Barred by weather from speaking at this morning’s British Columbia Civil Liberties Association media conference in Vancouver regarding the release of secret documents related to spying on protestors by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and subsequent investigatory hearings held by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), Sierra Club BC released the following statement from campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 8, 2019
“Four years ago, I testified at the secret spy hearings. But because of the gag order placed on me and all other witnesses, I can’t tell you what they asked, what I said, who was there, or even where the hearings were held.
“What I can tell you is that Sierra Club BC is a charity that operates entirely within the bounds of the law. Speaking up for clean drinking water shouldn’t make us enemies of the state. Wanting air free from wildfire smoke shouldn’t make us suspect in the eyes of our government.
“Carbon pollution from the oil industry is causing extreme weather, hitting our communities with flooding, wildfires and drought. Illegal spying on concerned residents trying to protect themselves from the impacts of fossil fuels is an attack on our freedoms and our future.
“The real threat to our safety and national security is the climate crisis, not B.C. residents who are speaking up about salmon or a liveable future for our children. So it’s completely unacceptable that the government is spending tax dollars on spying to then assist the oil industry whose carbon pollution is the very thing threatening the safety of our communities.
“The right to voice dissent is a fundamental right that has made Canada a better place to live. It is through dissent and the right to engage in public debate, and protest, that we have nice things like the weekend, which we now take for granted.
“Spying on people who are participating in public processes – and then giving that information to the oil industry – is an illegal attack on democracy.
“The effect of finding out you’re being spied on, or that others are being spied on, is to turn people off from getting engaged. People told us they were scared to sign a petition, go to a rally, volunteer, or even make a donation, for fear of being put on some list and being monitored.
“In their report, SIRC said they understand people felt a chill effect as a result of believing they were being spied on.
“I’m prohibited by law from telling you what I said to the tribunal. What I can say is that it’s completely unacceptable that speaking up for a healthy and safe environment should make us suspect.
“Given the upcoming federal election, I’d like to see all parties commit to not use tactics like this illegal spying, and to reaffirm their commitment to our fundamental rights and freedoms.”
The 19 volumes of the Protest Papers can be viewed here: https://bccla.org/secret-spy-hearings/
Campaigns Director, Sierra Club BC