A well-known First Nations activist and lawyer says she is being tracked by the federal government departments.
Pam Palmater, a Mi'kmaq lawyer and professor at Ryerson University, told CTV’s Question Period that access-to-information documents show that she is being tracked by three federal government departments.
“I wrote an access to information request to CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service), National Defence, the RCMP and Indian Affairs to determine whether or not they were following (or) surveilling me in any way and three out of the group all confirmed that they were,” she said.
Palmater did not indicate which three of the four departments are tracking her.
Palmater said the ATIPs indicate the government started tracking her prior to her involvement in the highly publicized Idle No More movement, which swept across Canada in early 2013.
Palmater’s concern about government surveillance of First Nations activists comes as Parliament debates the Conservatives’ controversial anti-terror bill, C-51, which increases powers for Canada’s security agencies to track threats. She worries some wording in the bill may lump First Nations and environmental activists into that group.
"Any activity by anyone in Canada which relates to or poses a potential threat to things like the economy, critical infrastructure, diplomatic relations, territorial integrity and sovereignty of all things, can be on this terror list,” said Palmater.
“So that essentially puts in the realm any First Nation that's ever declared sovereignty in this territory and any environmental group that's ever interrupted the economy.”
But the government has said the legislation won’t target activists like Palmater. Speaking to the House of Commons public safety committee on March 12, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety Roxanne James addressed concerns raised by Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde that First Nations activism will be viewed as “activity that undermines the security of Canada.”
“I can't think of a single instance in my history -- I'm 49 years old -- where a First Nation has brought something that would blow up infrastructure, that would kill innocent lives, and I can't think of anything in history that would connect First Nations to being a group that would be within the information sharing act,” said James.
Palmater rejected such claims.
“They are already spying on me,” said Palmater. “So right now, without this anti-terrorism bill, my rights are already being violated."
Canadian Bar Association concerned about bill
The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) expressed similar concerns about the anti-terror bill on Question Period, joining the growing chorus of criticism against the legislation.
The organization is particularly concerned about the government's failure to include any new parliamentary oversight for Canada’s security agencies in the legislation.
“The concern for us is with almost a rewriting of the mandate for CSIS; there isn't a commensurate increase of on-the-ground operational, over-the-shoulder oversight for the organization,” said Eric Gottardi, of the CBA.
Gottardi said it is also unclear why the new powers are necessary, as many of them are already covered under existing legislation.
The Commons public safety committee will continue its study of the bill next week, where it will hear from a number of new witnesses, including Palmater and the CBA.