CSIS refusal to relinquish Tommy Douglas files dubious at best
Writing for the National Post Full Comment, John Baglow -- whose knee-jerk defenses of the most vile indulgences of the far left -- writes about the refusal of CSIS to divulge the files the RCMP compiled on former (and original) NDP leader Tommy Douglas under a freedom of inormation request.
CSIS is refusing to release the files under the auspices of national security. This lacks credulity.
But those who believe the Douglas files will feature any shocking revelations will be sorely disappointed.
Regardless of what Douglas' RCMP file contains, one thing will be certain: it will be a product of its time.
Douglas rose to political prominence at a time when Soviet communism seemed to be an omnipresent threat. Although the Soviet Union would formally be Canada's ally during the war against Nazi Germany -- a war that Douglas, at odds with his pacifist colleagues in the CCF courageously supported -- Canadians of varying political stripes were aware of the threat communism posed.
This included the thousands of citizens of Saskatchewan of Ukrainian descent, many of whom immigrated to Saskatchewan fleeing from Soviet communism and the Holodomor perpetrated by Joseph Stalin the Soviet state.
Adherents to the Greek Orthodox Church proved to be as asiduously opposed to Douglas and the CCF agenda as the Catholic Church and Mennonites. Their suspicion of the CCF brand of socialism did not fester unaided.
The Liberal Party of James Garfield Gardiner exploited Canadian horror at Soviet communism by insisting that the CCF would impliment a similar system in Saskatchewan. The Gardiner Liberals insisted that the CCF would confiscate farms, homes, and the life savings of individuals. They also insisted the CCF would close pubs and churches.
After leaving provincial politics for federal politics -- joining William Lyon MacKenzie King's government as the Minister of Agriculture -- Gardiner worked for the federal Liberals as their Saskatchewan lieutenant. He continued to apply his bag of political tricks -- which reputed to include hiding prohibited alcohol in the homes of political opponents then calling the police -- as a member of King's cabinet, then as a member of St Laurent's government.
It isn't at all unthinkable to suspect that Gardiner may have had a hand in at least the RCMP's post-war attentions to Douglas. Furthermore, it would be interesting to see if Douglas' CSIS file contains what could be the first substantial evidence of Gardiner's alleged trickery.
(Then again, considering how smooth an operator history reputes Gardiner to have been, it would be foolish to bank on it. And while John Diefenbaker would smile from beyond the grave, he'll have to save that smirk -- perhaps indefinitely.)
Looking back on Canadian history, it's easy to underestimate the urgency many Canadians felt in opposing communism. While the Communist Party of Canada only ever elected a single MP -- Fred Rose, whose tenure in Parliament was ended by a prison sentence for non-specific charges filed against him in the wake of the Gouzenko revelation.
The Gouzenko affair underscored for Canadians the breadth and depth of the Communist threat, and the pall of suspicion cast by the affair wasn't restricted to Fred Rose. It was also borne by Tommy Douglas and the CCF.
Whatever national security value the RCMP files on Douglas may hold would very likely be tenuous at best. If the files actually are so sensitive, CSIS will need to make its reasoning clear.
(It would be difficult to believe that the RCMP hasn't altered the methods by which it monitors suspected subversives -- be they suspected terrorists or suspected revolutionaries -- in more than 60 years. If the RCMP hasn't, that is a problem in and of itself.
Anyone intending to use the RCMP's Douglas files to retro-actively indict Canadian government or Canadian law enforcement will be sorely disappointed. The RCMP files on Tommy Douglas will inevitably reflect their day and age.
Using those documents to judge the Canada of the 1940s, 50s and 60s will prove untenable. One cannot reasonably judge a country under the threat of communist subversion by the standards of a time when the country is under no risk of it.