Canada’s spy service watched nationalist group in ’60s, ’70s over communism concerns

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Canada’s spy work intimately monitored the burgeoning nationalist movement successful the 1960s and ’70s, poring implicit pamphlets, collecting reports from confidential sources and warily watching for signs of Communist infiltration, once-secret records reveal.

The RCMP‘s information branch, liable for sniffing retired subversives astatine the time, softly tracked the emergence of the Committee for an Independent Canada, seeing it arsenic ripe for “exploitation oregon manipulation” by radicals.

The committee, which attracted galore governmental and taste luminaries, pushed for greater Canadian power of the industrial, media and overseas argumentation spheres successful an epoch of profound American dominance.

The Canadian Press utilized the Access to Information Act to get the RCMP’s four-volume, 538-page dossier connected the committee arsenic good arsenic a record connected a forerunner enactment from Library and Archives Canada. Some passages, though much than 60 years old, were withheld from release.

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The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which assumed counter-subversion duties from the RCMP successful 1984, transferred the records to the National Archives, fixed their humanities significance.

The Mounties’ involvement was piqued successful the outpouring of 1960 erstwhile writer Farley Mowat gathered neighbours astatine his location successful Palgrave, Ont., to signifier what would soon go the Committee for Canadian Independence.

Mowat was instantly spurred into enactment upon speechmaking writer James Minifie’s publication “Peacemaker oregon Powder-Monkey: Canada’s Role successful a Revolutionary World,” rattled by its concerns astir the erosion of Canadian sovereignty.

The fledgling committee advocated distancing Canada from occidental subject alliances and reasserting the country’s power implicit its airspace and territorial waters.

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In August 1960, arsenic the RCMP opened a record connected the committee, a sergeant surmised the Communist enactment “must surely beryllium joyous” astatine the improvement fixed it had agelong espoused akin ideas. However, the Mounties had uncovered nary accusation to suggest the radical was “Communist inspired.”

While Mowat’s effort faded from the nationalist conversation, hand-wringing astir Canadian independency persisted.

Early successful 1970, Toronto Daily Star exertion Peter C. Newman, erstwhile Liberal furniture curate Walter Gordon and economist Abe Rotstein hatched plans for the Committee for an Independent Canada during a gathering astatine Toronto’s King Edward Hotel.

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A connection of intent published by the committee that September said it realized the benefits of Canada being neighbour to the astir almighty federation successful the satellite and rejected the thought of closing the taps of needed overseas capital.

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“But our onshore won’t beryllium our ain overmuch longer if we let it to proceed to beryllium sold retired to overseas owners. Not if we let different civilization to predominate our accusation media. Not if we let ourselves to beryllium dragged on successful the aftermath of different country’s overseas policy.”

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A period aboriginal an RCMP corporal successful the information service’s Toronto detachment warned successful a two-page memo the publicity the committee had garnered made it a “vulnerable people for subversive penetration.”

Gordon, a longtime economical nationalist, was honorary president of the committee, with steadfast Jack McClelland and Claude Ryan, manager of influential Montreal paper Le Devoir, serving arsenic co-chairmen.

The politically non-partisan organization’s steering committee included dozens of notable members of the Canadian intelligentsia, including Mowat and chap writer Pierre Berton, steadfast Mel Hurtig, writer Al Purdy, Chatelaine mag exertion Doris Anderson, lawyers Eddie Goodman and Judy LaMarsh (who had besides been a Liberal furniture minister), national activistic and longtime NDP stalwart Eamon Park, and Flora MacDonald, soon earlier she became a Progressive Conservative MP.

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A root whose sanction is blacked retired of a March 1971 memo provided the RCMP with committee lit including a missive from pupil co-ordinators Gus Abols and Michael Adams.

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“The enactment of young Canadians is essential, due to the fact that lone done our agreed enactment volition the authorities and the Canadian nationalist mostly recognize the seriousness of our country’s concern and the grade of our committedness to the preservation of Canada,” the missive said.

Adams recalls being a postgraduate pupil the University of Toronto, strolling to class, erstwhile Goodman, whom helium knew from Conservative governmental circles, pulled implicit his car and told the young antheral to leap successful due to the fact that “we’re going to commencement up thing that I deliberation you’d beryllium funny in.”

Adams, who would spell connected to physique Environics Research Group into a starring pollster, has fond memories of accompanying Gordon connected a committee travel to London, Ont., to beforehand the nationalist origin to students.

As the “young guy” astatine committee meetings, Adams revelled successful the awesome company.

“It was a fantastic group,” helium said. “They were incredibly nurturing and helpful.”

For their part, however, RCMP information officers didn’t look to cognize what to marque of the committee.

An August 1971 memo to divisions from RCMP office said the committee had taken a moderate, mediate class-oriented stance alternatively than a extremist approach. Elements of the New Left and the Communist enactment had shown involvement successful the committee, but the RCMP was not alert of “any important grade of power oregon penetration.”

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Still, the Mounties would proceed to oculus the committee due to the fact that its aims and programs “provide a imaginable for exploitation oregon manipulation by groups oregon individuals of a subversive nature.”

On the contrary, the committee was formed to support the nationalist question from falling into the hands of the Communists and the acold near represented by the NDP’s Waffle initiative, said Stephen Azzi, a prof of governmental absorption astatine Carleton University successful Ottawa.

“The RCMP quality portion appeared to beryllium staffed by radical with small knowledge, with scant probe skills and with heavy paranoia,” Azzi said successful an interview.

The Mounties studiously monitored the committee done the 1970s, clipping quality items and filing memos. A confidential root advised the RCMP of plans for the group’s Ottawa objection successful January 1975, suggesting they would muster “25-30 radical alternatively of the 60 antecedently planned.”

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By this point, the committee was nary longer a potent unit successful Canadian nationalist beingness successful immoderate event, Azzi said.

Pierre Trudeau, the Liberal premier curate of the day, was openly skeptical of the nationalist docket but had adroitly harnessed enactment for the question to enactment up electoral support, peculiarly successful confederate Ontario, helium added.

Several of the committee’s ideas were realized done instauration of Crown corp Petro-Canada, the Foreign Investment Review Agency, the Canada Development Corporation to foster Canadian-controlled enterprises, and caller rules for homegrown contented connected the airwaves.

Many effects of those policies linger today, Azzi said. “I deliberation our consciousness of Canada to a ample grade was shaped successful that period.”

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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