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Trans Mountain ‘investigating’ claims consultant has ties to Proud Boys terrorist group

A data breach of hosting company Epik revealed personal details of a Calgary man who registered a Proud Boys Calgary website for the far-right group

Trans Mountain, a Canadian government-owned pipeline and energy company, says it is investigating allegations that one of its consultants has ties to the Proud Boys, a group on a federal list of terrorist organizations.

The allegations follow a massive data breach of records from Epik, a U.S.-based internet company known for hosting and providing online services for far-right content.

The records, released by the online hacktivist group Anonymous, include a trove of personal information about some of the names behind viral campaigns promoting racism, misinformation, disinformation and other extremist views online, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The Narwhal reviewed invoice records from the breach that appear to reveal the name, personal address and phone number of a Calgary-based consultant who said on LinkedIn that he worked for Trans Mountain as a geographic information systems technologist since November 2019. According to the leaked records, the Calgary man registered the domain ProudBoysCalgary.com on Dec. 9, 2019.

It was not immediately clear whether the person who registered the Proud Boys domain name was the same person from Trans Mountain or whether it was a case of mistaken identity.

“We are currently investigating the claim,” Trans Mountain told The Narwhal in a short email on Thursday, responding to questions about the revelations, which have been shared repeatedly on Twitter over the past few days.

The person who was named in the social media posts appeared to remove or restrict public access to his social media accounts on Facebook and on LinkedIn on Thursday after a new series of messages were posted about him on Twitter.

“I’m seeking advise [sic] and counsel from a lawyer and cannot speak to anything at this time,” said the man in an email sent to The Narwhal on Thursday evening. “I categorically deny any and all involvement and the police are involved and assisting me in this matter.”

Last February, the Canadian government added the Proud Boys to its list of terrorist groups, saying the extremist group  had played a “pivotal role” in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol Building. The listing makes it a crime to provide financial support or other services to the Proud Boys.

The federal government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and several related assets in 2018 in a multibillion dollar deal, after the previous owner, Kinder Morgan, threatened to cancel a proposed West Coast pipeline expansion project.

Public opposition to new oil and gas projects, recent federal efforts to increase environmental standards and lengthy delays facing projects such as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion have provoked a fierce backlash in provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan that rely heavily on the oilpatch for jobs. The pro-oil and gas movement has staged various protests that have attracted far-right activists who spread racist messages and threats against First Nations.

Some oilpatch workers have made a point of distancing themselves from extremist messaging, and it is not clear whether the Proud Boys have been actively organizing within these movements or trying to take advantage of public anger to spread their own message.

Reached by phone, Rob Monster, Epik’s chief executive officer, declined to comment about the nature of the content his company is hosting, asking The Narwhal to send questions by email.

The company did not respond prior to publication.

Updated Sept. 23, 2021, at 8:32 p.m. MT: Adds new statement from person who denied any and all involvement.

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We hear it time and time again:
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Investigating stories others aren’t. Diving deep to find solutions to the climate crisis. Sending journalists to report from remote locations for days and sometimes weeks on end. These are the core tenets of what we do here at The Narwhal. It’s also the kind of work that takes time and resources to pull off.

That might sound obvious, but it’s far from reality in many shrinking and cash-strapped Canadian newsrooms. So what’s The Narwhal’s secret sauce? Thousands of members like John who support our non-profit, ad-free journalism by giving whatever they can afford each month (or year).

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