Home / Press Release:  Fight continues against secret hearings in challenge to CSIS spying on environmental groups   

Press Release:  Fight continues against secret hearings in challenge to CSIS spying on environmental groups   

For Immediate Release 

Ottawa, ON (unceded Anishinabe Algonquin Territory) – The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has appealed a recent Federal Court decision related to our 10-year fight for government accountability and transparency following our complaint against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for secretly and illegally spying on Indigenous land defenders and environmental groups.  If the decision is upheld, CSIS would be allowed to use secret evidence in court to oppose our ongoing judicial review of the Security Intelligence Review Committee’s decision to dismiss our complaint.

The Federal Court ruled against the BCCLA June 5, 2024. The Court held that the unredacted record could be disclosed to the judge hearing the judicial review, even though it would continue to be withheld from the BCCLA. The Court also upheld the redacting of names of petroleum companies that participated in hospitality events with CSIS.

The decision being appealed relates to a complaint, filed in February 2014, which alleged that CSIS was monitoring Dogwood Initiative, ForestEthics (now Stand.earth), Sierra Club BC, Leadnow.ca (who were opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal), and the Indigenous #Idlenomore movement, and sharing this information with the National Energy Board (NEB) and petroleum companies. The BCCLA further alleged that this spying activity was deterring individuals from associating with environmental groups and expressing their opinions, arguably creating a chilling effect that interfered with Charter-protected rights to freedom of expression and association. 

In 2019, the BCCLA was able to publicly release thousands of previously secret documents. While still heavily redacted, these documents showed that CSIS had investigated specific targets who were opposed to pipelines, including those named in our complaint. In addition, CSIS had shared information they had gathered about the targeted groups with the NEB and petroleum companies.

We are deeply concerned by the idea of secret hearings in our judicial system. Open courts are a cornerstone of our democratic system of constitutional government and the rule of law.

Vibert Jack, Litigation Director of the BCCLA

This is part of an ongoing pattern that reveals a disturbingly close relationship between our governments and the fossil fuel industry — from illegal spying on peaceful activists and land defenders, to American gas companies teaming up with CSIS to push for changes in Canadian law to access intelligence. We need to stop the spread of fossil fuel influence that is corroding our democracy and blocking critical climate action.

Alexandra Woodsworth, Director of Organizing at Dogwood

Secret court hearings are antithetical to the democratic rule of law and erode public trust in our court systems. Further, we remain deeply concerned that without an open judicial review and fair document disclosure, Canadians may never learn the extent to which CSIS engaged in illegal spying on peaceful protestors to provide information to wealthy multinational oil corporations—companies that already have a disproportionate and dangerous influence on government decision-makers.

Shanaaz Gokool, Executive Director of Leadnow

The BCCLA is represented in this case by Paul Champ and Bijon Roy of Champ & Associates.