A 71-year-old grandmother was investigated as a terror suspect after photographing aging oil tanks at the base of Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, Canada, on Aug. 3.
"There's a knock on the door, and there are two RCMP officers at the door," Lesslie Askin told CBC News. "The chap who asked all the questions [said he] was an investigator with the national security division.”
Askin says she was taking photos for her presentation at the upcoming National Energy Board hearing into the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. The $5.4 billion pipeline would move an additional 590,000 barrels per day needed for incoming Alberta bitumen and oil products.
The Burnaby terminal has 13 storage tanks that can store up to 250,000 cubic meters of crude and refined oil products. The company wants to build an additional 13 tanks.
Askin is amazed at how much attention she received from the RCMP E-Division's Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (E-INSET), which consists of RCMP officers, Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) agents and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).
"I have never had any interaction with the law," she said. "I'm 71 years old. I have no criminal record. I'm not a threatening person.”
Kinder Morgan Canada claims a security guard reported Askin to the RCMP, but in a statement the company said she was being evasive.
"The security person approached the unknown individual and the person fled the scene," Kinder Morgan's statement says.
But Askin tells a different story.
"A vehicle came, drove up, a big white truck with a couple guys in it and they had the criss-cross vests... They looked at me and I smiled, because I pretty much knew who they were, and I waved and so on, and sort of gave them the opportunity to speak to me, which they didn't do," she said.
Kinder Morgan says it reports any suspicious activities to police to "ensure the security and safety of our facilities and the surrounding community is maintained.”
"It is our security protocol to record and file an internal report of any suspicious activities surrounding our facilities and to inform the RCMP of the incident," the company says.
It also says Askin’s photos are actually of Shell's tanks, which are on property adjacent to the Kinder Morgan storage terminal.
The company told CBC News on Friday that it is now offering to let Askin go past the fence and onto its storage terminal.
Kennedy Stewart, a current Member of Parliament for the electoral district of Burnaby-Douglas, stood up in the House of Commons Friday to demand that the Harper government apologize to the 71-year-old woman.
"Ms. Askin is rightfully concerned that there is now a permanent record of Kinder Morgan's 'incident report' on the RCMP database," he told CBC. "It is unacceptable that a law-abiding citizen participating in a public hearing process was visited by two officers on the whim of a Kinder Morgan employee."