Canada’s spy service closely monitored the burgeoning nationalist movement in the 1960s and ’70s, poring over pamphlets, collecting reports from confidential sources and warily watching for signs of Communist infiltration, once-secret records reveal.
The RCMP’s security branch, responsible for sniffing out subversives at the time, quietly tracked the rise of the Committee for an Independent Canada, seeing it as ripe for “exploitation or manipulation” by radicals.
The committee, which attracted numerous political and cultural luminaries, pushed for greater Canadian control of the industrial, media and foreign policy spheres in an era of profound American dominance.
The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain the RCMP’s four-volume, 538-page dossier on the committee as well as a file on a forerunner organization from Library and Archives Canada. Some passages, though more than 60 years old, were withheld from release.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which assumed counter-subversion duties from the RCMP in 1984, transferred the records to the National Archives, given their historical significance.
The Mounties’ interest was piqued in the spring of 1960 when author Farley Mowat gathered neighbours at his home in Palgrave, Ont., to form what would soon become the Committee for Canadian Independence.
Mowat was instantly spurred into action upon reading journalist James Minifie’s book “Peacemaker or Powder-Monkey: Canada’s Role in a Revolutionary World,” rattled by its concerns about the erosion of Canadian sovereignty.
The fledgling committee advocated distancing Canada from western military alliances and reasserting the country’s control over its airspace and territorial waters.
In August 1960, as the RCMP opened a file on the committee, a sergeant surmised the Communist party “must certainly be joyous” at the development given it had long espoused similar ideas. However, the Mounties had uncovered no information to suggest the group was “Communist inspired.”
While Mowat’s effort faded from the public conversation, hand-wringing about Canadian independence persisted.
Early in 1970, Toronto Daily Star editor Peter C. Newman, former Liberal cabinet minister Walter Gordon and economist Abe Rotstein hatched plans for the Committee for an Independent Canada during a meeting at Toronto’s King Edward Hotel.
A statement of purpose published by the committee that September said it realized the benefits of Canada being neighbour to the most powerful nation in the world and rejected the idea of closing the taps of needed foreign capital.
“But our land won’t be our own much longer if we allow it to continue to be sold out to foreign owners. Not if we allow another culture to dominate our information media. Not if we allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of another country’s foreign policy.”
A month later an RCMP corporal in the security service’s Toronto detachment warned in a two-page memo the publicity the committee had garnered made it a “vulnerable target for subversive penetration.”
Gordon, a longtime economic nationalist, was honorary chairman of the committee, with publisher Jack McClelland and Claude Ryan, director of influential Montreal newspaper Le Devoir, serving as co-chairmen.
The politically non-partisan organization’s steering committee included dozens of notable members of the Canadian intelligentsia, including Mowat and fellow author Pierre Berton, publisher Mel Hurtig, poet Al Purdy, Chatelaine magazine editor Doris Anderson, lawyers Eddie Goodman and Judy LaMarsh (who had also been a Liberal cabinet minister), union activist and longtime NDP stalwart Eamon Park, and Flora MacDonald, shortly before she became a Progressive Conservative MP.
A source whose name is blacked out of a March 1971 memo provided the RCMP with committee literature including a letter from student co-ordinators Gus Abols and Michael Adams.
“The support of young Canadians is essential, because only through our united action will the government and the Canadian public generally realize the seriousness of our country’s situation and the extent of our commitment to the preservation of Canada,” the letter said.
Adams recalls being a graduate student the University of Toronto, strolling to class, when Goodman, whom he knew from Conservative political circles, pulled over his car and told the young man to jump in because “we’re going to start up something that I think you’d be interested in.”
Adams, who would go on to build Environics Research Group into a leading pollster, has fond memories of accompanying Gordon on a committee trip to London, Ont., to promote the nationalist cause to students.
As the “young guy” at committee meetings, Adams revelled in the impressive company.
“It was a wonderful group,” he said. “They were incredibly nurturing and helpful.”
For their part, however, RCMP security officers didn’t seem to know what to make of the committee.
An August 1971 memo to divisions from RCMP headquarters said the committee had taken a moderate, middle class-oriented stance rather than a radical approach. Elements of the New Left and the Communist party had shown interest in the committee, but the RCMP was not aware of “any significant degree of influence or penetration.”
Still, the Mounties would continue to eye the committee because its aims and programs “provide a potential for exploitation or manipulation by groups or individuals of a subversive nature.”
On the contrary, the committee was formed to keep the nationalist movement from falling into the hands of the Communists and the far left represented by the NDP’s Waffle initiative, said Stephen Azzi, a professor of political management at Carleton University in Ottawa.
“The RCMP intelligence unit appeared to be staffed by people with little knowledge, with scant research skills and with deep paranoia,” Azzi said in an interview.
The Mounties studiously monitored the committee through the 1970s, clipping news items and filing memos. A confidential source advised the RCMP of plans for the group’s Ottawa demonstration in January 1975, suggesting they would muster “25-30 people instead of the 60 previously planned.”
By this point, the committee was no longer a potent force in Canadian public life in any event, Azzi sai
Pierre Trudeau, the Liberal prime minister of the day, was openly skeptical of the nationalist agenda but had adroitly harnessed support for the movement to shore up electoral support, particularly in southern Ontario, he added.
Several of the committee’s ideas were realized through creation of Crown corporation Petro-Canada, the Foreign Investment Review Agency, the Canada Development Corporation to foster Canadian-controlled enterprises, and new rules for homegrown content on the airwaves.
Many effects of those policies linger today, Azzi said. “I think our sense of Canada to a large extent was shaped in that period.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca
The European Commission said on Tuesday it would make sense for the United States to allow travel by people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot in Europe.
On Monday the White House said it would lift restrictions that bar European Union citizens from travelling to the United States starting in November. It is not clear which vaccines will be accepted by U.S. authorities.
“We believe the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe,” a spokesperson for the EU Commission told a news conference.
“From our point of view, obviously it would make sense for people who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca to be able to travel.”
The spokesperson noted that this is a decision for U.S. authorities.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was authorized by Health Canada for use in people aged 18 and up in late February. As of Sept. 16, health officials had distributed more than three million doses of the vaccine to the provinces, according to a tracking list published by the federal government.
In June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government would work with other countries to ensure Canadians who received the AstraZeneca vaccine would not be prevented from travelling internationally.
In the U.S., there are three COVID-19 vaccines that are either fully authorized or approved for emergency use — the two-dose mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna and the single-dose product from Johnson & Johnson (Janssen).
India has been critical of the British government’s decision not to recognize coronavirus vaccine certificates issued by Indian authorities, calling it a “discriminatory policy” that will impact its citizens who want to travel to that country.
The new rules require Indians visiting the U.K. to quarantine themselves for 10 days and undergo COVID-19 tests even if they are fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca vaccines made under licence in India.
The rules take effect next month. India’s Serum Institute, which makes the AstraZeneca vaccine, has not applied for its approval by the European Union.
Most people in India have been vaccinated with the Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine. Others have received COVAXIN, which is also not used in Britain.
-From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 1:45 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
Canada is extending restrictions on all direct commercial and private passenger flights from India until Sunday, Transport Canada said in a statement Tuesday.
Travellers eligible to enter Canada will be able to board direct flights from India once the restriction on direct flights expires, provided they have proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test from the approved Genestrings Laboratory at the Delhi airport taken within 18 hours of the scheduled departure.
-From CBC News, last updated at 8:30 p.m. ET
Here’s a look at some of the COVID-19 developments from across the country:
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday evening, more than 229.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnamese authorities are relaxing some pandemic restrictions in Hanoi starting Tuesday after two months of lockdown to contain a surge in coronavirus cases.
In Europe, senior politicians in Germany expressed shock over the weekend killing of a young gas station clerk who asked a customer to wear a face mask, and they warned Tuesday against the radicalization of people who oppose the country’s pandemic restrictions.
A 49-year-old German man was arrested in the fatal shooting of the clerk Saturday in the western town of Idar-Oberstein. The suspect is being held on suspicion of murder.
Authorities said the man told officers he acted “out of anger” after being refused service for not wearing a mask while trying to buy beer. “He further stated during interrogation that he rejected the measures against the coronavirus,” the Trier police department said in a statement.
In the Americas, COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have climbed to an average of more than 1,900 a day for the first time since early March, with experts saying the virus is preying largely on a distinct group: 71 million unvaccinated Americans.
Back in December, when no vaccines were available, about 3,000 people were dying every day. Now, despite readily available vaccines, deaths per day have climbed 40 per cent over the past two weeks, from 1,387 to 1,947, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Argentina unveiled plans to ease pandemic restrictions, including loosening strict border controls, allowing more commercial activities and getting rid of the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors.
In the Middle East, the first world fair to be held in the Middle East, Expo 2020 Dubai, opens its doors to exhibitors from almost 200 countries on Oct. 1 after being delayed for a year by the pandemic.
In Africa, authorities in Burundi have decided to suspend all social events except on Saturdays and Sundays as concerns grow about a rising number of COVID-19 infections.
The country was one of the last in Africa to embrace vaccines after the administration of the late president was accused of taking the pandemic lightly. In a letter to governors and mayors, the chair of the committee in charge of fighting COVID-19 said the limits on gatherings come after authorities realized how such events can spread the virus.
The mayor of Burundi’s economic capital, Bujumbura, is threatening to fine anyone who doesn’t wear a mask or respect physical distancing. The mayor cites a worrying number of COVID-19 patients in the city.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:50 p.m. ET
Elections Canada 'sorry' people didn't vote because of long lineups – CTV News
Many older voters, parents with young children and Canadians with disabilities didn’t vote on Monday because they couldn’t wait in long lineups at their voting sites. Elections Canada has apologized but said there was little else they could do given COVID-19 restrictions.
“I always vote and am incredibly disappointed I did not this time,” said Patricia Au, a voter in the Toronto riding of University—Rosedale. She was told two times on Monday she’d be waiting for two hours. “I forfeited my ballot this year.”
Farah Hassanali, a single mother from Ajax, Ont. with five-year-old twins, was similarly discouraged by how slow the line was moving at her voting site.
“I had to pick up my kids from school and daycare… and I wasn’t able to go back to vote because my kids are young and I couldn’t stand in line with them for hours,” she told CTVNews.ca In a phone interview.
“I did set out some time in my day to go and vote but my past experiences have never taken that long,” Hassanali said. And because a Liberal win was projected before many had even voted, she saw people who left the line because they felt their votes didn’t matter.
“I don’t think it was efficient and properly run.”
ELECTIONS CANADA ‘SORRY’ BUT HANDS WERE TIED
Upon hearing the stories of people ditching the lineups, Elections Canada media advisor Rejean Grenier said, “I feel for people who had to do that.”
But he stressed the agency didn’t have a choice in whether to run the election during the pandemic. This year, there were significantly fewer overall voting sites in many ridings across the country, due to COVID-19 restrictions which prevented many schools, churches, or other buildings from being eligible locations.
“We had all of the criteria that was placed on us where we had no choice about choosing certain sites,” Grenier said in a phone interview. He explained that despite ridings having fewer voting sites, there were more booths inside them, which meant the total number of voting booths overall was similar to past years.
He also noted that people who couldn’t or didn’t want to wait in line, could’ve mailed in their ballots, or submitted their ballots through advanced voting during the four assigned days earlier this month.
“We’re very sorry that people couldn’t or wouldn’t stay in line, but most people were patient and did,” Grenier said.
OLDER VOTERS, THOSE WITH DISABILITIES LEFT OUT
For many older voters and those with disabilities, it was less a matter of patience and more of physical limitations.
Roy Bagnato and his wife, in the Ontario’s York-Simcoe riding, told CTVNews.ca in an email that they’re in early 80s and couldn’t wait in the hot sun. Meanwhile seniors Gord Bulllied and his wife similarly couldn’t wait hours at their voting site in Peterborough county in southern Ontario.
“So for the first time in our life we did not vote,” Bulllied wrote to CTVNews.ca in an email.
Several other voters — such as Patricia Farmer from Keswick, Ont. who uses a wheelchair — said their physical disabilities made lineups difficult.
“Cars were lined up all the way down the main road. It was not moving and it would have taken hours before we could even park,” she wrote CTVNews.ca in an email, saying this was the case the two times she went.
“We have always instilled the importance of voting into our children and grandchildren no matter what, and we practiced what we preached. Well, this time none of us were offered the ability to vote.”
Whitby, Ont. resident Nikki Yannique Henderson has cerebral palsy and felt “very deflated” because she can’t stand for long periods of time.
“I think it super disappointing. We hear time and time again that people with disabilities matter, but this goes to show that we have a long way to go,” she told CTVNews.ca via text, noting that simply having the building being wheelchair accessible isn’t enough to make areas truly accessible.
“Ideally there should be a line for those who may have mobility challenges,” she said. “We need to continue to look at ways to make the experience fully accessible from the beginning.”
Her father, David MacKinnon — vice-chair of the Town of Whitby Accessibility Advisory Committee — wished that security and voting site volunteers had shown more leeway in expediting wait times for older Canadians and those with disabilities.
“I’m almost 70 years old. I’m not going to stand in line for that kind of time… One look at the lineup and we just kept driving,” he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “It’s been a long, long time since I’ve not voted in an election.”
The Elections Canada spokesperson said in past elections, volunteers would often scan lines to allow older voters to skip the line. But this time around, the lines were too long and volunteers were instead focused on moving the lines along.
WHAT ABOUT ONLINE VOTING?
MacKinnon said more needs to be done for disabled Canadians, and this pandemic election was the year to do it.
“Persons with disabilities have a tough time voting, even with mail-in ballots. A web-based voting system is needed,” he said.
He said it there should be a “trusted voter” program which allows people to vote online if they’ve been screened thoroughly by the government.
The Elections Canada spokesperson Grenier cited evidence showing how online voting – as was seen in the 2018 municipal elections in Ontario — can be unfortunately prone to errors and irregularities. He said even if an infrastructure could be set up, it would require a change to the Elections Act before it’s used federally.
Although she was unable to vote, Hassanali said she has sympathy for Elections Canada for organizing an election during a pandemic, but given the COVID-19 restrictions were known so far in advance, she wishes there were more advance polling days or more time allowed to mail in their ballots.
“I feel like my voice wasn’t heard and I understand many people are in the same situation.”
The Canadian election is (mostly) over. Cue the party leadership speculation: experts – Globalnews.ca
For the major federal party leaders now though, experts say the question is poised to become: could they or should they have done better at the polls, and will the political knives now come out?
Prominent Conservative Lisa Raitt, a former federal cabinet minister, said she expects both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole will face questions from their caucuses, but what happens next is still uncertain.
“I think it’s too early to say, ‘knives out,’” she told Global News on Tuesday.
“I do believe that caucus has a right to understand from both of their leaders behind closed doors what happened, what’s the analysis and where do we go from here.”
What does the future of party leadership look like after election 2021?
After five weeks and $600-million, the pandemic election — the most expensive in Canadian history — has left the makeup of the House of Commons virtually identical to what it was when Trudeau chose to seek a dissolution on Aug. 15, and send the country to the polls.
That early lead quickly evaporated and Trudeau is once again set to lead a minority government that will see him forced by Canadians to negotiate and cooperate with the other parties in order to govern.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh now appears poised to play kingmaker, and said he plans to stay on as leader when questioned early Tuesday morning about whether he should be replaced. In comparison, Green Party Leader Annamie Paul’s second straight failure to win the Toronto Centre seat she was campaigning for is already prompting questions about her own future and ability to lead the party.
“I’ve never seen the party so unprepared for an election,” said former Green leader Elizabeth May, who was re-elected as the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, during an interview with Global News.
The two major party leaders are likely also facing questions in light of the election result.
Grace Skogstad, a professor of political science with the University of Toronto, described the outcome as “a disappointment for both the Liberal and Conservative leaders.”
“In terms of what it means for their leadership, there’s going to be a greater challenge to Erin O’Toole’s leadership than there is to Justin Trudeau’s. … It’s always easier to win an election, even if he’s only gained one seat.”
O’Toole gambled big by swinging the Conservative Party to the centre of the political spectrum, but was not able to oust Trudeau from the Prime Minister’s Office.
He told journalists on Tuesday afternoon he was “disappointed” with the result but planned to remain in the role and has already started the process to review what could have been done better.
“Next time we will,” he said of the frustration members feel at not winning.
“We’re closer in dozens upon dozens of ridings, but not close enough. I want to earn that trust with Canadians. That’s why we’re going to work tirelessly.”
His predecessor, Andrew Scheer, vowed to stay in the role as leader following the 2019 campaign that saw Trudeau reduced from a majority to a minority, but within weeks because the target of internal party fighting and damaging leaks that led him to shift gears, and step aside.
O’Toole won the ensuing leadership race. But unlike with Scheer’s election loss, there are already strong voices from within the party speaking out about the need to rally around O’Toole rather than kick him to the curb, and search for a new leader.
Conservative support drops in Alberta, PPC and Kenney a factor: political scientist
Matthew Conway, one of the Quebec representatives on the party’s national council of members, said Conservatives will need to do a post-mortem to figure out what could’ve been done better.
But he said in a minority government, changing leaders after each election simply isn’t realistic.
“I think going into another leadership would be a massive mistake,” he told Global News.
“We can’t be quick. We can’t change leaders after every election. There is absolutely no momentum into that next election. There’s causes too much upheaval.”
A former Conservative candidate and ex-political staffer, Conway said the post-mortem on the election results will need to take a hard look at why some Liberal attacks over things like the party’s positions on abortion access and firearms control resonated with voters.
Both will likely continue to be part of Liberal political attacks in the future, he noted.
“The Liberals will play the fear game and we need to be ready to defend ourselves on that. We need to realize also that the Morgentaler abortion decision was in 1988,” he said, adding more can be done to make it clear O’Toole is pro-choice.
“But also people in our party need to stop fighting battles that were fought many years ago. It’s 2021. … Continuing to fight these battles just allows Justin Trudeau and his corrupt government to continue getting elected, and that doesn’t serve Canada.”
Jason Lietaer, a Conservative strategist, offered a similar case for why O’Toole should stay on.
He said while some party members are getting “restless” after losing three elections in a row, the best shot at forming government again is building on the foundations he says O’Toole laid in the campaign.
“I think the main question you ask yourself is, can this guy win? And I think the answer is yes. It’s one of the reasons why I think Mr. O’Toole should probably get another crack at this,” said Lietaer, who is president of the political strategy firm Enterprise.
“The truth is, it’s a lot easier to win the second time than the first time if you continue to grow in the job. I think he’s shown capacity to grow.”
Canada election: Mood not great at Conservative party headquarters following projected Liberal minority government
Skogstad also noted O’Toole may be able to stave off leadership challenges with the fact that the People’s Party of Canada, the far-right group led by ex-Tory Maxime Bernier, didn’t win a single seat in the House of Commons in the election.
If O’Toole can demonstrate he has a plan to keep building on the pivot to the centre and turn that into more votes, he may have a chance to stay on that Scheer did not get, she suggested.
“A little more than a third of his caucus is going to be from Saskatchewan and Alberta, and we can expect those MP’s to take issue with the kind of campaign that he ran, which is to try to move the party to the centre, make it look much more like an old Progressive Conservative Party,” she said.
“I think he can justifiably argue that the pathway to a national government in Canada does have to be to hold much more toward the centre.”
— with files from Global’s Mike Le Couteur, Abigail Bimman and Rachel Gilmore.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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