Report of The Royal Commission, 1946

Title:                  Report of The Royal Commission, 1946

Author:                 Royal Commission (Canada)

Canada (1946). The Report of The Royal Commission Appointed under Order in Council P. C. 411 of February 5, 1946 to Investigate The Facts Relating to and The Circumstances Surrounding The Communication, by Public Officials and Other Persons In Positions of Trust, of Secret and Confidential Information to Agents of A Foreign Power, June 27, 1946. Ottawa: E. Cloutier, Printer to the King

LCCN:    46021896

F1034 .A5 1946

Subjects

Note

  • First published in Ottawa by Edmond Cloutier, Printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, 1946. Contains also: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Interim Reports, March 1946

Date Updated:  September 28, 2016

In September 1945 Igor Gouzenko, a young cipher clerk, fled the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa with scores of documents which he turned over to the Canadian authorities. His revelation of a Soviet spy network operating in Canada, the United States, and Britain was one of the key episodes marking the advent of the Cold War and the growing disenchantment of the West with the Soviet Union following the end of World War II.

Prime Minister Mackenzie King, at first reluctant to believe Gouzenko’s story and fearful of provoking a rift with the USSR, reacted with shock and dismay. After visiting President Truman and Prime Minister Attlee to acquaint them of the facts, King appointed a Royal Commission, headed by two justices of the Supreme Court, Robert Taschereau and R.L. Kellock, to hear the testimony of Gouzenko and of the people implicated by it. That testimony, taken in secret, was not made public until 1981, 35 years after the Commission rendered its report in 1946. (Some of the evidence brought before the Commission is still under wraps.)

Professors Bothwell and Granatstein have rendered a real service by providing this sampling of the hearings, no easy task in view of the fact that the total runs to some six thousand pages. Their 22-page Introduction is a lucid, mainly factual account of the government’s handling of the affair, along with a brief account of the people who were charged as a result of the Commission’s investigation and what happened to them. They draw attention to those aspects of the proceedings which are apt to trouble civil libertarians, but in the main the reader is left to ferret out his own conclusions from the testimony.

Gouzenko’s testimony comprises almost half the selection; it was clear, forthright, and damning. The military attaché, Colonel Zabotin, had been operating an espionage network that had roped in a number of Canadians, including scientists, public servants, and even a Member of Parliament (Fred Rose). The purpose was to gather secret information about Canadian wartime work in explosives, radar, and, most importantly, the atomic bomb, in the making of which Canada had cooperated with Britain and the United States. (There were parallel spy networks in the Embassy, including one operated by the NKVD, of which Gouzenko was aware but had no concrete evidence.) The people identified by Gouzenko from the pseudonyms and code-names in the Soviet files ranged from employees in the National Research Council to the Bank of Canada, from External Affairs to the office of the British High Commission. They were all taken into custody and held incommunicado, without benefit of counsel, sometimes for weeks, before being questioned by the Commission. The testimony of some reveals a mixture of idealism about communism and an incredible naivety about the Soviet Union; none of them had mercenary motives for relaying secret information.

The Commissioners sometimes adopted an inquisitorial manner, especially with those witnesses who had all-too-frequent lapses of memory, but in the main the questioning seems fair enough. It is interesting to note that a number of the hostile witnesses who refused to testify won acquittals in the subsequent court trials. The reader will have difficulty, however, in concluding that this was proof of innocence and not simply the benefit of having legal counsel and the other protections afforded by the courts. It was an extraordinary situation, and there can be little doubt that the usual procedures of the law were set aside and the suspects were subjected to what was often harsh and arbitrary treatment. As the editors remark, the Canadian authorities came close to imitating the standards of the society that the Soviet spies sought to serve. The breaches of civil liberties that were committed troubled the Prime Minister very much, as they did many others at the time and since. Now, for the first time, interested Canadians can dip into those events of 40 years ago and judge for themselves.

Prior to World War II, Canada’s embryonic security and intelligence apparatus[1] was limited to operations undertaken by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to monitor the activities of potential subversives and to infiltrate the Canadian Communist party. Experience acquired from the covert surveillance conducted against radicals, usually émigrés, proved helpful when, during the war, the RCMP was called upon to engage in counterespionage against Nazi spies landed by U-boat. Two good double agent cases were run with guidance from MIS, and in 1946, as the RCMP investigated leads originating from the Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko, a Special Branch was established.

The RCMP Special Branch was renamed the Directorate of Security and Intelligence in 1956, but in 1970, following the Mackenzie Commission Report, was reestablished as the RCMP Security Service. In 1984, following a royal commission conducted three years earlier by Justice David McDonald into allegations of misconduct during the Quebec crisis in 1972, the Security Service was separated from the RCMP and absorbed into a new civilian organization, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. During the McDonald Commission hearings, it had been alleged that during the terrorist campaign conducted by the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) in 1970, the RCMP had intercepted mail without warrant, burned down a barn near Montreal suspected of having been an FLQ meeting place, and burgled offices to trace the FLQ’s membership.

During World War II, Canada made a significant contribution to the Allied interception and decryption of Axis signals, and in June 1941 the Examination Unit of the National Research Council (NRC) employed the controversial American cryptographer Herbert 0. Yardley to exploit enemy broadcasts that had been monitored by the Royal Canadian Signals Corps at Rockcliffe Barracks in Ottawa. Under Yardley’s supervision, the Examination Unit concentrated on Japanese broadcasts. In January 1941 he was replaced by Oliver Strachey, who had broken the Abwehr’s hand ciphers at Bletchley Park.

After the war the Examination Unit continued in its covert role as a cryptographic organization under the guise of the NRC’s Communications Branch. In 1975 it was moved to the Department of National Defence and became the Communications Security Establishment.

As a member of NATO and a party to bilateral agreements with the United States and Great Britain, Canada has played an active but not entirely reliable role in the West’s signals intelligence architecture. Prime Minister Lester Pearson’s refusal in October 1962 to allow Canadian personnel to assist the American enforcement of the quarantine imposed on Cuba almost led to the loss of a crucial direction-finding contribution from Daniel’s Head, the Canadian wireless base in Bermuda, thereby undermining confidence in the Canadian commitment to the UKUSA partnership, which was enhanced by a separate CANUS agreement in September 1950.

During the Cold War, Canada’s other significant contribution to the intelligence community was to host two SOSUS terminals, at Massett on Queen Charlotte Island and at Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[2]

The Report of the Royal Commission was appointed under Order in Council P.C. 411 of February 5, 1946, to investigate the facts relating to and the circumstances surrounding the communication buy public officials and other persons in positions of trust, of secret and confidential information to agents of a foreign power. (June 27, 1946).

A Royal Commission was established to study security and intelligence procedures in the Canadian Government, including especially the secrecy of sources of information and the security of information provided Canada by other nations. The report includes sections on organization for security, privacy and the individual, physical and industrial security. The Report has been slightly abridged for publication for security reasons but is still a worthwhile study.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[3]

The Report of the Royal Commission was appointed under Order in Council P.C. 411 of February 5, 1946, to investigate the facts relating to and the circumstances surrounding the communication buy public officials and other persons in positions of trust, of secret and confidential information to agents of a foreign power. (June 27, 1946).

A Royal Commission was established to study security and intelligence procedures in the Canadian Government, including especially the secrecy of sources of information and the security of information provided Canada by other nations. The report includes sections on organization for security, privacy and the individual, physical and industrial security. The Report has been slightly abridged for publication for security reasons but is still a worthwhile study.

[1] West, Nigel (2006). Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, pp. 43-45

[2] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, D.C. : Defense Intelligence School, p. 13

[3] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, D.C. : Defense Intelligence School, p. 13

 

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3 Responses to Report of The Royal Commission, 1946

  1. Pingback: The Great Detective | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: This Was My Choice | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  3. Pingback: Soviet Espionage | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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