Military documents called protesters from the Anglican Church of Canada “anti-APEC” and “anti-economy” leading up to the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Vancouver last November.
The Department of National Defence documents, labelled “secret” and “Canadian eyes only,” were put together by the military and summarize research by the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the country’s spy agency.
The information was recently released to journalists during the inquiry into the way the Royal Canadian Mounted Police treated protesters at APEC.
Although the RCMP and CSIS were the primary agencies handling security during APEC, the military also had a logistical support role.
Many protest groups were in Vancouver during the summit to oppose the policies of the former president of Indonesia, General Suharto, who was accused of human rights abuses in East Timor. Anglicans were there to speak up for “the voices of other citizens (who) are absent,” and to highlight environmental and labour standards, a news release said.
The documents show the military had assessed Anglican Church protesters as low risk, but also categorized them as anti-APEC and anti-economy, as it did other groups such as the Canada Asia Working Group, an ecumenical coalition that promotes human rights.
A separate assessment was done on the “probability of violence” at a protest, held during the APEC summit, outside St. Mark’s College, a Roman Catholic institution on the University of British Columbia campus. Members of the Vancouver School of Theology, Regent College and “other faith groups” were listed as the participants.
The documents say the protesters were likely to “hold up banners stating People Before Profits, Stop Religious Persecution and People Count in an Economy.”
The protest was rated as “probably peaceful” and that “this group is reportedly for anyone who does not wish to associate themselves with more militant groups such as APEC Alert.”
A Department of National Defence spokesperson declined to comment on how the information was collected by CSIS and the RCMP.
At the time of the APEC summit, members of the church’s eco-justice committee said they opposed the forum because it “falls short of Christian criteria for just development and a moral economy.”
Joy Kennedy, co-ordinator of the committee, said more than 100 members of the church were protesting in Vancouver during the summit. They participated in the People’s Summit, an alternative forum held by protest groups, and also marched in a demonstration of more than 1,000 people last Nov. 23, holding a banner saying, Anglicans for a Just and Sustainable World.
Ms. Kennedy said she was surprised the Anglican Church was called anti-APEC and anti-economy.
“We said that we took issue with many issues in APEC,” said Ms. Kennedy. “We didn’t say we were anti-economics or anti-trade … If we were going to be viewed by our military as being anything other than good Canadians, then I think there’s something wrong with their interpretation of what it means to be a good Canadian.”
She said it was interesting to find out nearly a year after the event that protesters with the Anglican Church were being watched.
“The first word that came to mind for me was transparency. We were trying to be as open and transparent as possible to show what we thought and believed … It’s rather ironic that the nature of intelligence gathering is not transparent and open and that we find out months and months later that we were part of an intelligence operation.”
Ms. Kennedy said Anglicans made their views clear and have nothing to be ashamed of. “We were there to be part of an ecumenical round table of church leaders…So if the military is watching, maybe they can learn something.”