament Hill to build a teepee to protest the event which they say commemorates Indigenous land theft and violence. The RCMP cracked down on Indigenous protesters, arresting and detaining nine people and issuing trespassing notices. A briefing note, obtained through an access to information request, asserts police “had to detain” protesters, but does not explain why.

One activist who was arrested at the protest camp in late June says he is still barred from Parliament Hill months later. The activist says he was later recognized by police while attending a vigil for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and told to leave.

The RCMP’s national protective intelligence unit that penned the report profiles any person or group that other spy units deem to be a threat. The briefing note was partially redacted “as it relates to the efforts of Canada towards detecting, preventing or suppressing subversive or hostile activities.”

The intelligence report says the teepee protest was associated with Idle No More’s “Unsettling Canada 150: A call to action,” a series of events planned to celebrate Indigenous rights and territories, and to educate Canadians on the country’s colonial history.

Native American protesters and their supporters have been gathering for months in a sprawling camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. It started out as resistance to a pipeline that the Indigenous people say could threaten their drinking water, but now it's become a larger battle over rights and sovereignty. A crew from the upcoming VICELAND show, Rise, has been following the standoff on the ground. In this dispatch from Standing Rock, we meet an artist who tells us why he thinks this is the most significant Indigenous protest in decades.

“At this time, the state of the protest is peaceful; there have been no indications that a violent protest will be taking place over the course of the next four days,” the report says. But it goes on to note that the merging of like-minded groups “seems to have begun,” singling out the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada and Revolutionary Students movement, whose members attended the event in solidarity with Indigenous protesters.

“Many of these individuals are known to police,” says the intelligence report in reference to the communist groups.

“This may indicate a much larger primary group of protesters rather than smaller groupings of demonstrations,” the report says. “Also, it should be noted that, while this initial group camping on Parliament Hill may be peaceful, other groups attending their occupation ceremony may not remain peaceful.”

Freddy Stoneypoint, a Carleton University student originally from the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation in northwestern Ontario, was arrested, detained and handed a trespassing notice on June 28 on Parliament Hill.

He was “totally and completely unsurprised” police were monitoring the protest, “considering the securitization of Indigenous dissent, and how surveillance is often used to curtail the rights of Indigenous people.”

Stoneypoint says he was told trespassing notices issued against himself and the eight other arrested protesters were dropped after they were released. “But just about a month ago, I was at a vigil for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on Parliament Hill and I was immediately recognized and they told me the notices were still in effect for four more months. So I was asked to leave or I would be charged with trespassing.”

He believes the surveillance and trespassing notice are “absolutely” stifling his right to protest.

He said the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada was there in solidarity with Indigenous people. Stoneypoint was surprised to hear the intelligence report singled out the communist group when the Council of Canadians and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake also attended the event but were not named in the police documents.

“It’s pretty typical of the state to cast anything affiliated with Indigenous solidarity movements as threats. This is a narrative that often plays out against dissent from the state.”

The report, based mostly on media reports, says the special intelligence unit will continue to monitor social media and document any “information of concern” in additional reports.