Activist Rachel Small poses for a photograph in Toronto on Friday, November 29, 2019. 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. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Canadian activist says RCMP profile about her is ‘kind of creepy and unsettling’

Clear evidence the RCMP was watching in 2015 has made activist Rachel Small more wary

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.”

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers and COVID-19 contact tracers must stop, Chilliwack soccer club says

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Gurkirat Toor has been charged after allegedly pointing a gun at another driver on Oct. 23 in Abbotsford.
Man charged after gun pointed at another driver in Abbotsford

Gurkirat Toor, 21, previously charged with purple-fentanyl bust

The Abbotsford Teachers’ Union stated that local teachers worked without heat on Friday as secondary principals’ and vice-principals’ were at a work-related retreat in Whistler. (Google)
Abbotsford Teachers’ Union says teachers left in the cold on Friday

Abbotsford School District disagrees, saying all buildings were set to 21C on Pro-D Day

The Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation held its inaugural Grand Gala in November 2019 at Harrison Hot Springs Resort. This year’s event will be held online. (Submitted photo)
Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation holds virtual Grand Gala

Second annual event takes place online on Nov. 20, raising funds for local hospitals

Abbotsford author Katrina Wiggins has been shortlisted for the Page Turner Award eBook Award for her young adult novel, Blind the Eyes.
Abbotsford author shortlisted for literary award for young adult novel

Katrina Wiggins’ book Blind the Eyes is about climate crisis and monsters

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

It’s been eight years since Gordon Spencer (pictured), and cousin, ‘Lil’ Bruce Mayo, were gunned down in a home in Langley, and Spencer’s widow is hoping someone who knows something will step up (file)
Eight years on and still no answers in Langley double murder

Wife of victim makes public appeal for people with information to come forward

Langley resident Shaun Nugent, who died in 2019 shortly after he saved a swimmer from drowning, has been awarded a posthumous medal for bravery by the Royal Canadian Humane Association (Courtesy Nugent family)
Langley man who died after saving swimmer receives posthumous medal for bravery

Shaun Nugent rescued woman from Hayward Lake near Mission in July of 2019

Most Read