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

134 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday

First day over 100 cases since July 31

330 km walk for charity stopping in Sylvan Lake

Chris Sadleir, 45, is walking from Calgary to Edmonton to raise money for the Lung Association

School curriculum to focus on basics, says LaGrange

Minister Adriana LaGrange, MLA for Red Deer South, said it will ‘unleash student potential’

1 in 7 Albertans have been tested for COVID-19

56 additional cases Thursday, 1,107 active cases remain in the province

Sylvan Lake man’s documentary getting limited run in Alberta theatres

Scott McDermott’s documentary will be in 14 theatres, including Sylvan Lake and Wetaskiwin

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gather in Wetaskiwin

Protestors gathered along 56 St Wetaskiwin, Alta. August 4, 2020 for Indigenous Lives Matter.

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

13-year-old charged in death of boy, 10 in Maskwacis

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 13-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

‘Caught up in the frenzy:’ Oilers 50/50 draw breaking ticket sale records

Previous record was held by Toronto Raptors fans when a 50/50 raffle reached $2 million

Alberta jury trials to resume next month at offsite locations due to COVID-19

About 12 locations across Alberta may host the trials in halls, hotels and community centres

Alberta school curriculum to focus on basics, keep out political bias: minister

NDP education critic says the kindergarten to Grade 4 changes should have been implemented a year ago

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Walmart to make face masks mandatory for customers across Canada

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

Most Read