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"Who's the government protecting: oil corporations or the people?": NDP responds to reports of spying on environmental groups

Protesters outside Northern Gateway pipeline Joint Review Panel hearings in Prince George. New reports suggest opponents of the project have been targets of federal surveillance. (Marissa Harvey/CBC).

New reports suggest officials have been closely monitoring British Columbians and other Canadians opposed to Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The Vancouver Observer has published what it says is proof that the National Energy Board coordinated spying on environmental groups before public hearings on the pipeline project, with help from the RCMP and CSIS. 

Jennifer Rice is the provincial NDP MLA for the North Coast, and is opposed to the Northern Gateway project.  "I feel almost violated," she says of the reports. "It's disturbing. I mean, who's the government protecting: oil corporations or the people?" 

The National Energy Board provided CBC with a statement following these reports. NEB Chair and CEO GaĆ©tan Caron writes, 

"National Energy Board committed to safety at hearings The NEB's mandate is to regulate pipelines, energy development and trade in the Canadian public interest. As part of this mandate, we conduct public hearings to ensure a broad range of perspectives are incorporated into our decisions. 

"Our top priority is, and always will be, safety. This includes the safety of our staff, our Board Members and the public. In fact, we are required under the Canada Labour Code to provide a safe workplace, including the hearing room. 

"As part of our focus on safety, we may work with local officials and our federal colleagues, such as the RCMP, to conduct a security assessment before a hearing. We use this information to develop plans to protect the safety of everyone involved. It is our responsibility to ensure appropriate security provisions are in place based on our assessment of risks. These services are sometimes provided by our staff, sometimes supplemented by local police. 

"The National Energy Board agrees that healthy debate is an essential component of a vibrant, democratic society. To this end, we are committed to providing a safe and respectful environment where our hearings can occur." 

Rice understands the desire for safety, but thinks these actions cross the line from safety into intimidation.

"I remember when I first started becoming a little more verbally opposed to this project, my dad something to me that I thought was just so far-fetched. 'You know Jen, people who oppose oil in other countries get shot.' I was so upset that he said such a thing. But I don't know, it's just lingering in the back of my mind now. I feel like this is just a great intimidation tactic, you know?"

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