Democracy threat countered by Youtube and indie media – union leader Dave Coles
Agents provocateurs only the tip of Montebello story.
HALIFAX, NS, August 27, 2007: Yesterday, HarperIndex.ca interviewed Dave Coles, the union leader at the centre of the Montebello agents provocateurs story, by phone during his stop at the Halifax airport. Coles is President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers of Canada. He has been active in union organizing since 1967, and got his start with the local representing pulp mill workers in Crofton, British Columbia. We present excerpts of the interview:
HarperIndex.ca: A week later, how do you feel about Montebello?
Dave Coles: I feel disappointed and disgusted. I've been around people being infiltrated all my life in the labour movement. It never stops. These people will resort to every dirty trick in the world.
It's not uncommon in the progressive movements for either the corporate cops or the state police to do this kind of thing. They have used these types of tactics for 100 years, from the Pinkertons to the RCMP.
HI: What's new here?
Dave Coles: What's new here is they tried to agitate or cause trouble with demonstrators who clearly were no threat to anyone. We were dressed in suits and jackets and dresses and sandals, no masks to be seen. We were holding a police line back and held it back for hours.
The police were trying to move on six young protesters who had stopped their line and were sitting in the road, but they didn't have masks on. We had backed away from main gates of Montebello when the police forces got pretty rough with us. A couple of times during the day, some of the direct action kids came to our line trying to get us to do something provocative, and I talked them down.
An hour or so earlier, we were being taunted by the police. They stole from one of my staff a flagpole with a CEP flag and ran through the graveyard taunting us with it.
| || ||Our union has a very critical story to tell. Harper and his crew don't want it out. |
HI: Was this done by plainclothesmen?
Dave Coles: No, it was the cops, the Darth Vader crew. This is why I maintain that somewhere up the political ladder someone is giving instructions to not let us tell our story. Our union has a very critical story to tell. Harper and his crew don't want it out.
That's why we were in Montebello. It's all about Canada's energy security. The SPP has nine working groups on energy, all corporate executives and bureaucrats. There's nobody there from civil society or politicians. The Harper government is bowing to every American wish possible at the cost of energy security for Canada.
There is no pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to refineries in eastern Canada. All production, to get to eastern Canada, must go through the United States of America. Ninety nine percent of all Canadians, including most politicians, don't understand that.
The Harper government has been pushing through the FTA [Free Trade Agreement] to speed up pipeline expansion proposals to export bitumen [unprocessed oil sands]. There are pipeline applications to export 5 million barrels a day of this stuff by 2015. We have applications saying this ain't right. The stuff should be processed in Canada so we get the economic value from it, and the jobs, and society gets to determine the overall value we will get from it. Harper and his gang want it sold and shipped directly to the States. Canada, and especially Alberta, get the pollution, and the U.S. gets the jobs.
When Canadian raw crude oil has to go through the U.S. before it can get to any eastern refineries, including the big Irving refinery in St. John, New Brunswick, don't we have the right to ask "What about Canada's energy security?"
The same applies for electricity. There's no east-west grid, it's all north-south. Ontario is landlocked from Manitoba. All we want to do is make sure these questions get asked so Canadians see how these questions are dealt with. The SPP should be dealt with in the House of Commons. Politicians should be the ones dealing with it, not the corporate elite.
That's why I believe there's corporate interference in our movement. Provocateurs are sent in. The mainstream media won't cover us. What they want to cover is rocks and tear gas. Some mainstream media belittled me in the beginning. I think it's a disrespect to democracy and a threat to democracy.
HI: What was it like on the ground in Montebello?
Dave Coles: There really was hardly any trouble in relative terms to many actions I've been around and seen in the past. This was a church picnic. They had to stir it up. If the real reason the Council of Canadians and we were there were understood, the public would be up in arms about the SPP. It's treated as trivial, they call us the left wing loons, they keep giving us the back of the hand, only this time they got caught.
HI: Who took the video and posted it?
Dave Coles: A young chap from Nanaimo hired by the Council of Canadians, as well as a bunch of citizens taking still photos. I knew in my heart, after I looked these guys in the eye and they shoved me around, that they were cops. I'm a union leader. I've been on picket lines all my life. These guys looked like, acted like and smelled liked cops.
I find it really insulting they say they were carrying rocks to blend in. This guy assaulted me, he shoved me, he fingered [gave the finger to] me. They were marching on a line that didn't have a mask. There's no mistake what they were doing or what we were doing.
HI: What are your next steps? Do you intend to press charges
Dave Coles: We have legal counsel working all weekend on this. We are going to file complaints, when it's to our advantage to expose this assault on democracy.
There are a number of issues that concern us. The reporting of the media and how they refuse to take our issues seriously. There's the issue of the infiltration by the police of a democratic process. There's entrapment, personal assault against me and my staff, the whole issue of political direction. Which politician made that determination they should infiltrate us?
HI: What made the story take off?
Dave Coles: Technology is a marvelous thing. We had the Youtube and digital pictures, and more pictures coming. We had two or three pretty clear shots of their faces. The cops knew we were going to Facebook them. The media had been talking to me. Sooner or later, somebody in Quebec was going to say "That's my neighbour." There was no way. Facebook, all the blogs. They got caught. Without a democratic free press, there is no democracy. Right now indie media is what's saving our butt in the democracy. Very few Canadians understand the importance of it. The Web is going to be the foundation of democracy for a while.
HI: Do you feel you successfully undermined Stephen Harper's agenda as a result of last week's events?
Dave Coles: Harper, he's just a mouthpiece for corporate capital. Think of the power of the oil companies. Their role in Iraq, the SPP...
A number of media insiders have told me that if they really wanted to have a meeting that didn't have a confrontation, why wouldn't they fly into Camp David or some other armed fortress and leave? They set it up so they could send their goons in. Why would the police steal our flag and taunt us with it, running through the graveyard. We didn't get any pictures, but lots of witnesses saw it happen.
HI: What makes you think it's coming from the Prime Minister's office?
Dave Coles: Past practice, and also history. The guy doesn't like us to start with. I want to know if it's Stockwell Day or the Prime Minister himself who's behind it.
HI: We'll never know.
Dave Coles: We intend to find out.
Related individuals, organizations and significant events
Agents provocateurs active at Montebello?
SPP is built around secrecy and US military command – law expert
Deep integration – TILMA and SPP to bring in rules to let corporations challenge our laws
Harper Conservative vs. Public Values Frame
Secrecy / Openness
Corporate rules / Democracy
Loonies / Democartic rights
Security / Police abuses, bully tactics
Links and sources
The Plan to Disappear Canada, Murray Dobbin, Straight Goods, June 10, 2007
"Three Amigos" to meet in Montebello, Linda McQuaig, Straight Goods, July 10, 2007
Harper's sad and secret spectacle at Montebello, Ish Theilheimer, Straight Goods, July 21, 2007
Posted: August 27, 2007
Harper Index (HarperIndex.ca) is a project of the Golden Lake Institute and the online publication StraightGoods.ca