RCMP INSIDE CANADA'S SECRET POLICE
The reputation of one of the world’s great police forces has been tarnished in recent years by controversy involving the counterspies of its Security and Intelligence branch. Who are these men? How do they work? Do they abuse their privileges and our rights? Here for the first time is a full report on their activities
DESPITE THE MILLIONS of published words about the work of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the activities, modus operandi, and aims of one important segment of the force — the Directorate of Security and Intelligence — remain relatively unknown to the public. S&l is the branch of the RC'MP charged with protecting C anada from treason, subversion and espionage. S&l employs an estimated five hundred of the RCMP’s total strength of eightyfive hundred men, and occupies the entire top two floors of the RCMP’s five-story headquarters building in Ottawa, a concrete indication of its importance.
The S&I men deliberately cloak their work in secrecy, since counterintelligence can't function effectively in the light of day. S&I is a police force within a police force. I he S&l offices arc sealed off from the rest of the RC'MP offices and are entered only by pass and key. S&I agents have their own special training courses, never wear uniforms, never associate publicly with fellow officers and their names never appear on the published nominal role of RC'MP strength.
This hush-hush atmosphere is a fertile breeding ground for public suspicion and fear. To many people, counterintelligence conjures up the ugly image of the police state, complete with its informers, stool pigeons, undercover agents, dossiers, interrogations and secret blacklists. Hardly a month goes by that RC'MP security operations do not arouse the ire of some individual citizen or organization.
Not surprisingly, S&l men are constantly attacked by the Communists. “They destroy the dignity of the individual and violate the rights of freedom and thought," says W. C. Beeching, leader of the Saskatchewan Communist Party. A less prejudiced source. Douglas Fisher, the member of parliament (NDP. Port Arthur), says, “Unfavorable dossiers are being compiled on citizens who have no opportunity of setting the record straight." As an example of what Fisher meant, information passed on by the RC’MP to the U. S. Immigration Service, via the FBI, has, on occasion, inconvenienced guiltless Canadian citizens. A few months ago, a British Columbia professor whose political activity was limited to espousing the cause of the Doukhobors, was held up at the border while U. S. officials questioned him about his recent speeches and activities.
“Guarding Canada’s internal security isn’t easy. It’s a steady
The Canadian Association of University Teachers, representing the faculties of thirtynine universities, has repeatedly deplored the recent rash of S&l investigations on Canadian campuses. “This may pose an obvious threat to the freedom of thought and discussion which must exist in the university community,” says a recent CAUT statement. Despite a firm denial in the House of Commons by T. M. Bell, parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister Fleming, on Jan. 21, 1963, S&l investigations have occurred on many campuses on many occasions and are still going on. The most recent was at Huntington College, in Sudbury, on Feb. 22, 1963, thirty-two days after Mr. Bell's unequivocal denial. (See box on page 15.)
The fear has often been expressed by such critics as these that loyal citizens arc being dragged up in the security net because S&I are unable to distinguish between an unpopular political opinion and a subversive one. “The RCMP are political innocents — babes-in-thcwoods,” says Colin Cameron (NDP, Nanaimo). The Voice of Women, a national organization opposed to nuclear weapons, whose honorary members include Mrs. John I.abatt and Senator Muriel Fergusson, has complained that RCMP surveillance and hints of subversion have discouraged many people from joining their movement. Officials of the Combined University Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a student movement, are also alarmed. Last April, CUCND student members staged a peaceful demonstration in front of the parliament buildings in Regina. S&I agents obtained the names of some of the demonstrators. One was a young man living in Yorkton. Two days later, two RCMP plain-clothes men visited the lad's father and suggested that his son withdraw from CUCND. "It will get him in trouble,” the father was told. Then Minister of Justice Fulton later apologized for this unwarranted intrusion. “The RCMP went beyond their responsibility,” he said.
This was the second apology Fulton made for the RCMP in the course of a few months. The other incident concerned Alex “Sandy” Lamb, a fifteen-year-old Winnipeg high-school boy. Lamb’s offense was a satirical letter he w'rote to a Winnipeg newspaper, suggesting that Santa Claus is a Communist because he wears red and distributes goods without cost, thus undermining the free-enterprise system. Two S&l men came to Lamb’s school and interrogated him for half an hour. Lamb later said, “They told me that if I persisted in my dangerous beliefs they would put me on their security list. They said they w'ould inform prospective employers . . . and that no matter what my education, I would never get anything better than a pick-and-shovel job.” The chief of the S&I branch described the Santa Claus episode as a comedy of errors and promptly transferred the two policemen who made the errors out of the branch.
The wholesale collection of dossiers sometimes leads to stupid mistakes which are painfully damaging to the victims. Harvey Mitchell, a Canadian university professor, applied for a job in the United States. He was surprised when he was refused admission to the country on the grounds that he was a “communist.” After an endless round of letters, interview's and inquiries, he was finally forced to conclude that the RCMP had confused his name with that of Mitchell Harvey, a left-winger from Winnipeg. It took him seven frustrating years before he could straighten out the mix-up.
Whether such incidents are caused by stupidity, poor judgment or a lack of clear policy direction from the government is hard to tell because the RCMP has always refused to comment on them. This reticence is unfortunate because it discredits the real need for a system of security in this country.
It also tarnishes the image of the RCMP, which, in the opinion of many law enforcement experts, is one of the world's greatest police forces. A remarkably small group of officers police an area larger than all Europe. In addition to enforcing such federal laws as deal with drug traffic, smuggling, income-tax evasion and counterfeiting, they are also the official police forces in the greater part of eight provinces. The force has a highly developed sense of tradition. It’s axiomatic among members of the underworld that a Mountie can't be bribed. The redcoats’ professional skill is such that a score of foreign countries have sought their guidance in police problems. When Commissioner C. W. Harvison, the sixty-oneyear-old head of the RCMP, recently visited Lahore, in West Pakistan, he was entertained by eighteen senior police officials — all of them graduates of RCMP training schools.
But these achievements are often overshadowed by what the public conceives to be the threatening activities of the S&I men. The RCMP is not unaffected by this criticism.
linglamorous job that never conies to an end”
“You'd think we were a sinister race of people, a breed apart,” says Harvison. “We're not saying we're perfect. We make mistakes and sometimes they’re dandies. But give us credit for being reasonable people. We have a conscience, we have intelligence and we have experience.” Assistant Commissioner J. R. W. Bordeleau, head of the S&I branch, adds, “We're not bad guys.”
I spent part of this winter trying to reach a clear understanding of what the security problem is in Canada, and how the RC MP is dealing with it. I consulted senior RCMP officials; members ol parliament; former undercover agents; members of ethnic, labor and political groups; university professors and students and private citizens who have had dealings with the Mounties.
The nerve centre of the S&l branch is a plainly furnished office overlooking the Rideau River on the fourth floor of RCMP headquarters in Ottawa. To reach it, you ascend by a rear elevator, alight in an anteroom and are then admitted to the offices through doors which are always kept locked. Behind a bare desk sits the chief of security, fifty-four-yearold Assistant Commissioner J. R. W. “Pete" Bordeleau, a native of Hull, Quebec. In his thirty-one years on the force Bordeleau has had wide experience in criminal investigation and security. When I arrived at nine in the morning, he had just finished examining the “secret" mail — confidential reports by S&I operatives on their investigations. “It comes from everywhere hy wire, post and private courier,” he said. “I open it personally.” The security chief is an unobtrusive man: his build is slight, his hair drab brown and gray, and he dresses in dark suits and ties. He smiled as he handed me a calling card which, he said, security agents hand each other when they meet. It read “This is a wonderful opportunity for both of us to keep our mouths shut.” Bordeleau is expressive and voluble. He gesticulates with his hands and leans far over the desk to drive a point home.
“We are saddled with the job of guarding the internal security of the country,” said Bordeleau. “It’s not easy. It’s a steady unglamorous job without finality.” Bordeleau explained that a man on a homicide or narcotic assignment often has the satisfaction of seeing the job through to a definite conclusion — the conviction of the guilty party. Police exploits of this kind are often praised in the press. “Our job,” Bordeleau said, “is different. Our men work longer and harder without the definite ending. This — along with the enforced anonymity, the isolation from the rest of the force, the lack of public approval and recognition — creates a problem of morale for the men in S&I.”
The political police and the universities
Members of the RCMP are not engaged in interviewing students and faculty members at Canadian universities about the political views and activities of other students and faculty members.
So said the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice on Jan. 21 in the House of Commons. He was denying not one but several charges that undercover agents of the RCMP were at work on at least six Canadian campuses. The charges themselves, the ministerial denial, and the RCMP’s silence have reduced a serious matter to complete confusion in the minds of most Canadians.
Reports on several of the incidents the justice ministry denied appear in the accompanying article. The incidents were real; it is a fact that the RCMP had been conducting such investigations in the months before the ministry’s denial. It is also a fact that the RCMP has conducted at least one such investigation since. The justice ministry, in short, did not speak the truth.
On the afternoon of Feb. 22, the Rev. J. W. E. Newbery, principal of Huntington College at Sudbury, had a visit from an Inspector Wiebe of the RCMP. Dr. Newbery has given Maclean's a copy of a signed affidavit in which he describes the three lines of inquiry followed by the inspector:
One: Inspector Wiebe questioned Dr. Newbery about the visit of three Vancouver students who passed through Huntington College during a projected “peace walk” to Berlin. (It turned out that the inspector was under the impression the students were walking to Moscow. He could have learned their correct destination by reading any current newspaper.)
Two: He questioned Dr. Newbery about the Canadian Peace Research Institute — particularly about “any communist tendencies” in that organization.
Three: He questioned Dr. Newbery about “any communist tendencies” among the staff or student body of Huntington College.
“I had the feeling during the interview,” says Dr. Newbery, “that I more than any other person at the university was the one being investigated.” Dr. Newbery has the impression that Inspector Wiebe’s interrogation was designed to intimidate him personally, and through him other members of his faculty. SIDNEY KATZ
CONTINUED ON PAGE 32
continued from page 15
“We have to use stool pigeons. We've no crystal balls or Ouija boards and we are not divine”
S&I men regard the Communists as their Enemy Number One. "Although the Communists are a legal party in Canada it’s not sensible to regard them in the same light as other political parties,” says Commissioner Harvison. “They take their directions from Russia. Remember,” he said, referring to the Fred Rose case, “they’re the only party that’s had one of its members convicted for espionage.” Increased vigilance is necessary today because Canada, as a member of NATO, is privy to the secrets of the several member nations. “It was only a year ago December that we expelled Lt.-Col. A. Loginov of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa for attempting to buy classified material from a civil servant,” says Bordeleau. “Defense secrets are still being stolen and the Communist Party is a recruiting ground for espionage.” Espionage and subversion might be controlled by following the American example and setting up an “un-Canadian activities committee,” or by outlawing the Communist Party. “Our approach, surveillance, is the most reasonable,” says Harvison.
S&I agents assigned to the communist detail have at least three years of experience in the Mounties and are chosen for their intelligence, ingenuity and tact. As part of their training they are required to read at least fifty published works, which include the major writings of Lenin, Stalin, Bukharin and Trotsky as well as the Canadian and Australian royal commission hearings on espionage.
The S&I men keep Russian diplomats in Canada under constant scrutiny because they have been so often linked with espionage. Members of the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, for instance, are not permitted to travel beyond a seventy-mile radius without filing a “declaration of intention” with the Department of External Affairs forty-eight hours before their departure. They must list their mode of travel, their destination and other particulars. “We always know what they’re doing,” says Bordeleau. “The Russians would think we were stupid if we didn't.” Bordeleau knows most of the Russians personally, having met them at the weekly skating parties for the diplomatic corps held at the Governor General’s rink. “They’re pleasant enough fellows,” he says. “They’ve been sent here to do a job.”
But a far more time-consuming job is keeping track of the self-admitted lorty-five hundred members of the Canadian Communist Party, an undetermined number of “secret” Communists, and the thirty thousand people who belong to organizations believed by the RCMP to be infiltrated and controlled by the Communists. The RCMP refrains from publicly naming these "front” organizations but most of them are ot an ethnic nature. “We know what s going on,” says Bordeleau. The press is a continuing source of information. Our people read in thirty languages.” A steady stream of information comes from an undetermined number of informers, stool pigeons and undercover agents planted in strategic positions. “We have no crystal balls, no Ouija boards and we're not divine,” explains Bordeleau. "We have to use stool pigeons.”
A good deal of the S&I agent's time goes into shadowing suspects or gathering information about them by questioning neighbors, friends and acquaintances. Only some Communists are watched some of the time. “The Communists claim that they’re always being followed and badgered,” says Harvison. “It’s not true. Figure it out — it takes four men and a car to keep one man under surveillance.” As for attending all Communist meetings, Bordeleau says, “That would be dreadfully boring and a waste of time. We usually know what they’re going to say before they say it.”
Communist Party officials tell a different story about RCMP surveillance. “We’re harassed and followed at every step.” says William Kashtan. the secretary of the Communist Party of Canada. “They have no right to do this — we’re a legal party with nothing to hide. Their object is to intimidate people so they'll shun us.” Indeed, surveillance may be one reason why party membership has dropped from the peak figure of twentysix thousand in 1946 to the present forty-five hundred.
Kashtan says that his party has sixteen full-time and an unnamed number of volunteer organizers. “Like other officials, Em always being trailed by the RCMP on out-of-town trips,” says Kashtan. On one occasion in Port Arthur, he says, two agents met him at the airport, followed him to the hotel, then stuck close to him as he went about his business in town. "I know' the cars belong to the RCMP by checking up on the licence numbers." he says. At lunch in a downtown restaurant in Regina, he looked up to find two agents seated at the table beside him. S&I men in Saskatchewan, he says, have followed him from town to town. Once, according to Kashtan, the RCMP were trailing Tim Buck and Norman Brudy, the latter a leading figure in the Saskatchewan Communist Party, along a Saskatchewan highway. When the Buck car broke down, the Communists hailed the Mounties. “You might as well help us since you're with us," said Buck. The Mounties, without comment, got the car going.
Nigel Morgan, British Columbia Communist leader, claims that RCMP cars are so frequently parked outside his home that his small boy recently asked, “Why are they always there, Daddy? Did you rob a bank or something?" Morgan claims he's had the nickname Two-Car Morgan among Communists ever since two RCMP vehicles trailed him for seven thousand miles of a B. C. party tour. The Mayor of Fernie. he says, congratulated him. "You're the only visitor since the Governor-General who's had a two car escort.” Morgan lauds the energy and devotion of his followers. “They put in awful hours," he says. “Once I drove till three a.m., then I w'as back on the road at seven. Sure enough, they w'ere right behind me."
A more subtle method of gathering informdtron is bv using undercover agents. 'Ahilé RCMP officers maintain a discreet silence on the subject, S&I staff men or people paid by them have always been inside the Communist Party. The best known in recent times was Constable John Leopold, a sw'arthy, hook-nosed man with sad brown eyes who spoke several European languages. As "Jack Esselwein," for eight years Leopold was a trusted comrade and privy to all the party's secrets. When Prime Minister R. B. Bennett outlawed the Communists in the thirties, Leopold’s testimony sent several of his former associates to prison.
Today successors of John Leopold are in the Canadian Communist Party feeding information to RCMP headquarters. but their number is a closely guarded secret. In the United States, according to Jack Levine, a former FBI agent, FBI penetration of the Communist Party has reached comic opera proportions. Of eighty-five hundred party members, at least fifteen hundred are FBI men, or more than one informant for every six members. Recently FBI director Edgar Hoover sent out an urgent directive that no more undercover men be recruited: most of the reports being received at the political desk of the FBI in Washington concerned the activities of other FBI informers. "The dues-paying FBI contingent," says Levine, "is the largest single contributor to the Communist Party in the United States." Infiltration is so general that recently the communist official designated to weed FBI informers out of the party was himself an FBI agent. "The day will soon come." says Levine, "when FBI informants, who are rising rapidly to the top. will capture complete control of the party.”
Seeing commies everywhere
There are a number of reasons why the RCMP will seldom confirm or deny that any given individual is an undercover agent. "The actual definition of an ‘RCMP agent' poses problems.” says Commissioner Harvison. "If a man comes into our office and gives us a piece of information on one or two occasions, is he an agent? Sometimes, a man comes into my office and convinces me that he can be of help. I may employ him for a day or a week. Would you say he is an agent? I suppose, technically speaking. he could go on for years calling himself an undercover man for the RCMP." It's also true that S&I attracts a lot of people from the lunatic-fringe group. "Some people see communists everywhere," says Harvison. For years, the commissioner received regular reports from a self-styled agent. Once she reported that the communists were in her basement removing the “energy glands" from anticommunists and carrying them out in small plastic bags. "It's not unusual." says Harvison, "to receive regular ten-page letters or telegrams full of nonsense from people who sign themselves with a number."
Perhaps another reason the RCMP won t recognize tornier undercover agents is that the Mounties want to avoid embarrassment. A case in point is Pat Walsh, a former Quebec unionist who now writes for an Ottawa weekly newspaper, styling himself: former RCMP undercover agent." Walsh boasts that it was he who exposed "the Soviet spy. Herbert Norman. Norman, then the Canadian ambassador to Egypt, committed suicide in 1957 after being badgered for years with the charge of 'being a C ommunist. The fact that Norman was cleared as a security risk by the RC MP after a most exhaustive check has made no impression on Walsh. In the South End News, an Ottawa rightist paper published and edited by Elmer Fairfield. Walsh recently mounted a scurrilous campaign against another distinguished Canadian civil servant whom he has branded as "the C anadian Alger Hiss." Walsh refuses to be interviewed by the press, explaining, ‘People are always smearing me.”
Elmer Fairfield, Walsh's employer, is another self-styled undercover RCMP agent. Because of his German background and know ledge of the language, he claims that he was asked to spy on fellow Germans in the Pembroke - Petawawa area between the years of 1939 and 1943. "I thought it was a pretty low idea,” says Fairfield, “but 1 did it because the RCMP told me we had to play dirty too. 1 got paid, but I did it primarily for patriotic reasons.” Fairfield expresses hurt and surprise because he’s been denounced as a John Bircher and a witch-hunter. Fairfield can find a reasonable explanation of this charge by reading his own paper, the South End News. Not long ago the News accused an Ottawa couple, proprietors of a window-cleaning establishment, of allowing their premises to be used as an espionage centre. After receiving a letter from the couple’s lawyer, Fairfield made a lengthy retraction on page one. It was a case of mistaken identity. A recent issue reproduces a letter from an ultra-rightist American, stating that T. C. Douglas, the former premier of Saskatchewan, attended “Communist rallies on the campus” while a student in Chicago many years ago, and “was active in many organizations of the Communist Party.” This is a blatant and silly smear, but it is consistent with the style of the News.
The most recent arrival from the Communist underground is thirtynine - year - old Calvin MacDonald, who, after ten years of membership in the party, worked his way up to the office of Ottawa district organizer. MacDonald was expelled from the Communist ranks, according to provincial C o m m u n i s t leader Bruce Magnuson, “for doing the dirty work of the RCMP special branch.” One of the first things MacDonald did was give a spate of interviews to the press, radio and television, making wild charges in all directions. The Communists, he said, had infiltrated labor unions, the Boy Scouts, the Ottawa Unitarian church, the Voice of Women and other ban-the-bomb movements. He said he knew of a number of homosexuals in the civil service and was preparing a manual about them.
MacDonald has been unable to make many of his charges stick. After a long session with Charlotte McEwen, then president of the Ottawa chapter of the Voice of Women, MacDonald signed a statement which reads: “1 do not know of any Communist member who holds a position on either the national or any provincial committee of the Voice of Women.” He was also unable to support his charges against the Unitarian church. A reporter who checked into MacDonald’s background discovered that he has gone from job to job during the past ten years; that former employers do not speak well of him; that he has written worthless cheques and that his “lawyer” is a man, who, a few years ago, was expelled from the legal profession in Ontario for taking money from one of his clients, an elderly widow.
Sometimes the S&I branch lands in hot water when efforts to recruit undercover agents lack finesse. Miss Aino Pirskanen is a Finnish woman in her thirties who for some years has unsuccessfully been attempting to win her citizenship papers. The fact that she had been a member of the Finnish Organization — a group which has been denounced for communist leanings — seemed to be a barrier. Miss Pirskanen claims that her interest in the organization was confined to choral and dramatic activities. In an effort to better her candidacy for citizenship. she long ago severed all connection w ith the organization. In 1959. she claims, she was approached by an S&I agent who hinted strongly that if she rejoined the organization and passed on information about members and meetings she would have a much better chance of getting her citizenship papers. Miss Pirskanen refused. When I asked Commissioner Harvison to comment on this case, he said, “There's nothing to prevent anyone from making statements to the press about the police.”
For the past few years S&I men have apparently been deeply concerned about the possible relationship between the Communists and the Combined University Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Reports from a half dozen universities claim that RCMP agents have made efforts to enlist student informers to report on fellow students and professors. Some of these reports are rumors. But some of them are true.
Secret meetings every two weeks
In April, 1962, at Laval University, two students — Miss Hélène Scnecal. the daughter of a Montreal lawyer, and Edward Smith, a social work student whose home is in Lynn, Mass. — edited a special section of the university newspaper, Le Carabin, in support of IVCND, the student ban-thebomb movement. Miss Jacqueline Cyr. another student who was a friend of the two editors, was approached by a man called Plourde. He said that he was an S&I agent, investigating communism on the campus. Would Miss Cyr give him information about Miss Senecal and Smith and keep him posted on the activities of IVCND? Miss Cyr indignantly refused and told her two friends. They immediately visited the local RCMP offices and confirmed the fact that they were being investigated. Referring to the approach made to Miss Cyr, the RCMP officer said. “Next time, we’ll try and find someone more reliable than Cyr.”
Other attempts to enlist student informers on the campus have been more successful. Gerald Brown (this is not his real name) is a highly respected young man in his early twenties now attending an eastern university. He is married, has one child and plans to enter the ministry. The RCMP visited his father to ask why his son was so interested in the Combined University Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Would the young
man come to the RCMP offices to discuss the matter? “The visit worried father,” says Brown. “He felt that perhaps I was involved in something subversive and that I should clear this up w'ith them in case there might be trouble for me and my family.” Brown went to the Mounties. Two burly, handsome S&I men fired a barrage of questions at him. Why was he in CUCND? What were his personal convictions? Was he procommunist? Were his friends Communists? Was CUCND a front organization? They ended by asking Brown to help them get a clearer picture of CUCND's role on the campus. Brown agreed to help, and for the next year he met the RCMP men secretly every two weeks.
According to Brown, the S&l agents arc energetic photographers. "Often they would show me photos of individuals taken at rallies or picket demonstrations. asking me to identify them. If I was unable to name the people, they could often do this for me.” At demonstrations. Brown often spotted RCMP officers. “Very often I saw cameramen who I knew were not the press, taking pictures.” He quit spying after a year. "I felt uncomfortable reporting on colleagues who trusted me. It caused great emotional strain. The RCMP offered to switch me to a Communist cell but I refused. It took an immense load off my mind.”
Did Brown discover anything of real value? The CUCND, he said, were completely in control of moderate hands. In the bigger universities there were a few small Stalinist groups. There were also a few “militant, hardworking and fanatically persistent Trotskyite s,” functioning through the Young Socialist Alliance.
Evidently the Mounties have been and are approaching university professors for information about the political views and activities of students. This deeply concerns the Canadian
Association of University Teachers because of the adverse effect it can have on academic freedom. They cite a U. S. Supreme Court decision which states that students, in their intellectually formative years, should have the right to inquire, to advocate causes, to join organizations “and to make political mistakes without later being subjected to governmental penalties for having dared think for themselves." Dr. Stewart Reid, secretary of CAUT, points up another problem.
“How can a professor honestly assess the political views or ‘reliability’ of any student?” he asks. On what do you base your final judgment? Classroom opinions, essays and private conversations in the professor’s study are all attempts by the student to ascertain the truth. “I’ve been in universities for thirty years,” says Reid, “and I’ve never heard of a student who wants to overthrow the government.” He asks, “What exactly is ‘a communist sympathizer’ or ‘a pink’ or a person
who ís ‘soft on communism’?” In Reid’s opinion, making confidential reports to the RCMP will completely destroy the confidence between student and professor, a view shared by most English academicians. “What student will talk honestly to a professor if he knows that what he says is going to be reported to the police?” Reid asks. He is of the opinion that all professors should categorically refuse to answer all police questions about students. “The mere fact that a police agent can ask a question is a dangerous situation,” he says. “Even if I refuse to answer on principle, my refusal may be used as damaging evidence against the student concerned.” In the opinion of Dr. Reid and others, RCMP investigators, due to a lack of formal education and political sophistication, are often incapable of distinguishing between individuals who are subversive and individuals who openly express unorthodox political views. “They hear of a man with left-wing ideas so they think he’s a Communist,” says Toronto lawyer Irving Himel, of the Civil Liberties Association. “They watch organizations which they think might attract Communists or ‘fellow travelers.’ Thus, instead of spending their time investigating actual crimes, they’re engaged in a general search for radical or unconventional political opinions.” Himel believes that security should be the responsibility of an organization which provides a different kind of background and training. “The RCMP is too much of a military organization,” he says. He suggests that the minimum educational requirement for men in the S&I branch should be a university degree, as is the case in the FBI. At present, the RCMP qualification is completion of grade ten.
The case of the 74-year-old widow
Commissioner Harvison says that campus investigations are misunderstood and misinterpreted by people like Himel. “We're not interested in the radical political opinions of adolescents; we expect young people to be rebellious. We respect the right of minority groups like VOW and other ban-the-bomb organizations to express their opinions. But we are interested in espionage and subversion. We’re trying to find out if these groups are infiltrated by Communists.”
Most questioning on the campus, Harvison says, is concerned with students who have applied for “sensitive” government positions in such fields as research, defense and external affairs. S&I men do a systematic check on an applicant, going back for years. They interview past and present neighbors, friends, acquaintances and employers. “We frequently have to question professors because students usually give them as references,” says Harvison. The S&I agents are not only looking for subversives — they’re also seeking to identify the alcoholic, the homosexual and the weak character. “We keep drilling our men to be tactful and discreet. Our men know that if they’re heavy handed their superior officers will be down their necks, not to mention the press.” All the information gathered in this way is handed over to an experienced reviewer who prepares a summary which is passed on to the appropriate government department. “At no time do we say that a person should or should not be employed.” says Harvison.
In spite of all the drilling, evidently the S&l branch sometimes shows questionable judgment in security investigations. There's the case of a mild and gentle seventy - four - year - old widow now living in Regina. Each year fer the past twenty she's been visited by an RCMP security officer. The widow is a “Christian pacifist” by political and moral persuasion. No suggestion has ever been made that she’s a Communist or a dangerous character. “Each visit, the RCMP man asks me about my political views and about the books I’ve been reading,” she says. "He seems to be embarrassed by the whole business.” Last year, the questioning took a more sinister turn. The Mountie asked her about the possible Communist affiliations of a member of the Saskatchewan cabinet who was a long-time friend of the widow's late husband. A member of parliament offered to intercede with the minister of justice on her behalf. The widow refused. “I don't want the publicity,” she said.
A less laughable case involved a young man, who. in 1952, when he was twenty-seven years old, was discharged from the RCAF and a series of jobs which he subsequently held. When he discovered that his dismissals were due to the fact that he had been branded as "a poor security risk” by the RCMP, he approached T. C. Douglas, who was then premier of Saskatchewan. “I knew the boy from birth.” says Douglas. "He was no Communist. He came from a staunch Catholic family.” When Douglas interviewed both the minister of justice and the commissioner of the RCMP, the latter told him. "This man was once secretary of the Communist youth organization in Regina." The truth of the matter was that the young man had been secretary of the CCF youth group in Regina. Douglas did some further checking. He finally discovered that a former teacher had once told an RCMP investigator, somewhat facetiously, that the ex-airman was “a young Bolshevik." This lighthearted remark was taken down, placed in the young man's record and continued to dog him for years.
Douglas, like many other people, is disturbed by the large number of secret files or dossiers maintained by the RCMP. Their exact number remains a closely guarded secret. Arnold Peters (NDP, Timiskaming) recently claimed that the RCMP had a dossier on him, on every member of parliament and on every public figure in Canadian life. This may be so. Once, a former minister of justice told a member of parliament privately that the S&I branch had so many dossiers that “they couldn't count them.”
When I was visiting RCMP headquarters I asked S&I chief Bordeleau several questions about the much-discussed and much-feared dossiers. “Please don't call them dossiers,” he replied. "It's a French word connoting a criminal record. We refer to them as 'files.' We have many files. Every police force has many files.” Understandably, dossiers exist on known Communists, extreme rightists and others who are clearly subversive. But records are also kept on many other people.
“To say we keep files on all MPs is untrue,” says Bordeleau. “To say we never will keep files on all MPs is also untrue.” A file is started when someone gets in touch with the S&I branch and passes on information relating to subversion or espionage. “As a police force, we can’t afford to ignore any information given to us,” says Bordeleau. "If the informant identifies himself and sounds like a responsible citizen we might follow up the tip with an investigation. How can you establish the facts without investigating?”
Herbert Norman—the classic example
The dossier becomes the repository of all information received by the RCMP. An isolated piece of intelligence might be unimportant, but when other data is added it may assume significance. “If a young man associates with a communist group on the campus, that might mean nothing,” explained Commissioner Harvison. “He might also attend meetings of the Fair Play to Cuba committee and that, too, might mean nothing. But if for twenty years he associates with Communists, goes to meetings of communist organizations and is seen with people we know to be involved in espionage—well, that means something. It’s up to us to know what’s going on.”
Harvison says that a file on an innocent man can’t hurt him. “It’s kept secret and it just sits there.”
Unfortunately, such has not always been the case. The classic example, again, is that of the late Herbert Norman. Erroneous information that Norman was a Communist was received from an informer and placed in the Norman file. Later it was given to the FBI, who forwarded it to a U. S. senate subcommittee, who gave the charge wide publicity. It is not generally known that after Norman’s suicide the office of the FBI liaison officer, which had always been located in RCMP headquarters, was quietly moved to the U. S. Embassy in Ottawa.
Few people will disagree with the proposition that we must guard ourselves against our internal enemies. But there is a widespread desire for a system of security which does not impose hardships on the innocent and which least interferes with the freedom of the individual citizen.
Suggestions are not lacking as to how the present system can be improved. The absence of a clearly defined government policy on S&l has been frequently noted. "The government refuses to spell out policy,” says Tom Berger (NDP, N. Vancouver). "There's a dearth of information provided. When you ask questions in the House the impression is created that you're unpatriotic. If we can find out what the RCMP is up to then we can have a debate on the topic.”
A number of specific questions could be profitably discussed in such a debate: What is the legitimate area for S&I investigations? Should S&l men go out on general anticommunist scouting expeditions or should they only investigate when they have reasonable evidence that a subversive act has been committed? To what extent is the RCMP setting itself up as a censor of ideas and a judge of what is a "safe” view in politics or economics?
In the same debate, our parliamentarians might explore the degree to which innocent citizens can be harmed by S&I-branch activities. At present. a man can be investigated without being aware of it. Even if he is aware of it, he has no knowledge of the information in his dossier. "It's like being tried by a secret court without being able to present a defense," says Professor S. Mealing, a Carleton University historian. T. C. Douglas urges the establishment of private hearings where people who have been investigated by S&I agents can appear
with their lawyers and clear their names.
“At present, we have a star chamber kind of operation,” says Douglas. "A citizen has no recourse to justice." Irving Himcl suggests, as a further safeguard, that all information gathered by the S&I branch should be submitted to a committee of trained jurists for interpretation. "They should be people who know a great deal about the laws of evidence and civil rights,” he says.
As a matter of fact. Himel would remove S&I operations entirely from the jurisdiction of the RCMP. “The RCMP are too much of a military organization, smacking of the nine-
teenth century," he says. He would substitute a civilian agency with a minimum entrance requirement of a university degree. Members of the new force would be indoctrinated in the proper role of a police force in a democratic society. Commissioner Harvison disagrees: "We have the organization for S&I work. We have thirty years of experience. The number of complaints is small compared to our total activity in this field. By and large, Canadians respect us. We
also enjoy the confidence of intelligence police forces throughout the world.” Harvison does not regard a military background as unsuitable for security work. "Most senior intelligence officers in other countries conte from the armed forces. You need discipline in S&I work. It's not a job where you can allow' people to go off half-cocked.”
There is nothing novel about the recent public outcries over RCMP security activities. Such outbursts have
been taking place, periodically, ever since the RCMP entered the field thirty years ago. Encroachments — or imagined encroachments — on the individual's civil and political rights are debated from many platforms, and this is a healthy sign. For, in a democratic society, we must exercise constant vigilance to achieve a just and fair balance between the demands of national security on the one hand and the freedom of the individual on the other.