From Canadian Press
Douglas, a trailblazing socialist committed to social reform, drew the interest of RCMP security officers through his longstanding links with left-wing causes, the burgeoning peace movement and assorted Communist Party members.
The 1,142-page dossier, spanning nine volumes, was obtained by The Canadian Press from Library and Archives Canada under the Access to Information Act.
Widely hailed as the father of medicare for championing universal health services, the influential Saskatchewan politician was voted the greatest Canadian of all time in a popular CBC contest two years ago.
Daughter Shirley married fellow actor Donald Sutherland. Their son, Kiefer Sutherland, stars in the hit television series 24.
A Baptist minister, Douglas entered politics upon seeing the toll the Great Depression took on families.
It appears he first attracted the RCMP’s attention in February 1939 when, as a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation MP, Douglas urged a group of labourers in downtown Ottawa to push for legislation beneficial to the unemployed.
A few years later, Douglas became leader of Saskatchewan’s Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, soon heading up the first socialist government in North America.
As premier, he ushered in public auto insurance, guaranteed hospital care and a provincial bill of rights.
The RCMP file reflects Douglas’s interest in anti-war causes, including opposition to nuclear weapons and criticism of United Nations policy on Korea.
There are also occasional references to allegations that the CCF harboured members with Communist ties.
Douglas was chosen leader of the federal New Democratic Party in 1961 and served for 10 years. The rise to national prominence only fuelled interest in his political associations.
In late 1964, the RCMP received a letter alleging that Douglas had once been an active member of the Communist Party at the University of Chicago, where he had done postgraduate studies.
A top secret memo from a senior RCMP security officer to the force’s deputy commissioner of operations indicates there was no reliable information to substantiate the tip.
“We have never asked the FBI for information on the matter because of Douglas’ position as leader of a national political party.”
In May 1965, a confidential source provided information for an account of Douglas’s appearance at a Communist Party meeting in Burnaby, B.C.
Markings indicate Douglas’s file is one of more than 650 secret dossiers the RCMP kept on Canadian politicians and bureaucrats as part of a project known as the “VIP program.”
New Zeal The fact that the Mounties wouldn’t ask the FBI for information on Douglas because of his position “as leader of a national political party” illustrates a problem seemingly common to most Western Intelligence Services.
That is, once a suspected security risk reaches a certain level of prominence, they become almost “untouchable”.
The Intelligence Services, like any government department, exist largely at the mercy of their political masters.
Few Intelligence bosses are willing to risk their careers or their budget by exposing sitting Members of Parliament or prominent Party backers.
An acquaintance once told me of a conversation he had with an NZ Security Intelligence Service officer. The officer said, in reference to the 1984/90 Labour Government…
“The people we used to watch are now our bosses.”
Little seems to have changed. There are several people in the NZ Government today who would not get a security clearance to clean latrines at the Waiouru Army Base.
Yet they are apparently safe from the prying eyes of the Intelligence Services.
That is a problem that needs addressing.