Spying, intelligence and Canada’s energy interests

24 Nov

Last month I wrote an article with Martin Lukacs that was published in the Guardian the explored the focus of Canada’s intelligence agencies on energy interests, and specifically looks at an ongoing series of events where Canadian agencies brief  energy companies on classified intelligence.

The article came on the heels of revelations by TV Globo and Glenn Greenwald, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, that the Communications Security Establishment Canada(CSEC)  had been spying on the Brazil Ministry of Mines and Energy.

There is a no indication that  intelligence gathered in Brazil, was shared with energy companies, but the briefings reveal another aspect of how Canada’s focus on supporting energy interests influences Canada’s spy agencies.

In the last week two article were published that show that the National Energy Board collaborated with CSIS and the RCMP to keep tabs on both environmental and indigenous groups who were taking an interest in Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline.

The first article in the Vancouver Observer, by Matthew Millar, shows documents that directly reference one of the classified briefings discussed in the Guardian article. Two days later the Globe and Mail published an article is by Shawn McCarthy based on the documents in the Vancouver Observer story.

You can find links documents on the briefings at the bottom of this article.  I originally wrote an article on these briefings a year earlier in the Dominion.

The PowerPoint on Canada’s Spying on Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy that was revealed by TV Globo has been republished here.

Government rolls out new Access to Information requests tools

18 Nov

I recently became aware of two new tools that were rolled out by the Canadian Government related to Access to Information request. One is a tool to search Completed Access to information requests and the other is a way to file Access to Information requests online

In April, I created my own tool to search completed Access to Information request but the government tool is much more robust and replaces any need for the one I created.

The tool allows you search completed Access to Information requests completed in 2012 and 2013. It searches 50 out of about 170 Institutions that are subject to Access to Information legislation, however it seems to cover the most important government departments, as well as bodies like Canada Post and the CBC. A list of institutions on the left hand side of screen allows you to filter your search to only the in institutions which you click on. And each result includes links to the contact information for the department so that you can request copies of the information provided in each competed request (it is free). It will be particularly useful when researching specific topics to get a quick sense of what requests have already been filed and easily get my hands on the documents. There is also a link on the page that allows you to download a list of the summaries of all completed Access to Information (right now just for Spring 2013).

The other tool is a way to file access requests online. Up until now Access to Information requests had to be filed and paid for through the post. But it seems that the government is trying out a system to file request online. At present you can only file online with three departments: Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Shared Services Canada, and Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS). I imagine that they are testing it out now and may phase in other department overtime, if the system works for them.

I filed a request to test it out, and found the system fairly straight forward and simple. It basically consisted of filling out a series of web forms. Mostly I was prompted to provide the same information I provide in a letter, but I also had to indicate whether I was a Canadian Citizen, Permanent resident, or business; If I was requesting on my own behalf or on behalf of someone else;  the format I wish to receive the documents in; and whether I am media, business, academia, an organization, or member of the public. The other major difference is that unlike with a letter I needed to provide ID to show I am a Canadian Citizen / Resident.

On the whole I am impressed with both these tool, they are useful, display well, and are easy to use.  I am pleasantly surprised by this effort by government to make public records more accessible.

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Missing Plaque Coverage

9 Sep

The Missing Plaque Project recently received more coverage, this time an article in the Toronto Star:  http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/08/20/missing_plaque_project_unveils_torontos_untold_history.html

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Shape of the Harbour

13 Aug

ShapeofHarbour 2x3





Or an alternate version:


ShapeofHabour 1x6




Wonscotanach River

9 Aug


This is a remake of Missing Plaque Project poster I made several years ago.

Cherry Beach Express

8 Aug
Missing Plaque Project

Missing Plaque Project

After a hiatus for a few years I have started making new posters for the Missing Plaque Project




An Overdue Update

7 Aug
It has been a several weeks since I have updated this blog and I wanted to write a brief update on some of the work I have been up to.
1) In June, I went to San Antonio Texas to attend the annual Investigative Reporters and Editors Conference. I have been to this conference a few times before but it always knocks my socks off, and this time was no exception.  I picked up a ton of new skills, met amazing reporters, and left incredibly inspired. I learned a lot of new data journalism skills and I currently have some exciting data based stories in the works.
A big thank you to everyone who donated to support my journalism as it allowed me to attend this amazing conference.
2) Shortly after returning from Texas I began covering Swamp Line 9. This was a camp that a group of activists set up at an Enbridge facility in order to block construction that would allow the pipeline company to reverse the flow of an existing pipeline, “Line 9″, in order to bring Oil east from Sarnia to Montreal.
I started with a story covering a solidarity action that happened in Toronto, and then biked out to the encampment which was located in a rural area outside Hamilton.  I was invited by the activists to spend the night, and the next morning I was woken at 7am by someone telling me that the police had arrived. Although people were being arrested all around me, I somehow avoided arrest and made my way to a baseball diamond across the street where I could observe the arrests and began working on my article. Later the police noticed me I had to move behind the media cordon, where I was interviewed by CBC and CHCH due to my access to the site durring the arrests.
Although I have covered protests in the past, most of my reporting is investigative work that take place on the phone, a laptop, or pouring through records. This is the closest been to conflict reporting. I have friends who travelled to Honduras during the coup, or have snuck into Syria to do reporting, I am a bit awe of them for doing that. But for me this is the first time I had to tackle that balance between getting close to the action and staying safe.
3) One of the major focuses of my reporting has been looking at the intelligence gathering the state used in response to protest by First Nation groups. Two weeks ago I published a story that covers this from a different angle. It explores CSIS’ efforts to drastically boost the number of Aboriginal recruits, and the spy service’s reaction to recruiters being confronted Six Nation’s Pow-wow. I published it in a local Six Nations paper, the web version of the story is here. I also posted CSIS’ 2012-2013 Marketing and Recruiting Plan online, here.
4) In 2002, I started the Missing Plaque Project, an initiative to put up posters on little known Toronto history right in the area where the history took place. I haven’t worked on the project for several years, but this summer I began making some new posters. If your interested to learn more I was interviewed for the CBC show How to do it. The show aired at 9:30 today, and will go to air again on Saturday at 11:30am, and audio is up on the site.
I am excited to have restarted this project and I will put some of the posters up on this blog soon.

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