We thought it would be useful to include some information around state surveillance that anarchists and activists engaging in Indigenous solidarity and anti-pipeline work in so-called southern ontario have been subjected to.

While a number of cities have had run-ins with state surveillance, we’re going to share the summarized experiences of individuals in and around hamilton, ontario. We chose to focus this area because there is a well-established written record of escalating surveillance in that area, combined with action reportbacks. This makes it easy to see escalating state action within context. We hope it helps individuals appropriately assess and balance their own risk in the work they do.

The following is a very rough summary of confirmed instances of state surveillance techniques, happening within sustained (and sometimes intensifying) resistance organizing. We find it important to note that state surveillance seemed to intensify not only with the momentum of struggle (based on publication dates and action types), but also perhaps as their own efforts to infiltrate and criminalize failed.

The information has been gathered from public news articles, as well as communiques and reportbacks that can be reviewed at The Hamilton Institute and Northshore Counter Info.


The Context

It seems that Hamilton has always had some radical folks and involvement, from the red hill valley direct actions to people in the city getting scooped up as part of the G20 main conspiracy group. Soon after, folks in the area launched into dedicated anti-pipeline and Indigenous solidarity organizing with extended campaigns of action against local pipeline projects, and in solidarity with Indigenous folks engaged in land defense elsewhere. Based on reportbacks we could find, actions have included work site disruptions, bank and office disruptions, NEB glitter-bombings, long-term site occupations, blocking worker buses at central dispersal points. There has also been nighttime vandalism of work offices, banks/financiers, RCMP stations, construction sites, and heavy equipment contractors – as well as both nighttime and daytime valve shutoff actions. Additionally, the area has been hit heavily with solidarity rail disruptions of all kinds including daytime blockades and nighttime sabotage actions.

Outside of these actions, individuals in the city also began The Tower – an anarchist social space – that acts as a gathering place and offers a platform for radical perspectives and voices.


The Surveillance

Social Media

Anyone organizing or attending actions likely to be targeted for repression needs to understand that open source information like social media related to pipeline resistance and Indigenous struggle is – at the very least – monitored and noted.

Police everywhere – at all levels – obtain intelligence and evidence using social media. Information they look for include events, organizers, friend and organizing networks, interests/likes, related posts and more.

More than once photos, comments and videos have shown up in court disclosure being used as evidence against an accused. To this end: If you’re publicly posting photo or video evidence that you’ve been to an action in an area subject to an injunction or that otherwise incriminates you, expect to be charged.

While platforms like facebook are becoming less and less valuable as an effective organizing tool, we understand that in some cases it may still be strategically useful. Just make sure you’re hiding event attendance lists, privatizing your account, hiding your friends list, and hosting events under a fake name or page.


Door Knocks & Obvious Police Surveillance

Nearly lost among other accounts are also stories that include an uptick in passive but obvious police presence – more police taking photos at demonstrations, on people’s streets – even sitting in front of their houses. People were often greeted by name on the streets or at demonstrations – first by legal name and then eventually by nicknames, showing the dissemination of basic surveillance information.


Undercover Operation

In the summer (possibly earlier) of 2016, “Shane Bond” started infiltrating activist and anarchist spaces in hamilton, ontario. This included attending open meetings, attending The Tower anarchist social space, community dinners, and eventually even getting invited to some actions. Shane was in community for approximately 2 years, attempting to obtain information on anti-pipeline organizers, as well as The Tower.


Police Visits

Throughout the years in Hamilton there have been instances of police home visits.

In the lead up to the pan am games, one such visit resulted in someone receiving breach charges for residing at a different address, even though it had been reported at the station in the presence of their surety.

One other time, a newer individual to anti-pipeline organizing was approached while walking home by police, who were hoping to turn them in to an informant.

After Shane’s attempted infiltration, police asked someone to attend the police station under the guise of laying charges. Instead they were questioned and released – and continued to be approached for some time.

Again, more recently, a family was approached by OPP while walking in a public park and encouraged to provide information on individuals doing Indigenous solidarity work.


Other Internet and Mobile Surveillance

The site Northshore Counter Info – an anarchist news site – recently released a write up of more intense surveillance at least one individual involved in anti-pipeline/land defense work has been under. It involves the confirmation of local police obtaining warrants for an individual’s ISP and google on very little grounds, as well as the mobile surveillance of an individual using teams, and a warrant being approved for attaching an electronic tracking device to someone’s vehicle.

We recommend reading it in full.