CSIS gathered info on peaceful groups, but only in pursuit of threats: Watchdog

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OTTAWA — A federal watchdog says Canada’s spy service collected some information about peaceful anti-petroleum groups, but only incidentally in the process of investigating legitimate threats to projects such as oil pipelines.

The newly disclosed report from the Security Intelligence Review Committee acknowledges a “chilling effect” on environmental groups, stemming from a belief the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was spying on them.

But after reviewing confidential evidence and testimony, the committee concludes these fears were unjustified.

The heavily censored review committee report, completed last year and kept under wraps, is only now being made public because of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s ongoing court challenge of the findings.

The civil liberties association complained to the CSIS watchdog in February 2014 after media reports suggested the spy service and other government agencies considered opposition to the petroleum industry a threat to national security.

The association’s complaint also cited reports that CSIS shared information with the National Energy Board about environmental groups seeking to participate in board hearings on Enbridge’s now-defunct Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The Canadian Press