Canada’s Top Spy Watchdog Lobbied For Pipeline Construction
Engler: Canada’s head of intelligence oversight board lobbied for pipeline construction as its internal spy agency spied on pipeline competitors
KAYLA RIVARA, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Kayla Rivara in Baltimore. And welcome to this latest edition of The Engler Report.
Now joining us is Yves Engler. Yves is a Canadian commentator and author. His most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy. And previously he published The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy and Canada and Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority.
Thank you for joining us, Yves.
YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST, MONTRÉAL: Thanks for having me.
RIVARA: So earlier on Monday, protesters interrupted Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during an event where he called for Canada’s First Nations to embrace resource extraction. Here’s a clip of what happened.
IAIN BLACK, PRESIDENT, VANCOUVER BOARD OF TRADE: I’d like to–I’d like to take a minute and have some folks removed from the stage.
RIVARA: Yves, can you explain what the protesters were calling for and why?
ENGLER: Well, they were drawing attention to the Harper government’s terrible record on climate disturbances. And, I mean, their record is very long, from pulling Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol to spending tens and tens of millions of dollars of public money supporting pipelines to ship heavy carbon emitting tar sands oil to different markets, to just a couple of days ago it came to light the environment minister had a speech prepared for her by the department, by the ministry, and she pulled out all comments about saying that climate changes were human-made and where they toned down the speech, to just a couple of days ago it’s coming to light about the Conservative government shutting down numerous libraries, scientific libraries across the country, apparently because they literally don’t want scientists to have access to the data that shows the impacts of climate change in this country. So the Conservatives have a, you know, very terrible record on this issue, and I think the protesters are trying to draw attention to this issue and did it in a very effective way that embarrassed the prime minister and got a significant amount of media attention.
RIVARA: Recently, former minister Chuck Strahl, who’s now the top spy watchdog, was found to have a conflict of interest with the Northern Gateway issue. Could you explain?
ENGLER: Yeah. It’s come to light in the last couple of days that Chuck Strahl, who was a former Conservative aboriginal affairs minister and a couple of different other ministry positions in different periods, he was appointed by Stephen Harper personally to head up the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees CSIS, the internal spy agency. And Chuck Strahl and CSIS, it’s come to light a couple weeks ago that they’ve been spying on opponents of the Northern Gateway Pipelines Project and passing that information to Enbridge, to the company building the $8 billion pipeline to take tar sands oil from northern Alberta to the B.C. coast and then then ship it to international markets. So that was a bit of a scandal, where it came to light about CSIS spying on opponents of the project. And now what’s come to light is that as the head of the–as the person overseeing ceases, Chuck Strahl, the former Conservative minister, has also been lobbying for Enbridge for the last two years. He just announced he just signed the official lobby registry in B.C. a couple of days ago, saying he’s lobbying for Enbridge. But now the Vancouver Observer online newspaper has found that he’s actually been lobbying for the company since at least the end of 2011. So this is a pretty serious conflict of interest. This is a serious embarrassment. Environmental groups are calling on Chuck Strahl to step down as the head of the intelligence–as the head of the watchdog over CSIS. But it just speaks to how close the Conservatives are, how tied in they are with the oil companies in the tar sands, but also the, you know, pipeline company like Enbridge trying to build this $8 billion tar sands pipeline.
RIVARA: So given these obstacles that you’ve highlighted, what are the odds that these activists can succeed in what they’re trying to do in blocking these pipelines and these projects?
ENGLER: Well, I think the action that took place on Monday was good in terms of raising awareness of the Conservatives’ terrible climate record. It was good at showing a sign of resistance. But the Conservatives have made very clear that they’re willing to pursue this pipeline, push this pipeline, even if the majority of the population in B.C. is opposed to the pipeline, which the majority of the population is opposed to the Northern Gateway, but where the real potential for serious roadblock for Enbridge is the First Nations in B.C. And the First Nations are almost largely opposed to the building of the pipeline in B.C. There’s camps going on, First Nations blockade camps that the Unis’toten First Nation has been going on for a while, getting prepared to physically block the route of the pipeline, of Enbridge’s ability to build it. It still hasn’t–Northern Gateway still hasn’t been given the okay by the federal government, which we’re expecting in the next couple of months, because the review committee they set up has given okay for the pipeline. So almost certainly the Conservative government will give the okay for the pipeline. But then it moves into a battle of direct action. It moves into a battle of lawsuits. And this is unceded First Nations land. The pipeline’s going to be–the company wants to build it on. So it’s going to be a long time tied up in the courts, and hopefully also tied up by direct actions. And there’s, you know, potential that the Conservative government will no longer be in power by that point. There is potential that there be changes in B.C. politics. So I’d say that at this point the Northern Gateway is still very unlikely, or it’s unlikely it’s going to be built anytime soon. And hopefully it will never see the light of day because of mostly because of First Nations opposition.
RIVARA: Yves Engler, thank you so much for joining us.
ENGLER: Thanks for having me.
RIVARA: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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