Authorities in Quebec have been monitoring environmental groups opposed to shale gas development in the province for the last two years on fears that their activities could become radicalized and violent, according to a report by La Presse, a French newspaper in Montreal.
According to the report, documents requested from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) show investigators monitored anti-shale activists in 2011 and 2012 over growing concerns they could abandon acts of civil disobedience for violence.
“There is a possibility that the industries, organizations and individuals that are involved [in the shale gas industry] could be identified as legitimate targets,” the RCMP said in a translated statement. The Mounties called for industry workers to remain vigilant and to report to the CSIS any “suspicious activity, extremist crime or threat to national security.”
The RCMP said a “growing number of incidents, particularly in Quebec and New Brunswick” have already taken place. If shale development were to move forward in Quebec, the Mounties warn, there could be an increase in the number of conflicts “very similar to those already happening with the Canadian oilsands and nuclear power.”
Canadian investigators said they were concerned that Occupy Wall Street, a protest movement based in the United States, had circulated an online petition known as the “Anti-Fracking Pledge of Resistance,” which calls for signatories to “resist hydraulic fracturing operations, as well as organizations that make them possible.” The newspaper reported that “targets” of the petition not only include oil and natural gas companies involved with the drilling, but also engineering firms, lawyers, manufacturers and elected officials.
Investigators were also concerned about “extremist” and “radical” elements affiliated with the environmental group Earth First, and their entry into the debate over shale development.
“There is a real possibility that Canadian activists are similar to their U.S. counterparts, and are comparing their strategies for direct action and protest,” the RCMP said in a translated statement.
Although the documents received by the newspaper were partially censored, they showed that investigators have been monitoring three websites, including Facebook, for activity by environmental groups and indigenous movements in Western Canada. Additional details over the surveillance were not known.
Serge Fortier, spokesman for the nonprofit group Regroupement Interregional de la Vallee du St-Laurent (RIGSVSL), told NGI’s Shale Daily that he was surprised to hear investigators were looking into anti-shale activism.
“It’s possible that our telephone lines or email accounts are being investigated, but we aren’t worried about that,” Fortier said Tuesday. “We don’t have anything to hide. We are surprised by the allusions of the RCMP and the CSIS because we are a pacifistic group.”
Laurent said RIGSVSL is an umbrella organization that represents more than 100 committees, namely cities and municipalities, in Quebec’s St. Lawrence River Valley. “Our citizens are worried about their environment, their quality of life and their drinking water,” he said.
Stephane Gosselin, director general of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association (QOGA), told La Presse that he was surprised by the news, too.
“This is the first time I’ve heard about these reports,” Gosselin said. He added that although the organization hasn’t come under threat by opponents of shale development, QOGA trusts the work being done by investigators.
A portion of the Utica Shale underlies Quebec. In 2011, the Quebec government said it would conduct a two-year strategic environmental assessment of shale development, but would allow oil and gas companies to drill test wells and perform hydraulic fracturing (see Shale Daily, March 10, 2011).
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