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

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

The Vancouver Island marmot is an endangered species. Pictured here, a marmot at Mount Washington. (Black Press file)
VIDEO: ‘Frisky’ Vancouver Island marmots caught on camera

Marmots are catching the eye of researchers when caught on security cameras getting ‘quite frisky’

Karilyn, right, with her older sister, Sabrina. Both siblings are members of the YANA family, after being helped by the community organization on separate occasions. Photo supplied
Siblings both members of the YANA family

Comox Valley non-profit helped Geiger family on separate occasions

A second-floor balcony continues to smoulder after a fire extinguisher was used to get a small balcony fire under control at the Washington Inn Apartments. Brian Hayward, who lives on the third floor, was alerted to the fire by the smell of smoke wafting into his apartment. Photo by Brian Hayward.
Courtenay firefighters respond to balcony fire at Washington Inn Apartments

Firefighters were called out to the Washington Inn Apartments Sunday, April 17,… Continue reading

RCMP forensics investigators scour the site north of Highland School in Comox, where multiple people were stabbed during a party Saturday night, April 16. Photo by Terry Farrell
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Comox bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault near Highland Secondary

Cumberland is surrounded by trees — and logging. Its council is supporting a call to stop old-growth logging in vulnerable areas of the province such as Fairy Creek. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland backs request to save B.C.’s old-growth forests

The Comox Youth Climate Council is asking local governments to take stand

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Most Read