The notorious Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), a secretive tactical arm of the British Columbia (BC) Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), serves to protect the interests of extractives companies and suppress First Nations resistance to ecologically destructive mining.

The C-IRG has been deployed extensively, and aggressively, against Indigenous land defenders in BC, who call them “Indian fighters” and “oil and gas mercenaries”.

Information is now coming out that the C-IRG has being deployed against other groups at protests across BC, most notably the Palestine solidarity movement and demonstrations.

While remaining secretive about specific deployments, the RCMP confirmed that C-IRG has been “rebranded” as the Critical Response Unit BC (CRU-BC) and is now taking on an expanded role. This comes even as the unit faces several investigations and lawsuits over its brutalisation of Indigenous land defenders and environmentalists.

Deployment against Palestine solidarity movement

RCMP senior media relations officer Staff Sergeant Kris Clark confirmed the expanded scope of C-IRG (CRU-BC) deployments. “While originally created to respond to gas and pipeline involved protests, the C-IRG has been deployed to logging protests, homelessness protests [and] has overseen anti-COVID mandate demonstrations.”

Clark also said: “[M]ore recently, C-IRG has deployed to pro-Hamas demonstrations to support the police of jurisdiction with public safety and enforcement at these politically and emotionally charged events.”

This is a racist, anti-Palestinian, and Islamophobic framing, as the demonstrations across Canada have focused on solidarity with Palestinians and an end to Israeli assaults on Gaza and have not been in any way “pro-Hamas”.

In response, the Canada Palestine Association (CPA) released a statement condemning the RCMP narrative about Palestine solidarity actions as a smear campaign against “broad-based and diverse” coalitions and movements in solidarity with Palestine, which include members of the Jewish community. In the words of the CPA: “It is not surprising that C-IRG are now sending their unit to pro-Palestine events. Their abhorrent behaviour towards our Indigenous brothers and sisters has demonstrated their lack of respect for all Indigenous people.”

The racism of C-IRG officers was on full display during an abuse of process hearing that started in BC on January 12 for violence inflicted on Indigenous land defenders. The court heard an RCMP officer describe an Indigenous person who had been arrested as “that big fucking ogre-looking dude”. Officers were heard making degrading comments about symbols worn by Indigenous women to honour murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. One officer was heard saying, “Do they have fucking face paint, too? They’re not orcs?”

In keeping with the secretive nature and practice of the C-IRG, the RCMP refused to give exact dates or locations for any of the rallies at which C-IRG officers have been deployed.

As I have reported, the RCMP has longstanding and deep connections with the Israeli security forces. This includes active deployment in the West Bank as a foundational part of Operation Proteus. It is deeply concerning to have a unit, which may include officers who have deployed with Israeli forces, doing surveillance and enforcement against Palestinians in Canada.

Anti-trans actions and counter-protests

Recently, it was revealed through Freedom of Information disclosures to the media, that C-IRG officers were deployed at anti-trans actions and trans rights counter-protests. Specifically, it was confirmed that C-IRG officers were present at several banner protests at a highway overpass in North Vancouver. The protests continued throughout last year. Some morphed into opposition to BC government drug harm reduction programs.

Staff Sergeant Jason Charney, a senior officer with C-IRG, emailed an operations manager with the province’s highways department, after a judge granted the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure an injunction to stop the weekly protests.

Charney’s email said: “One of the functions of this unit is addressing injunctions within the province. I have been tasked with assisting the North Vancouver RCMP detachment with the injunction which is currently in place for the Mountain Highway overpass. I was hoping that we could meet next week and go over the injunction.”

According to the documents released under FOI, Constable Mansoor Sahak, public information officer with the North Vancouver RCMP said in an internal communication, “No charges have been laid in relation to the Mountain Highway overpass protests. CRU-BC did assist last July but generally they are called upon by detachments to assist with large protests. CRU-BC could assist at any point but currently there are no protests occurring on the overpass so therefore no police response is needed.”

While leftists would certainly have no sympathy for the far-right anti-trans activists, these documents show the extended use of C-IRG as a force of surveillance and repression. It is also likely C-IRG will be primarily used against leftists, Indigenous, Black and racialised people, unions, striking workers or environmentalists engaged in so-called “economic disruption”.

Additionally, LGBTQ activists have turned out to counter far-right bigots. Under cover of monitoring anti-trans activists, C-IRG will likely be giving special attention to LGBTQ activists and their allies.

Expanded role, expanded cost

Clark said the C-IRG has received increased calls for assistance across BC, but provided no information on whether they came from other police forces, municipalities, businesses or elsewhere.

He did state that in addition to enforcement duties the now expanded CRU-BC has absorbed the Police Liaison Team, which seeks to communicate with local groups. According to Clark, “When called upon, the CRU-BC supports local police of jurisdiction with public safety and enforcement at political demonstrations”. Despite the update, the RCMP website does not detail the unit’s expanded mandate.

This expanded role comes, predictably, with expanded funding to police.

The Tyee reported that newly released figures show a new expenditure item called “Hamas Day of Action — October 2023” which designated almost CA$11,000 in expenses. These were mostly for personnel costs, with around $500 for unnamed “professional and special services”. Salaries and indirect costs are not included in this since they are calculated at fiscal year-end.

C-IRG already eats up public funds at a high rate, costing around $65 million since its inception in 2017. Using documents that Wet’suwet’en land defenders received through a freedom of information request, it has been estimated that more than $18 million in public money was spent between 2018‒21 solely in enforcement of Coastal GasLink’s injunction against land defenders on Wet’suwet’en territory.

One media source reported that the RCMP spent $3.75 million over the course of five months in 2021 on enforcing a court injunction against old-growth-logging protesters at Fairy Creek on southern Vancouver Island. Of that, $2.45 million (65%) went to officer costs.

It is all a lot of money for abuse of communities and movements. The federal police watchdog has launched a Civilian Review Complaint Commission investigation of C-IRG for its enforcement activities at environmental protests and land defence actions in several locations, including those mentioned above on Wet’suwet’en traditional territories.

The Abolish CIRG coalition, along with the BC Civil Liberties Association and Union of BC Indian Chiefs, has demanded the Canadian and BC governments disband C-IRG.

Source link

By admin