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Feds criticized for wanting closed-door hearing on CSIS pipeline spying case

ABOVE: CSIS pipeline spying debate.

Federal lawyers want closed-door hearings in a high-profile court case about allegations of Canadian Security Intelligence Service spying on anti-pipeline activists.

The civil liberties group behind a complaint about the purported CSIS wrongdoing opposes the federal secrecy request, saying it blatantly violates the principle that justice must be seen to be done.

READ MORE: Early win for B.C. civil rights group in pipeline protest spying case heading to Federal Court

The matter is slated to be heard Thursday in an open session of the Federal Court of Canada.

The judge’s decision will determine how much the public gets to see and hear in the coming months when the court looks at the central issue: whether Canada’s spy agency overstepped the law in monitoring environmental activists.

The ruling could also set a precedent that dictates whether future court challenges of CSIS activities are held openly or in secret.

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It all began four years ago when the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association complained to the CSIS watchdog after media reports suggested the spy service and other government agencies considered opposition to the petroleum industry as a threat to national security.

READ MORE: Anti-terror bill could target activists says human-rights group

The association’s complaint to the Security Intelligence Review Committee also cited reports that CSIS shared information with the National Energy Board about so-called “radicalized environmentalist” groups seeking to participate in the board’s hearings on Enbridge’s now-defunct Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The review committee held closed-door hearings in Vancouver in August 2015 and last year, it rejected the civil liberties association’s complaint.

That prompted the rights group to ask the Federal Court to toss out the decision and order the committee to take a fresh look.