Quebec shale-gas opponents have come under police surveillance1/15/2013
MONTREAL — Quebec shale-gas opponents were surprised to learn the RCMP believes they have the potential to become radicalized and aligned with North American “extremist” groups.
Two reports by the RCMP’s Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Team say companies, organizations and people involved in the shale-gas industry could become targets, La Presse reported Monday after receiving the reports under the Access to Information Act.
Being the target of police surveillance has come up among members of a coalition of groups opposed to shale-gas development, said Serge Fortier, coordinator of the Regroupement Interrégional sur le gaz de schiste de la Vallée du St-Laurent. His group represents more than 100 anti-shale gas citizen committees in Quebec.
“We always wondered whether our telephone lines or emails were being monitored,” Fortier, a consultant on the environment and ecological landscaping, said in an interview.
The RCMP reports, from 2011 and 2012, said there is a possibility of Canadian activists turning to “extremist” U.S. groups to “compare and develop” techniques for direct action and protests, La Presse said. The reports mentioned groups like Earth First and Occupy Well Street, which has gathered 271 signatures on an online petition pledging “acts of resistance” to stop the use of hydraulic fracturing. That’s the technique of injecting water, chemicals and sand underground under high pressure to break up rock and allow shale gas to escape.
Fortier said he was surprised to learn the RCMP was interested in shale-gas opponents because his group is peaceful and has always been very open about its activities.
“Our group has existed for 30 months, and since then we’ve conducted ourselves in a democratic and civilized way,” he said.
At demonstrations, the Regroupment has its own security team in place and works with police to ensure things are done correctly, he said. Controversial issues like shale-gas development can attract people who are prepared to go extreme lengths, Fortier said, but his group does not accept them.
But that does not mean his group will not use acts of non-violent civil disobedience in the future, he said.
“There’s a difference between non-violent resistance and extremist revolutionary or terrorist acts,” he said. “We prefer negotiation, and presenting evidence that there is a problem to make the population aware of this industry.”
The Quebec Oil and Gas Association, which represents the industry, did not return phone calls Monday.
This is not the first time police have been involved in the fractious debate over shale gas in Quebec. Former Hydro-Québec chairman André Caillé, who briefly headed up the QOGA, was told by police to leave a public meeting about shale gas for his own safety in 2010.
A year later, a Montreal man was charged with terrorism-related offences over letters threatening people involved in the shale-gas industry in Quebec and Alberta.
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