‘Creepy and unsettling’: Activist voices concerns over her RCMP profile by Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press, November 30, 2019, Global News
An activist concerned about mining-industry abuses found it “kind of creepy and unsettling” to recently learn the RCMP compiled a six-page profile of her shortly after she turned up at a federal leaders debate during the 2015 election campaign.
An analyst with the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Intelligence Unit combed through online sources about Rachel Small to assemble the report detailing her age, address, education, language fluency, work experience and Facebook friends in the activist community, newly released documents show.
The analyst ultimately found no indication that Small, a Toronto organizer with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, “is involved in criminal acts.”
Small was unaware of the profile until The Canadian Press provided her a copy released in August by the RCMP through the Access to Information Act. It turns out an associate of Small’s had submitted the request for records on the mining group, but for some reason never received the response.
The RCMP release, which also includes email messages, provides a glimpse into how the police force has made the careful monitoring of social media part of its work.
“I found it kind of creepy and unsettling because of the way that they were compiling information about my life,” Small said in an interview.
“It makes me wonder, what were they hoping to do with this information? And why is the RCMP spending so much time and resources to compile information on community organizers and activists in Toronto?
“I have no way of knowing what else they’ve dug into, and it’s hard to not feel like your privacy has been invaded.”
Small said neither she nor others associated with the solidarity network posed any kind of threat.
The RCMP did not answer questions from The Canadian Press about why and how it assembled the profile.
The disclosed material indicates the force became interested in knowing more about Small when she and a Mining Injustice Solidarity Network colleague in Toronto showed up at a Sept. 28, 2015, campaign discussion of foreign policy. The event was part of the regular Munk Debates run by a foundation set up by Peter Munk, founder of Barrick Gold, and his wife.
The solidarity network is a grassroots group concerned about the harms that mining companies, many of them Canadian, can do to communities, the environment and human rights.
Despite the Munk connection, the solidarity network doubted that Canada’s mining activities abroad would come up during the debate, so members decided to protest outside to call attention to the issue, Small said.
She and her colleague went to their seats, but someone working for the venue pulled them aside and it soon became clear they would not be allowed to stay.
“But there was no reason given at any time,” Small said.
She assumed someone had connected them to the protest outside, or perhaps it was the fact a well-known fellow activist had purchased the tickets for the pair. “We asked questions, we asked if we could file a complaint.”
The RCMP release reveals that an email to the force’s internet intelligence unit the following day identified the pair by name, along with birth dates, as the two women who used tickets purchased by a third party.
“When you have time, please compile any profile you can, from open source,” the email said. “They are allegedly affiliated with MISN, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.”
There was some uncertainty about the identity of Small’s colleague accompanying her, which may explain why only a profile of Small resulted.
The Oct. 1, 2015, report, which includes photos and other material culled from Small’s social-media accounts, was prepared by the internet intelligence unit under the auspices of the criminal intelligence program of the RCMP’s Ontario division.
It was intended to provide information about Small to the division’s V.I.P. security section, which protects domestic and foreign dignitaries, including politicians.
The report says that unless otherwise noted, all information was obtained through open sources, meaning publicly available data.
Beside Small’s home address in the report, there is an apparent reference to a criminal-intelligence database accessible only to law enforcement, despite Small’s having no criminal history.
The profile also cites a newspaper story about the solidarity network’s concern that it had once been infiltrated by undercover agents — it was unclear who they might be working for — out to gather information about the group.
Clear evidence the RCMP was watching in 2015 has made Small more wary, and she fears a general chilling effect on the solidarity network’s activities.
“It scares some people off,” she said. “We want to be a group that is open and welcoming, and that supports anyone who’s concerned about the Canadian mining industry.”
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