A recent CBC investigation revealed that an RCMP unit specially created to crush opposition to resource-extraction projects has spent $50 million since 2017. If there was ever any doubt about the role of the Canadian state in violently defending the profits of industry, the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) is irrefutable proof.
Aside from the astronomical price tag, very little is known about this unit: how its members are recruited, how many members it includes, or how little (if any) direct control federal and provincial governments have over it. The C-IRG has no budget so as to not be restricted when the need to subdue opposition to industry arises. Far from being a “community” organization, it’s nothing but a resource-extraction defence group. The CBC investigation obtained documents through a freedom of information request, showing the cost of the C-IRG totals $3.54 million for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, $27.8 million for Coastal GasLink, and $18.7 million for the blockades against old-growth logging in Fairy Creek.
The officers at each of these attacks had their faces covered, wore sunglasses, were armed with rifles, and often wore full combat gear. Officers routinely had name tags ripped off and wore infamous “thin blue line” patches—a symbol associated with white nationalists which is now banned by the Vancouver Police and even the RCMP themselves. Squads arrived with police dogs, drones, axes, helicopters, and thermal imaging cameras. Some First Nations activists have taken to calling them “oil and gas mercenaries,” or “Indian fighters.” Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’moks told CBC, “This is all spent to suppress Indigenous and human rights. It was created just for that purpose: to protect industry,” when shown a summary of the C-IRG’s spending.
An APTN news investigation which looked at more than 4,000 pages of court files and documents uncovered allegations against C-IRG including “intimidation, torture, brutality, harassment, racism, theft, destruction of property, arbitrary detention, inhumanity, lying and deceit,” while the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (the RCMP’s watchdog agency) has so far received 488 complaints from C-IRG operations.
While many aspects of the C-IRG are secret, what we do know is how the unit command structure is organized. Many of their commanders organized internationally, including police operations in Afghanistan, where tactics now used by the C-IRG were developed and tested. The unit follows a gold-silver-bronze command structure meant to address the disorganization of previous attacks like Oka or Ipperwash. The gold commander sets strategic objectives and deals with government bureaucrats, while silver and bronze commanders oversee daily operations, raid plans, spying, and infiltration. At every step information is directly shared with resource companies, including police plans and intelligence on protesters. The task of the C-IRG is to have sub-bronze leaders in every detachment in the province, creating a shock troop which can mobilize at a moment’s notice to quash anything in the way of industry.
While the C-IRG has overwhelmingly been used to crush Indigenous and environmental protests against pipelines and logging, it is a powerful tool of the state which will inevitably be used when the labour movement threatens the profits of industry, in the case of a major strike of forestry, mining, or refinery workers, for example. Let’s not forget locked-out workers at the Regina Co-op Refinery in 2020 were being beaten, arrested, and harassed by the police at the same time the Wet’suwet’en were being trampled on. Canada is an incredibly resource-heavy country, and the economic crisis will unleash explosions in all of these industries as workers try to keep the gains they’ve made over the years and defend their jobs. The C-IRG is a reactionary organization which all workers should oppose and fight to dismantle, not least of all because millions and millions of dollars are funneled into it while our hospitals, schools, and infrastructure crumble.
None of this is speculation. Police have been used to attack the labour movement for decades, and the RCMP and other police departments in Canada have a long history of infiltrating trade unions, Indigenous movements, and left-wing organizations to destroy any opposition which might hurt the profits of the ruling class. This includes everything from attacks against miners in Estevan in 1931, where the RCMP opened fire on striking miners killing three, to the first deployment of Edmonton’s riot police to put down striking meat packers at Gainers in Edmonton in 1983, all the way to attacks from the Regina police at the Co-op Refinery lockout in 2020.
The C-IRG says it acts to uphold the rule of law and that its operations aren’t politically motivated. But its own foundational documents explain that it was specifically created “to protect pipelines, specifically the Trans Mountain expansion and Coastal GasLink” and that the unit “was created in 2017 to provide strategic oversight addressing energy industry incidents and related public order, national security and crime issues.”
The C-IRG was unequivocally built to crush any opposition to resource extraction projects. And while federally the RCMP falls under the responsibility of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, in B.C. it falls under the responsibility of Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, a member of the NDP.
Although technically speaking Farnworth should not be directing operations himself, any additional spending and the creation of policing units must be approved by his office. And so in 2020, when opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline was growing and the RCMP were planning attacks on Wet’suwet’en land defenders, Farnworth wrote to the commanding officer of the RCMP in B.C. that he had authorized “the internal redeployment of resources within the Provincial Police Service to the extent necessary to maintain law and order, and to ensure the safety of persons, properties, and communities in the area.”
Farnworth also wrote that “the operational deployment of resources and operational decisions are solely within the internal management and control of the RCMP; however, I ask that you please continue to inform the ministry of planned actions and any further developments through established channels between executive Policing and Security Branch and RCMP staff.”
The B.C. NDP has long claimed that premiers and prime ministers play no direct role in policing and have no power to call in or call off the police in relation to protests or blockades. They always conveniently forget to mention, however, that the solicitor general does have the power “to authorize the redeployment of police resources in response to a court injunction obtained by a corporation.”
That a member of the NDP, which is supposed to be Canada’s party of labour, played a direct role in crushing opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline and attacks on Wet’suwet’en land defenders should have the entire labour movement up in arms. Farnworth and the cabal of ministers around then-premier and ardent CGL supporter John Horgan (now around Premier David Eby) have proved they are willing to violently suppress Indigenous movements with the might of the RCMP. The fact that the B.C. NDP passed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as law shows it’s not worth the paper it’s written on when it comes time to do the bidding of the bosses.
As long as the resource extraction industries remain under the private ownership of the capitalists, the police will continue to be used to suppress opposition to resource projects. The role of the police in protecting the profits of the bosses cannot be reformed away. In crushing protests and opposition to resource-extraction projects, the police are doing exactly what they are supposed to do: defending private property and the interests of the capitalists and their profits.
Projects like the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain pipelines, and Teal Jones’s operations at Fairy Creek have pitted workers against workers and divided Indigenous communities. This is nothing but a cruel trap where no one but the capitalists win in the end.
Resource extraction on its own is not necessarily the problem—the fact that it’s solely driven by profit is. Rather than the profit motive trampling over Indigenous and human rights, if resources are to be developed they should be nationalized and placed under workers’ control. Then nothing could be built and no projects could move forward without the democratic input and decision-making of all parties involved, with all the benefits going to the betterment of society and local communities as a whole. The bosses care only for their profits, and they’ll use any violent means necessary to safeguard them. To get rid of their police thugs, we must fight for a future without the bosses, where their need for profit will never again overrule the good of society.