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Documents Show Government Monitoring of Aboriginal Groups

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Just after coming to power as prime minister in 2006, Stephen Harper set up a federal effort to monitor what he considered potential areas of First Nation unrest by enlisting the Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC), a new report alleges.

Obtaining internal documents under Canada's Access to Information Act, Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak found a concerted, complex effort to gather information about what the government termed "hot spots" in the aboriginal community, as well as coordinate enforcement efforts with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), they reported in the current edition of the newsletter First Nations Strategic Bulletin.

"Aboriginal people who are defending their lands by disrupting transportation routes, private development, resource extraction projects, and other crucial economic activities are now treated on a spectrum from criminals to terrorists," they wrote. "Under Harper, an intensification of intelligence gathering and surveillance procedures have governed the new regime."

As the authors point out, besides perhaps expecting some opposition to his initial Conservative agenda from First Nations opposition, Harper "was also clearly taking a hard line on aboriginal & treaty rights and moving toward a security paradigm familiar since the War on Terror was launched in 2001."

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INAC created a “Hot Spot Reporting System" of weekly dispatches that highlighted communities including Tobique First Nation, Tsartlip First Nation, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) First Nation, Six Nations, Grassy Narrows, Stz’uminous First Nation, the Likhts’amsiyu Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Gitxaala First Nation, Wagmatcook First Nation, Innu of Labrador, Pikangikum First Nation—in general, "bands from the coast of Vancouver Island to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean," the authors wrote on the Dominion News Cooperative website.

Diabo, a member of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, Quebec, and an advisor to the Algonquins of Barrier Lake, and Pasternak, a Toronto-based writer, researcher and organizer, outline a complex web of information-gathering that involved not only INAC but also the RCMP.

"What we see in these documents—from the hot spot reports themselves, to the intelligence-sharing between government and security forces—is a closely monitored population of First Nations, who clearly are causing a panic at the highest levels of Canadian bureaucracy and political office," they wrote.

Comments were still pending from INAC on Wednesday afternoon.