Court rejects release of spy records on iconic Canadian politician

Canada’s highest court has rejected a legal argument in favor of releasing surveillance records on Tommy Douglas, an iconic Canadian politician who was monitored for most of his life by the security services. Douglas was a Scottish-born Baptist minister who later became the leader of the New Democratic Party and Premier of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Under his Premiership, which lasted from 1944 to 1961, Saskatchewan’s government became the first democratic socialist administration in North America and the first in the Americas to introduce a single-payer universal healthcare program. But Douglas, who is widely recognized as the father of Canada’s healthcare system, was under constant surveillance by Canadian intelligence throughout most of his life. Government records show that the now-defunct Security Service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began monitoring the socialist politician shortly before the outbreak of World War II. It appears that, in the political context of the Cold War, Douglas had drawn the attention of Canada’s security establishment by supporting antiwar causes, which led some to suspect him of holding pro-communist sympathies. The government surveillance, which was at times extensive, lasted until shortly before the politician’s death in 1986. Under Canada’s legal system, security dossiers on individuals are typically released 20 years after the target’s death. However, even though several hundred pages from Douglas’ dossier have already been released, many hundreds more remain secret. In 2005, Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill launched a legal campaign aimed at securing the release of the remaining pages in Douglas’ dossier. His campaign is supported by Douglas’ family, notably Douglas’ daughter, Shirley. But the Canadian government has resisted Bronskill’s effort from the very beginning. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0285

  • Canadian government resists release of Cold-War-era files. Canadian journalists are fighting for the release of Cold-War-era government files on Tommy Douglas, a prominent social democratic politician idolized in Canada for his central role in establishing the country’s public health care system. But the government argues that releasing the files would imperil national security and compromise contemporary spy sources and methods.
  • NPR launches series on confidential informants. Informants are often considered a vital crime fighting tool; but what happens if those informants go astray? Washington-based National Public Radio is launching a special investigation into this controversial subject.
  • CIA returns to US university campuses. American anthropologist David Price explains that the US intelligence community is gradually re-establishing its academic recruitment network, which was shattered in the 1970s.

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