The Thirty Years’ War with The Commies
Ever since the First World War the RCMP and Canada’s Reds have been locked in a Cold War of their own that has several times exploded into bloody violence. This exclusive report tells you how the Mounted Police handle their most dangerous and difficult assignment
The Mob Kills a Cop During the 1935 Regina Flare-up
ON FEB. 15, 1946, at six o’clock in the morning, 12 squads of Royal Canadian Mounted Police knocked, simultaneously, on the doors of 12 homes in Ottawa, Montreal and Kingston. They got the occupants out of bed, hustled 12 suspected Communist spies into patrol cars, drove them to the big red-brick RCMP barracks at the edge of Ottawa, and held them incommunicado for five to ten days.
The arrests drew harsh press comments on the danger of a federal police force that would act on “secret orders” by the minister of justice. Some papers likened the knocking on the doors to “Hitlerism.” Others called the RCMP barracks a “Cana '¡an Daschau.” Tl e questioning in the “horrible little white cells” where the prisoners were held was described as “psychological torture.”
One barrister’s accusation made front-page headlines in the Ottawa Citizen: LAWYER CHARGES RCMP USING ‘THIRD DEGREE.’ The Canadian Forum said:
If the police agents . . . were anybody else but the RCMP, public opinion might be willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt. But the psychopathic addiction of the Ottawa headquarters of the RCMP to anti-Communist mania is so notorious that any statements from them are suspect until they have been tested and proved in the courts.
Canadians are not, as a national U. S. magazine once labeled Americans, “a nation of cop-haters.” Yet the reaction to the arrests clearly revealed a latent fear of the RCMP. Beneath our idealized image of the Mounties as the high-minded, hardriding heroes of countless gallant adventures lies the image of a coldly efficient, rigidly disciplined, blindly obedient, centralized organization.
Is the RCMP an incipient Gestapo? If not, how did the image arise? It couldn’t have been created overnight in 1946. It wasn’t. The spy case was not an isolated incident; it was just one battle in a long war fought for the most part in secret.
The battle lines between the Mounties and the Reds were drawn in 1919. Expeditionary forces of the Allied armies were in Russia and a cavalry unit of Royal North West Mounted Police was part of Canada’s force. Winston Churchill was urging the defeat of the Russian revolutionary army. He was over-ridden by the pressure of the labor movement in all Allied countries and that same year the Canadian force was sent home.
The RNWMP unit had done no more than make a few patrols out of Vladivostok and so the Mounties were more than gratified to see a large crowd on the Vancouver wharf and banners reading: WELCOME HOME RETURNING HEROES.
As they stepped down the gangplank a man tossed a brick. A barrage of stones followed. The crowd, the RNWMP learned later, were longshoremen. They had read in the newspapers that the RNWMP had been sent home to put down strikes in western Canada. The welcome signs, it turned out, were for the Seaforth Highlanders who had just come back from France.
The incident was a portent of things to come. Labor unions in the west were hotbeds of discontent. Soldiers were coming home to swell the ranks of the unemployed. The Russian Revolution, now a success, was held a shining example by radicals everywhere. In every labor hall from Winnipeg to Vancouver left-wingers fired wild words of revolution into an inflammatory situation.
At a Calgary convention in March 1919, rebels from the Trades and Labor Council launched the One Big Union. Their intention was to take over the craft unions (carpenters’, machinists’, etc.) and to raise upon their defunct bodies a single colossus. One resolution, passed unanimously by the convention, announced its “full acceptance of the principle of Proletarian Dictatorship as being absolute and efficient for the transformation of capitalist private property to communal wealth.” This was their aim. Their weapon, they declared, was the general strike.
The Royal North West Mounted Police was then a federal force, responsible for the peace of the Northwest and the prairies; next year, as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, it was to become
the federal police force for all Canada. Soon the Mounties had undercover men in the One Big Union in almost every centre. They wanted to find out if the OBU planned violence to gain its stated aims.
Corporal (later Ass’t Comm’r) Frank Zaneth served as a typist to a leader of the Winnipeg general strike. An organizer from the Industrial Workers of the World, a revolutionary U. S. union, visited strike headquarters to see how things were coming. “What’s wrong with your Canadian intelligence?” he asked. “Don’t they ever bother you?”
“No,” said Zaneth’s boss, “they’re half asleep.”
But the Mounties weren’t asleep. After the Winnipeg strike failed in June 1919 Zaneth’s testimony helped convict seven leaders of sedition; one was acquitted.
The OBU was doomed when power in its councils was seized by a revolutionary group with more taste than talent for conspiracy. In 1921, in a barn near Guelph, Ont., a meeting of left-wing socialists including OBU leaders was arranged by a Latvian using the name Charles Scott. Scott was one of the three men who composed the Pan American Bureau, the voice of the Communist International in North America. That night he founded the Canadian Communist Party, under the less pro-
vocative title of the Workers’ Party of Canada.
It was the great misfortune of the Reds that two years earlier a man named John Leopold had decided to join the Royal North West Mounted Police. Leopold was an Austrian emigrant, a homesteader from Peace River who spoke four languages. No Mountie ever looked less like the romantic figure of fiction than this squat swarthy man with the hooked nose and soft, melancholy brown eyes. Noting Leopold’s background and languages, his inspector told him he had been picked for an important undercover mission to penetrate the OBU in Regina.
Constable John Leopold vanished from the Regina barracks. He reappeared as Jack Esselwein, a house painter, a man with a little income from a Peace River farm, a dabbler in grain futures. He joined the Painters’ Union. He seemed an ardent, eloquent, willing socialist. Soon, he was prominent in the OBU.
A few months after the Communist Party was formed Leopold received a letter:
The urgent need in Canada for a militant Workers' party which would unite the working masses ... so as to lead towards the overthrow of the
When Gouzenko Talked, the RCMP Swiftly Smashed Ottawa Spy Ring
Continued on page 56
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 19
capitalist system, and the establishment of the workers’ republic has long been apparent...
You. comrade, as an active worker in the class struggle, have, we are certain, felt this need. You have wished that such a party be established ... so that you could throw all your energies into the work. Now, such a party is actually here in Canada . ..
The letter was signed M. (Mike) Popovich, on behalf of the Provisional Organization Committee.
Leopold asked his superiors what he should do. It was a priceless opportunity. Do as you’re asked by all means, he was ordered. Leopold became the party’s first, secretary in Regina. He chaired meetings, recruited members, sold pamphlets. He was campaign manager for the first Communist elected to office anywhere in North America, a Regina alderman named Kolysnick. For a time—the worst time—-he acted as bodyguard for the Moscow agent Charles Scott. He slept with him, constantly fearful of talking in his sleep.
Soon, he reported to the RCMP that the party was really two groups, A and Z. A group was the Workers’ Party. It was the legal front and did the recruiting. Z group contained the leaders. It did the plotting, mainly plans to infiltrate unions and widen their membership.
Cops Had Him Marked
Leopold was a Z. The inner circle had no secrets from him. He corresponded with national secretary Jack Macdonald and drank with him or Tim Buck, another Communist bigwig, when they came to town. Twice a week, through an undercover contact, he would send the RCMP his notes, party pamphlets, and copies of personal correspondence.
Jack Esselwein became a well-known radical, a marked man with the western police. Only four or five RCMP officers —the direct chain of command from Leopold’s Regina inspector to the commissioner in Ottawa—knew Esselwein’s real identity. All his non-Communist friends turned away from him. His bewildered fiancée, a Saskatchewan school teacher, tried to get him to quit Communism. Leopold could not tell her who he was and she eventually married another man. Leopold has never married.
With party members and leaders he was popular. He gave his money generously. Once a month a messenger would bring him his RCMP pay in cash. If party funds were tight he would pay his own way to eastern conventions. When the other delegates had gone to bed at 5 a.m. Leopold would sit up scribbling notes for several hours. In Ottawa, a great mass of material was collecting in the secret files marked “Agent 30.”
For eight years Leopold led this amazing double life. In 1924 the Workers’ Party boldly merged with Z group as the Communist Party of Canada. In the spring of 1926 Leopold went to Winnipeg, then moved on to Toronto. He held no official position but he was a trusted confidant of all party leaders. Once he was arrested for taking part in a demonstration in front of the U. S. Embassy.
His exposure came by remote chance. In the autumn of 1927 a Communist organizer, Malcolm Bruce, formerly of Regina, was working in California. At
a party one night he got into a conversation on spies with another ex-Regina resident. This man mentioned a Mountie who vanished one day from Regina barracks and later turned up as Jack Esselwein.
“Where did you hear that story?” Bruce exclaimed incredulously. “Why, Jack Esselwein’s one of my best friends. He painted my house. He’s been in the party longer than I have.”
The story had come from an exMountie now going with the informant’s daughter. The ex-Mountie confirmed it when Bruce talked to him. Badly upset, Bruce wrote to party leader Jack Macdonald in Toronto. As Macdonald later recalled his letter, Bruce stated the facts then added: “Jack has been like a brother to me. I have never had the least cause to suspect his sincerity.”
Macdonald, a shrewd, black-browed Scot, did not believe the story either. But Leopold, from then on, was under observation.
For six months nothing confirmed their suspicions. Leopold continued to drop into headquarters, attend meetings and help wrap bundles of the Communist weekly, The Worker.
Then carne his second piece of bad luck. An immigrant from Austria—-we will call him Karl, though that is not his name—who had known Leopold in Repina visited him in Toronto. He was not a Communist. He was in Toronto to try to sell an invention; he had no money, and he gave Leopold a hardluck story. Leopold, a kind-hearted man, took him into his apartment for a few days.
Only Karl and Leopold know what happened. It is possible that Karl suspected Leopold in Regina. It is almost certain' he searched Leopold’s apartment during his stay, which stretched into weeks. In any case, in May 1928 Leopold asked Karl to leave. It appears that they quarrelled and Leopold left for a union convention with the matter still unsettled.
The day after Leopold left, Karl asked to see Macdonald alone. He was nervous and conspiratorial. They talked in Leopold’s apartment. Karl said he had a secret worth thousands of dollars to the Soviet government. No, it was not an invention, it was information. He was very mysterious.
Finally Macdonald said, bluffing: “You can’t sell me anything. I already know. Jack Esselwein is a government agent.”
Karl’s expression showed he had guessed right. “I’ve known for a long time,” Macdonald said, “but I can’t get. anything on him.”
“Then I help you,” Karl said. He opened Leopold’s trunk and showed Macdonald several papers: reports on the Communist Party, the deed of a western farm in the name of John Leopold, a bank draft receipt for 3,000 crowns sent to Mrs. M. Leopold in Bohemia (his mother) and a letter of introduction from a prominent Regina citizen to R. B. Bennett, leader of the Opposition in Ottawa, saying that “Jack Esselwein” was doing work of which any patriot should be proud.
A few days later Leopold was expelled.
His revelations had made the Communist aims and methods clear from the beginning to both the Canadian and U. S. governments. His personal knowledge of party leaders gave the RCMP a tactical advantage in the long underground war that was just beginning. His mass of evidence made it possible to identify and arrest Communist leaders where necessary.
But this came later. In 1928 Leopold received many threatening letters and Comm’r Cortlandt Starnes thought it wise to send him to Fort Simpson, in
the North West Territories. The following year Jack Macdonald, in turn, was expelled—for disagreeing with Moscow-made policy. Tim Buck took his place. Depression struck, and the party’s great chance came.
It organized strikes, trying to touch off violence wherever possible. The main idea was to create lasting bitterness against police and government in the minds of working men.
The bloody riot they sparked at Stratford, Ont., in July 1931 snapped the patience of Ontario’s AttorneyGeneral William Price. On Aug. 11 he ordered a raid of Tim Buck’s home and headquarters. Nine leaders were charged with seditious conspiracy and Leopold was recalled from the north.
In Leopold’s strange career there is no more dramatic moment than his entrance into the courtroom in Toronto. The only sound was the jingling of his spurs as he took his place as the crown’s chief witness. In the red-serge dress uniform of an RCMP sergeant he sat for three days facing the men who had been his closest friends.
The defense tried to show that grievances and violence came from the capitalist system, not the Communist Party. “We (only) seek to organize the workers to resist the grievances,” Tim Buck testified.
Leopold identified documents which conclusively linked the Canadian party to Moscow’s International (i.e. “Today you have become a full-fledged member of the Communist Party of Canada and of the Communist International”).
The International, in a letter passed on to Leopold in 1923, made its intentions quite clear:
The revolutionary epoch upon which we have entered forces upon the proletariat (workers) the application of militant methods, namely mass action . . . Mass action is the proletarian revolt . . . the mass strike and mass demonstration are among its initial forms . . . This culminates in armed insurrection and civil war aimed directly at the destruction of the Capitalist State and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship.
Leopold also threw some interesting light on Communist methods. One party pamphlet plainly spelled out the use of codes, ciphers, secret inks, couriers and defense corps trained in street fighting. “Our comrades,” the pamphlet’s writers complained, “don’t know how to throw stones. It is not enough to pick up a stone and throw it, it is important that the stone should hit its target, and not merely hit its target but that some effect should be seen from the blow.” Communists, the pamphlet suggested, should practice stone-throwing after work.
The jury, mostly working men, took only two hours to find all eight Communists guilty of what the judge called “a species of treason.” They went to Portsmouth Penitentiary at Kingston, Ont., for two to five years. But the party was never legally outlawed. The very next month, August 1931, four organizers from the Workers’ Unity League, all card-holding Communists, were stirring up trouble among the striking miners in the open-pit coal mines at Estevan, Sask.
An undercover agent tipped off the RCMP in Regina that the strikers were arranging a parade in defiance of an edict by the Estevan town council. This would give the Communists a chance to rouse mob action. The RCMP dispatched one squad of 30 men to the mines and one of 12 to the town some miles away.
The Communists out - generaled them. As the larger squad arrived at one of the mines, the strikers were entering the town in a mile-long motor-
cade of cars and trucks. The strikers were in holiday mood. They waved at the women who came to the doors to watch them pass. But for a peaceful parade they were strangely equipped: axe handles, crowbars, bricks, stones, flails of electric cable strung with barbed wire and weighted with lead babbitts.
A thin line of 12 Mounties and two town cops blocked off the main street. The leading truck, a red flag waving from it, darted down a side street to come in from behind. A guffaw went up from the strikers.
Suddenly, a second truck speeded up and crashed the police line. Estevan’s police chief told the strikers to get out of town before they started trouble. Several men grabbed him and roughed him up. A Mountie came to his rescue and was clubbed with a piece of cordwood. The fight was on.
Slowly, a jeering mob of up to 500 strikers forced the 14 policemen back along the wide flat main street. Occasionally, the crowd would press in and surround a Mountie until the others, flailing out with their batons, rescued him. With their guns still holstered, the Mounties fell back to the town hall.
Here, they formed a semi-circle and tried to hold the mob at bay with their batons. One Mountie’s arm was shattered by a blow from a flail. A flying brick fractured another’s skull. The semi-circle was forced back to the town hall wall. A Mountie fell. The mob seized him. The nearest Mounties dragged him back. Flying missiles filled the air and the mob was closing in.
“Shoot Me!” She Shouted
Staff Sgt. Walter Mortimer looked down his line of battered bleeding men and gave them the order to draw their guns. “Go back,” he kept shouting to the mob. “Don’t be fools.” A woman laughed hysterically. “Shoot me!” she cried, throwing up her hands. A striker pulled a revolver from his pocket and fired at the police (as an Estevan citizen later testified).
“Fire over their heads!” shouted Mortimer. About ten shots, all high, were fired. The strikers fell back at once. None was hit at that time, according to eyewitnesses.
In the meantime the Estevan fire truck had pulled up. The firemen intended to turn their hose on the crowd. A group of strikers rushed the truck and one man jumped on the driver’s seat. There was a shot and he dropped dead. The responsibility for his death was never fixed. Several more shots were fired.
When the second RCMP squad arrived it was over. At the sight of their .303 rifles the mob melted away. The fighting had lasted forty-five minutes. Twelve people were in hospital, including two bystanders, a musicteacher and a visitor from England, both wounded by stray bullets. The music teacher swore a striker had shot him. Two miners were dead and one was to die later in hospital. The provincial enquiry that followed did not determine who was responsible for the strikers’ deaths.
An editorial in the St. Catharines Standard summed up the incident: “The strikers gained nothing by their attempted parade except two funerals— not a very fruitful day’s work for the agitators.” The editorial was only half right. The strikers had gained nothing but the Communists had gained much. They had three martyrs and every year thereafter they held a parade from the mines to Estevan to commemorate the “murders.” As far west as Vancouver they organized
workers and unemployed in protest meetings against “the brutal and unwarranted attack by Royal Mounted Police on a peaceful miners’ motorcar parade.” This was part of their longterm plan to undermine public confidence in the RCMP.
In the next few years the most fruitful field of Communist activity j was the relief camps set up by Prime | Minister R. B. Bennett. One of the sharpest skirmishes took place in 1933 | in the Saskatoon camp, a huge coni verted grandstand on the city’s outj skirts. All during April there was j sporadic trouble. Camp officials were | terrorized. Downtown store windows j were smashed. At least two city policei men were beaten up. Near the end of the month the Saskatchewan governI ment called in the Mounties.
The Mounties had been expecting the j call; they had undercover men in the i camp keeping tabs on their old adj versaries—the Red agitators. For several weeks a troop of 32 men had been drilling their mounts in combat tactics on the prairies.
For about ten days the RCMP stood guard in shifts in front of the main camp building where the government stores were kept. Every day an agitator would gather a crowd around the Mountie. “Who’s getting rich on your sweat?” he would yell. “Who’s getting rich while your families can’t get enough to eat? Iron Hell Bennett! And who’s protecting Bennett and his crowd?” The agitator would lean forward within six inches of the j Mountie’s face. “This yellow-striped j h----!”
The Mountie would turn away stiffly j as if he hadn’t heard. But one conj stable afterward said: “1 had to steel myself. We were under strict orders to j take it. But I tell you, it makes your j guts turn over.” ^
On May 7, Insp. Lome J. Sampson | decided to move 50 men, including the agitators, from the badly overcrowded Saskatoon camp to a camp near Regina. His undercover men in the I camp warned him that the Communists had men collecting stones and ; bricks to resist the move. SampI son and Saskatoon Police Chief G. M. j Donald decided to pick up the 50 men at noon next day in the dining hall. Tn case of trouble the mounted troop ¡ would cover the men on foot.
In the stables that morning Sampson inspected his men. “Remove steel helmets,” he said tersely. “Replace with Stetsons. I don’t wish to leave any impression of militarism with the public.” He inspected their side arms. “Now take the ammunition out of your guns and put it in your left breast pocket. If your life’s in danger you can use your gun—if you can get it loaded in time.”
The troop rode through the camp’s main gate to the end of the camp grounds then wheeled. They could see a crowd in front of the dining hall. Policemen began to come out with the men they were trying to move. Suddenly they were swallowed up by the crowd.
Insp. Sampson gave the signal and the troop came galloping down the field. They were met with a hail of missiles. A brick hit Sampson’s horse on the head. Half-blind with blood the horse reared up and threw the inspector backwards out of the saddle. His foot caught in its stirrup. The horse bolted, bumping Sampson’s body along behind. Two Mounties raced after him but, before they could catch the horse, Sampson’s head hit a telephone pole. He died in hospital without regaining consciousness.
The Mounties on horseback scattered the crowd but the fighting continued, guerrilla-style, all over the buildings
J and grounds until 11.30 that night.
Dozens of men were injured but the ! Mounties had suffered the only fatality.
All through 1934 the Communists distributed their leaflets in the relief camps. By the next spring RCMP agents were reporting what Defense Minister Crote Stirling publicly called “a widespread and well-organized plot (to) . . . attempt destruction of camps throughout Canada.”
Two months later 900 men—including RCMP undercover men—marched out of a camp in British Columbia, j They occupied the Vancouver post ! office briefly, then headed east for I Ottawa, commandeering freight trains.
I They stopped at Kamloops, Calgary, I Medicine Hat, Swift Current and | Moose Jaw. Other relief camps empt ied ! j to join them. Most citizens were j I sympathetic.
The RCMP had orders to halt I the march at Regina. The leader of : I the unemployed, a Communist called ! ! Arthur Evans, swore he was going on ; to Ottawa in spite of all “Bennett’s I bloody Cossacks” (the Mounties). His | force had now swelled to 2,000 men, ! divided into divisions of around 500 j each. Each division was broken into groups of 25, with a group leader. The j I Communists had complete control.
Evans’ next move was to order ! j a mass Dominion Day meeting in j Regina’s Market Square. Undercover ! reports to the RCMP told of piles of ;
I stones being cached in alleys. Elevator operators were taking bricks to the roofs of buildings bordering the square. The camp workers were arming themselves with clubs, knives and flails, a few guns.
Iron Pipe Under the Coat
Saskatchewan’s top-ranking Mountie, Ass’t Comm’r S. T. Wood sent plain-clothes Mounties and city detec; tives to mingle with the crowd in the square. Nearly a thousand people clustered around a raised platform on ; which stood Evans and several other | leaders. The evening was warm and j the sun had not yet gone down. A speaker began to talk. At 8.17 a police whistle shrilled. Eighteen detectives I moved to arrest the men on the platj form. Seventy-five uniformed Mounties ! had just arrived by vans. They walked toward the crowd to protect the : detectives.
Immediately, iron, cement, bricks and stones rained upon the police from j above and all sides. Lengths of pipe appeared from under coats. A truck drove up, unloaded more missiles and moved off. Another body of rioters I armed with clubs attacked from the \ direction of the railway tracks.
The Mounties cleared a path for the plain-clothes men, who pushed their prisoners into vans and drove five blocks to the RCMP’s downtown j station. They passed three mounted j troops coming up. A plain-clothes man i leaned out of a van and shouted, “Hurry up!”
Rioting broke out in little pockets j along a mile of streets. The rioters ; overturned cars and used them for barricades. Some of the Mounted Police had to jump their horses over them. Women with razor blades on j ! long sticks slashed at the horses. One j animal’s eye hung from its socket. The j riders’ boots were cut to ribbons. The Mounties threw gas bombs, but some new recruits threw them prematurely ! and rioters picked them up and threw j them back.
The first mounted troop to reach the J square turned the tide of the battle, j More leaders were arrested and driven away. From a roof, a radio announcer Í was broadcasting a description of the ' scene below. He was bringing thou-
sands of curious citizens into the streets, allowing the strikers to heave their bricks then duck back into the crowd. Two Mounted Policemen were shot.
A little after nine o’clock a mob set upon a group of city policemen in front of the Capitol Theatre. Charles Millar, a detective with a silver plate in his head, was clubbed and died instantly. The other city policemen fired at the mob and several strikers were wounded.
By 11.30 the streets were clear. The rioters had been herded back to the exhibition grounds. Eight men were in custody. Later, 24 were tried on charges from rioting to wounding and nine were convicted. John Leopold was brought from the north to give evidence.
In the Ukrainian Labor News the following week the headliners read: POLICE IN REGINA HAVE STAGED A BLOODY BATTLE. “Bennett’s bloody butchers!” cried another Communist paper.
Again the Reds scored a propaganda victory over the Mounties. In all Communist accounts the RCMP fired first. An inflamed public opinion forced the provincial government to set up a royal commission. After hearing 359 witnesses, it placed the blame .squarely on the Communists. Only one RCMP sergeant had fired a shot— over the heads of a mob which had tried to storm the RCMP station to release the prisoners.
Dancing on the Party Line
That year, 1935, after violently opposing all other left-wing groups for years, the Communists made common cause with all liberals against Fascism. This was Moscow’s so-called “united front.” Their policy gave them influence in many non-Communist groups and, in 1940, when the party was outlawed, it was easy to convince many loyal liberals that the RCMP were Red-baiters. Later, the Communists claimed that the RCMP had been “hounding” them and paying little attention to fascists.
This was true in a sense. The Communists were by far the more efficient, enemy. The Mounties had undercover agents in every subversive group. On the first day of the Second World War they broke the German-financed Canadian fascist group, Deutsche Arbeits Front, interning 400 Nazis. Not a single case of sabotage was traced to an enemy agent during the war.
When Russia entered the war the Communist line abruptly changed— “As Canadians, it is our duty to support the battle of democracy against Fascism.” As a sign of Russia’s good intentions the International pretended to disband. The Communist Party of Canada changed its name to the Labour-Progressive Party. Under the surface, however, activity intensified and, in 1945, the cover of secrecy was lifted for a clear look at the apparatus beneath.
In the evening of Sept. 5, 1945, cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko pinned some documents under his shirt and walked out of the steel-shuttered Russian Embassy at Ottawa. He had carefully selected the papers to prove that the embassy’s rear wing was the centre of a huge spy ring. The next morning be went to the Justice Building. Gouzenko’s English was not very good. By a misunderstanding he was directed to the RCMP’s Identification Branch. From there he was shuttled to the Crown Attorney, Raoul Mercier.
Mercier’s secretary called Norman Robertson, head of External Affairs, who telephoned Prime Minister Mackenzie King. King’s reaction was to send Gouzenko back to the embassy.
He didn’t know if the documents were genuine. It would not be the first time that an agent provocateur had created an international incident with forged documents.
Discouraged and desperate, Gouzenko went home to his wife and child. He expected an attempt on his life that night. A neighbor to whom he told his story took the family into her apartment. Another called the Ottawa police. The police said they would stand guard outside. “Flick your bathroom light if you need us,” they said.
No one knew that the RCMP had been shadowing Gouzenko since midafternoon. Insp. H. R. Butchers, by chance, had lunched that day with John Leopold, now an inspector in the Special (counter-espionage) Branch. Butchers had mentioned the strange visitor who had called on the RCMP that morning and Leopold had detailed several plain-clothes men to watch Gouzenko.
At 11.30 that night four members of the Russian Embassy, all Red Army officers, broke the lock on Gouzenko’s apartment. When the city policesummoned by a neighbor—arrived they were searching his closets. The Reds ordered the police to leave. When the police refused the intruders stamped out angrily.
This incident lent weight to Gouzenko’s story. The RCMP took over on Sept. 8. Gouzenko and his family were taken to headquarters.
Only four original cablegrams, which Gouzenko was supposed to have burned, could be checked immediately. They were sufficient. They showed that the Russians had details of matters which only Canada and Britain should have known.
Leopold began to piece together the multitude of fragmentary clues in the papers. By Sept. 17 an RCMP officer was able to brief Mackenzie Kirg. It seemed likely, King was told, that a top-ranking scientist had given the Soviets every detail of Canada’s atomic-energy program. The man was known only by his cover name of Alek but the evidence indicated he might he English. (In fact, “Alek” was Dr. Allan Nunn May.)
The Prime Minister was stunned. He flew to London to talk with Prime Minister Attlee and Scotland Yard. Attlee flew back with him to Washington where they talked with President Truman.
In his special headquarters at hockcliffe Barracks, Leopold was working against time and in absolute secrecy to find out who the spies were, how they worked and t he extent of their damage.
By February, King felt he could wait no longer. He appointed a royal commission headed by two Supreme Court judges to examine the evidence. On Feb. 14 they recommended that the twelve people so far identified be arrested the following day.
In perhaps the most attentive session of Canada’s parliament the Prime Minister told MPs and reporters what he had done. It made sensational headlines around the world. In Canada some papers directed nearly as much indignation at the government and the RCMP for holding the prisoners incommunicado as at the prisoners and Russia for spying.
The RCMP and the government were worried. They had taken a drastic action. They had to have a conviction to justify it. They had to get a confession, or, as one Mountie put it, “We’d be the goats.”
Two of the finest detectives in the force, Inspectors C. W. Harvison and M. F. E. Anthony, were flown to Ottawa to question the prisoners. Soon after he arrived Anthony drove out to Rockeliffe. It was a Sunday. He wasn’t
ready to start his questioning yet, but he wanted to begin looking his people over.
His half of the prisoners included Mrs. Emma Woikin, a Saskatchewanborn Doukhobor. Anthony had her brought into the office he was to use for his interviews. He knew the district she came from and they talked of her home and people.
Then, following his instinct, Anthony said: “Mrs. Woikin, I’m going to tell you some things I know about what you’ve been doing. You’re a cipher clerk in External Affairs. You speak Russian. You like Russia. You wanted to help Russia. You told Major Sokolov in the Russian Embassy that you would like to go to Russia to work. He said you could help Russia more where you are. fn your job you type out top-secret telegrams. You memorized and copied these telegrams, then you went to a dentist here in Ottawa and hid your copies in his washroom. A few minutes later, Colonel Zabotin’s driver, Gourshkov, would visit that dentist and go to the washroom.” Anthony leaned forward. “Now, Mrs. Woikin, I know your people. I know they’re not liars. I want you to think over what I’ve fold you. I’ll come and see you tomorrow. Perhaps by then you’ll want to tell me the truth yourself.”
After a long moment, Mrs. Woikin raised her head. “Why do I have to wait (ill tomorrow?”
“I want you to realize what you’re doing. This is a very serious business.” “I know. I want to tell the truth now.”
“All right,” Anthony said. “If that’s what you want to do. I’ll call a stenographer.”
The case had broken. The RCMP were off the hook; they had their confession. (Of the ten Canadians later convicted, Mrs. Woikin received one of the shortest sentences: three years in penitentiary.)
The espionage web that unraveled over the next four months of commission hearings was one of the most successful ever revealed. The commission report outlines it clearly and in great detail. Yet even today its significance is minimized.
Zabotin worked through the Communist Party of Canada. In the words of the commission:
It seems to be the general policy of the Communist Party to discourage certain selected sympathizers from joining the party openly. Instead, these sympathizers are invited to join secret cells or study groups . . . The object is to accustom young persons gradually to an atmosphere and ethic of conspiracy.
The Mounties had struck their most successful blow at their old arch-enemy. The face of Communism was exposed. Membership shrunk from 12,000 to a current estimate of about 7,000. Their only gains were a few more propaganda licks. In reputable newspapers Communists described the dawn arrests of the 12 key suspects as “a violation of civil liberties reminiscent of fascist dictatorship” and the questioning as “third-degree methods.”
Actually, the suspension of the right of habeas corpus has plenty of precedent. It has been the practice for years in many countries, including Britain, to arrest spies secretly and hold them incommunicado. No mere constable, but the prime minister himself, made the decision in this case. Canada’s most authoritative body, the Privy Council, passed an order-in-council. A royal commission sat in judgment, then gave the authority for the warrants.
“The arrests were made before the suspects were out of bed,” says an RCMP officer, - “because if they had been out of bed they might also have
been out of the house~-or out of town." it's true the suspects were not al lowed to see their wives. They weren't allowed to see anyone for the first five to ten (lays. But there were no "glaring banks of lights." They had cigarettes, books, records; one man played his flute. As for what one newspaper called "the horrible little cells" where the suspects were held, Ass't Comm'r Harvison says: "If you work like hell in the force for 15 years you may get to be a sergeant. Those horrible little cells were the unmarried sergeants' sleeping quarters." "You Lean Over Backward"
The questioning, the "psychological torture," was conducted by 1-larvison and Inspector (now also Ass't Comm'r) Anthony. "Let there be no mistake," says Anthony. "If I could catch them in a contradiction, I made the most of it. If I could trick them, I did. We wanted confessions. That's why we were there. But there wasn't any pres sure. I sat at my desk and they sat in a chair and we talked and we talked and we talked."
The questioning followed the usual RCMP procedure. "You don't blus ter," says Harvison. "You don't raise your voice. You don't raise the prisoner's hopes. You don't say, `It'll be smart to tell what you know,' or `You'll feel better if you tell.' You lean over backward to be impartial. And at that you have a tough time getting the statement into court." Canadian courts consistently refuse to admit evidence suspected of being obtained by third-degree methods.
Most Mounties hate Communism in the same way they hate crime. But they don't hate individual Communists any more than they hate individual burglars. The Communists, however, want people to think that they're per secuted. The RCMP, they say, are "oppressors," and many believe the reports that the Mounties hound left wingers out of innocuous jobs. Consider the facts. There are more than 60,000 "fellow travelers" in the
country, if the Communist votes in the last elections are any indication. There are more than 6,000 party members and a hard core of 3,000 is active. The Mounties have 4,432 men for every kind of police work. The number in the Special Branch is secret, but common sense indicates it can only be a few hundred. Ex-Comm'r S. T. Wood once said: "We could use our whole force on security measures alone."
Security checks are made only on request by heads of government and industry. "We don't go to a depart ment and say, `We think this person should be looked into,' "saysan RCMP officer. The report is divided into two sections. The first part repeats gossip, and labels it as such. The second gives facts ("Belongs to front organization Attends meetings").
A security panel studies the report. Action is referred to the department head or his minister, and in at least one case on record, the cabinet. If a man is a risk, he is usually transferred, seldom fired. In the long war, the RCMP are now on the defensive. After seven years of decline Communist membership is ris ing again. The RCMP can only watch the party haunts, shadow the most active members. They can only build up a counter-espionage network of undercover agents and strategically placed citizens to ferret out the really dangerous Communists: the secret mem hers, unlisted by the party, known only to their cell, outwardly respectable. They have almost certainly infiltrated important defense industries as poten tial saboteurs or spies.
But, if the undercover war ever comes into the open again, the Moun ties are ready. A secret order-in council has been prepared. It needs only the signature of the minister of justice to allow the RCMP to arrest every known Communist. * Next Issue-The M ou nties-Conclusion The Toughest Beat in the World