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Contested RCMP files on Tommy Douglas released.
February 23, 2011 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Tommy Douglas: Greatest Canadian. Famous as a Saskatchewan NDP leader, and for creating Canadian medicare.

In an affidavit filed in Federal Court, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service argued that full disclosure of the file on Douglas could endanger the lives of confidential informants and jeopardize the agency’s ability to conduct secret surveillance.

Meanwhile, CBC opinion polls showed roughly 80% support for the release of the information. (Although participation was low.) CSIS continued to fight the release. Almost a year later, the federal government relented in its refusal to release decades-old intelligence on Canadian political icon Tommy Douglas. Now some of those documents are available. Like Tommy Douglas himself, the files are apparently a product of their times, full of communist witch hunts, and suspicions of "peacenik" activities.

Previously. And previously.
posted by Stagger Lee (25 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
...spies with the now defunct RCMP Security Service had shadowed Douglas for more than three decades, attending his speeches, analyzing his writings and eavesdropping on private conversations. His links to the peace movement and Communist Party members were of particular interest.

But the government refused to release big chunks of Douglas’ file — some of it dating back to the 1930s — because of national security concerns. Its decision was upheld by the information commissioner of Canada.


Wow. This information is between 40 and 70 years old and we're worried about the safety and security of informants who were almost certainly adults at the time? Maybe I'm naive and lacking imagination, but is the concern that there may be 70-, 80-, and 90-year-old undercover Soviet agents holding grudges?
posted by Hoopo at 10:41 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


It was in the fall of 1970 the RCMP claim to have learned from an informant that actress Jane Fonda contacted Douglas about getting Vietnamese citizens visas to attend the Quebec inquiry.

Before anyone's all "WTF" about that, it should be pointed out that it's really not so far-fetched. Fonda starred opposite Douglas's son-in-law in Klute, filmed in 1970.

(The juicier piece of the puzzle is that Shirley Douglas divorced Donald Sutherland that same year. Hmm.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:46 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Shirley Douglas, Canada, and overreaching security apparatuses, Kiefer Sutherland's cameo on Corner Gas.
posted by kmz at 10:50 AM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


...full of communist witch hunts, and suspicions of "peacenik" activities.

How far we've come.
posted by inedible at 10:53 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Wow. This information is between 40 and 70 years old and we're worried about the safety and security of informants who were almost certainly adults at the time? Maybe I'm naive and lacking imagination, but is the concern that there may be 70-, 80-, and 90-year-old undercover Soviet agents holding grudges?"....

As of last I heard the RCMP was still calming that they did not, and never had, any documents on Camp X, though last I heard was a documentary I saw in high school.
posted by Canageek at 11:02 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


they did not, and never had, any documents on Camp X

Shhhhhhhhhh! Hitler and Tojo's spies could be listening.
posted by Hoopo at 11:14 AM on February 23, 2011


Shhhhhhhhhh! Hitler and Tojo's spies could be listening.

Too late!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:24 AM on February 23, 2011


Now I know more about Postwar Saskatchewan politics than could ever be useful to me.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:31 AM on February 23, 2011


Perhaps there are too many pictures of naked doukhobors in there for the public to handle.
posted by benzenedream at 11:36 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think they also had an internment camp in Quebec for Italians, which has nothing to do with Tommy Douglas, but the security there was so good they lost all the records for it and now people don't know where their relatives who died while in camp are buried.

I think the RCMP is all about security through obscurity.
posted by GuyZero at 11:38 AM on February 23, 2011



I think they also had an internment camp in Quebec for Italians, which has nothing to do with Tommy Douglas, but the security there was so good they lost all the records for it and now people don't know where their relatives who died while in camp are buried.


I think the RCMP is all about security through obscurity.


Well, there have been similar issues with residential schools. Which is even older, and doesn't relate to the RCMP. I think at the time it had less to do with hiding guilt, and more to do with not caring about marking graves properly. Who knows.

I don't actually see why they feel the need for secrecy in this case. Tommy Douglas has been largely forgiven for his more detestable views, so it's hard to stare too hard the RCMP for theirs.

Unless they're protecting someone in particular, I'm more inclined to blame restrictive policies and slow bureaucracy than guilt and malice. It just doesn't seem like there would be any real consequences to releasing info, shrugging, apologizing, and moving on.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:50 AM on February 23, 2011


I think this is just how the RCMP rolls these days, and it has been for a long time now.
Deny, deny, deny, oh what's that? There's a video that surfaced of us doing(insert graphic video evidence of RCMP officer doing something heinous here) you say?
Deny, deny, Ok maybe something happened, deny some more, deny, then admit the possibility that maybe, just maybe, one of our officers may have over stepped good policing boundaries in regards to rights of 'accused', deny-one last time until the evidence is overwhelming, then with very serious look on face along with a furrowed brow admit wrong doing then deny culpability of higher ups in whatever issue is at hand.
You can take various elements of this strategy and tailor them to what ever the situation requires.
So, even though there is no point in holding this information anymore the RCMP simply can't help themselves, it's what they DO.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 12:00 PM on February 23, 2011


Agreed Stagger Lee, I think most people would accept it as a Cold War red-scare hysteria anachronism, especially given the Gouzenko affair that lent credence to fears of Soviet espionage. Gouzenko, however, was a man who wrote books and did interviews on national TV while wearing a hood and was almost certainly known to the Soviets, yet still lived to a ripe old age and died of natural causes in Canada (OR DID HE??!?!). The secrecy and concern about the safety of informants in this case is hard to justify and actually comes off almost as bad faith and needless ass-covering.
posted by Hoopo at 12:05 PM on February 23, 2011


Camp X

Whoa! How did I not know about that? It's a 10 minute walk from my house, ffs!
posted by Sys Rq at 12:10 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm naive and lacking imagination, but is the concern that there may be 70-, 80-, and 90-year-old undercover Soviet agents holding grudges?

Those would be quarter grudges, white, with fries and an extra order of swiss chalet sauce please.
posted by srboisvert at 12:13 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


We certainly wouldn't want to impede the government's ability to conduct secret surveillance on dangerous subversives like Douglas and Rita MacNeil.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:18 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


The RCMP: just don't let them near your barn.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:24 PM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Interesting post, thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:58 PM on February 23, 2011


How far we've come.

Not far enough. CSIS was keeping records on people it deemed enemies of the state into the 80's. The Fifth Estate did a investigation on this not too long ago, IIRC Tommy Douglas and the records they kept on him were mentioned as part of the report.
posted by squeak at 2:14 PM on February 23, 2011



How far we've come.

Not far enough. CSIS was keeping records on people it deemed enemies of the state into the 80's. The Fifth Estate did a investigation on this not too long ago, IIRC Tommy Douglas and the records they kept on him were mentioned as part of the report.
posted by squeak at 2:14 PM on February 23


Now the other side is claiming that they were spied on too. Even Harper may have a secret RCMP file from his Reform days.

So any bets on which Reformer will be first to come out of the woods and cry harassment?
posted by sardonyx at 2:30 PM on February 23, 2011


So who is the J. Edgar Hoover of Canada? Who was riding herd over all this governmental misconduct?
posted by 3.2.3 at 5:27 PM on February 23, 2011


I wish there was a punishment for knowingly restricting the public's access to information it has the legal right to. It's not exactly treasonous, but it's purely anti-democratic.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:33 PM on February 23, 2011


3.2.3, RCMP Commissioner Stewart Wood.
posted by squeak at 7:11 PM on February 23, 2011


CSIS was keeping records on people it deemed enemies of the state into the 80's.

80's?!?!?! You think that isn't going on now? Seriously?
posted by Chuckles at 11:25 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nope, not saying that at all! I'm saying, in the context of this post, if you think this witch hunt was a throwback from the cold war years you'd be misinformed.
posted by squeak at 7:43 AM on February 24, 2011


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