Canadian Police Repression of Leftists

In Argentina they threw leftists out of airplanes while in Chile thousands were detained in stadiums, some tortured and some killed. In Brazil and Uruguay the story was similar. When threatened by progressive forces, the elite in many countries resorted to illegal acts and certainly never felt constrained by constitutional rights.

How about Canada?

For more than three decades the RCMP ran PROFUNC (PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party), a highly secretive espionage operation and internment plan. In October CBC’s Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada’s Enquête aired shows on “this secret contingency plan, called PROFUNC, [which] allowed police to round up and indefinitely detain Canadians believed to be Communist sympathizers.”

In case of a “national security” threat up to 16,000 suspected communists and 50,000 sympathizers were to be apprehended and interned in one of eight camps across the country. Initiated by RCMP Commissioner Stuart Taylor Wood in 1950, the plan continued until 1983.

The plan was highly detailed. Police stations across the country would receive a signal to open their PROFUNC lists and apprehend said individuals. The “communists” would then be taken to “reception centres” where they would be restricted from talking and anyone attempting to flee would be shot. Eventually, the “communists” would be moved to one of the regional internment camps where their contact with the outside world would be limited to a single 1-page letter each week. Their children would be sent to live with other family members.

Thousands of officers collected information for PROFUNC at one time or another. Each potential internee had an arrest document (C-215 form) that was regularly updated with the person’s physical description, age, photos, vehicle information, housing and sometimes the location of doors they might use to escape arrest.

Only a small number of the names on the list are public, but it clearly didn’t take much to be put on it. Enquête uncovered the name of a 13-year girl who was on the list because she attended an anti-nuclear protest in 1964. Many prominent individuals were also on the PROFUNC list, including a former Manitoba cabinet minister, Roland Penner, CBC President Robert Rabinovitch, and NDP leader Tommy Douglas (who was voted greatest Canadian in a CBC poll).

Enquête focused on the presumed use of PROFUNC lists during the 1970 October Crisis when Pierre Trudeau’s government implemented the War Measures Act. The head of the Montreal police’s anti-terrorism squad when the Front de libération du Québec kidnapped two government officials, Julien Giguère, told Enquête that his department had a list of 60 suspected FLQ sympathizers that they wanted to investigate. But the federal government wanted to justify their suspension of civil liberties and their claim of an “apprehended insurrection” so the RCMP and Sureté du Québec added many names to the Montreal police list. These added names appear to have come from PROFUNC lists. In subsequent days police agencies carried out almost 4,000 raids and made 500 arrests. Many of those detained were held without charge for weeks or months.

Robert Kaplan, Solicitor General from 1980 to 1984, ended PROFUNC when he ordered the RCMP to stop whatever they were doing that blocked elderly Canadians from entering the US. Kaplan claims the Fifth Estate informed him of the program.

PROFUNC was disbanded at about the same time as the Trudeau government opened the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Certain Activities of the RCMP (or Macdonald Commission), which investigated the RCMP’s “theft of the membership list of the Parti Québécois, several break-ins; illegal opening of mail; burning a barn in Quebec where the Black Panther Party and Front de libération du Québec were rumoured to be planning a rendezvous; forging documents; and conducting illegal electronic surveillance.”

As a result of the Macdonald Commission, Ottawa reduced the RCMP’s role in security and intelligence gathering. In 1984 they created the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to carry out security and intelligence gathering work that had previously been the RCMP’s responsibility.

CSIS may not continue all of the functions of PROFUNC, but they definitely still monitor individuals based upon their political beliefs. The focus may no longer be solely on leftists. Politicized Muslims are definitely also on the list.

In recent years CSIS has been involved in the mistreatment of a number of innocent individuals. In 2003 the intelligence agency prodded Sudan to detain Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Sudanese-born Canadian citizen, who was then tortured and put through a harrowing six-year ordeal. CSIS is also largely responsible for the incarceration of more than a dozen Muslims on security certificates. These individuals (who are permanent residents, refugees or foreign nationals living in Canada) have been incarcerated without being able to see the evidence CSIS has put forward against them.

Of course, CSIS doesn’t only target Muslims. From last October to May 2010 at least seven friends of Stefan Christoff, one of Montreal’s most effective grassroots activists, were visited by CSIS agents. They arrived unannounced early in the morning and asked detailed and sometimes menacing questions about Christoff.

CSIS has also been actively spying on Aboriginal protesters. In the lead up to G8/G20 protests in Toronto CSIS was accused of trying to intimidate members of Red Power United.

Before, during and after the recent G8/G20 protests in Toronto Canada’s various security services demonstrated a flagrant disregard for individual’s civil liberties. Usually held in miserable conditions for 48 or 72 hours, about 1,100 people were picked up in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. The vast majority of those arrested had their charges dropped because there was not a shred of evidence against them.

To protect against a plan such as PROFUNC or G8/G20 type police repression the Left needs to build a vibrant movement that doesn’t self marginalize. One way the Left can protect itself against security service attacks is to be known by as large of a segment of society as possible. We need to be seen as part of “normal” society.

Yves Engler is the author of 12 books. His latest book is Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People's History of the Canadian Military . Read other articles by Yves.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on January 22nd, 2011 at 9:35am #

    a democracy: best fascist governance imaginable. we have only two governances available for full development: fascist and nonfascist one or ideally inegalitarian or egalitarian one.

    up to very recent times, say, just a c. ago, we’v had fascist structure of society and governance in all ‘civilized’ societies.

    among such ‘civilizations’, english, german were most most ‘civilized’.
    now it is u.s.’ society which is a shining example of how to behave in a ‘civilized’ manner towards less developed ‘civilizations’.

    the totally ‘uncivilized’ peoples [generally called tribes] of americas have been adequately dealt with.
    it is much tougher to ‘civilize’ a less ‘civilized’ china. what makes it worse for the more ‘civilized’ world is the fact that china is a monopolic [goddevil] power armed with wmd and more ‘civilized’ societies appear duopolic.
    such civilization have god aaand devil.
    the devil is for poor and god for rich people.

    caveat! please don’t confooze god with religions. the last people who believe in god r priests; followed by other fascists!

    note, please, that words under single quotes indicate their false symbolic values and elementalism. tnx

  2. Don Hawkins said on January 22nd, 2011 at 2:25pm #

    Oh yes control and the somewhat inexact science of psychiatry probably a few thought’s on this subject in the book’s. In the grand scheme of things control a mere illusion and in the attempt of some 24/7 and the sum of all the parts to achieve a goal can sure make many very miserable. Here’s a number again 98 million barrels of oil demand for 2011 and 97 million barrels of oil for supply yes a small number and sometimes it’s the small things that can get us. How could the Earth do this to us doesn’t it know we are human’s and in control now. I’ll bet it does sort of always’ trying to find balance and in the grand scheme of things…………………………

  3. catguy00 said on January 22nd, 2011 at 3:10pm #

    RCMP spyed on Tommy Douglas for decades. They still refuse to release the files.

  4. Don Hawkins said on January 22nd, 2011 at 3:22pm #

    We human’s for the most part have been somewhat luck the last two hundred thousand year’s or did we walk with the Dinosaurs. I guess once we figured out the Earth was not flat sure made a lot of progress and now we are melting the ice cap’s a long way indeed. Drill baby drill and get oil from rock’s unheard of just 100 years ago and why is it we need to get oil from rock’s? I know maybe the next time we go to the moon instead of seeing how far we can hit a golf ball maybe we can look for oil. But wait still a lot of coal maybe the steam engine will make a come back and heck we have come so far maybe we can catch the steam as it comes out of the stack and use it for drinking water. Then again maybe just stay will drill baby drill as I have watched our elected official’s and there advisors such knowledge and wisdom the tried and true the old status quo it work’s why try anything new much to confusing. The wind is blowing today and the sun is going down to the East.

  5. Don Hawkins said on January 22nd, 2011 at 3:51pm #

    Have you ever heard such crazy thinking in your whole life thank God for CNN and Fox New’s.

    That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.
    The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

    Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known. Sagan

    The wind is blowing today and the sun is going down to the East.

  6. bozh said on January 22nd, 2011 at 4:32pm #

    i wonder what sagan said about the end of history? or did he espy it? i am talking about the end of history that i espied: when-where it died ca 10-15 k yrs ago.
    and the darkest dark, the cruelest cruelty [warfare-slavery-serfdom, torture] descended upon us ever since the only civilization we ever had, had been destroyed by greatest criminal minds imaginable: priests, followed by ‘nobles’!

    and folks, they are still with us. and still murdering, torturing, robbing, lying, deceiving, etc., just like 5k, 6k, 8k, 1o k yrs ago! tnx

  7. Don Hawkins said on January 22nd, 2011 at 5:46pm #

    Yes for all the seer’s what good has it done and this time it seems clear we listen and act or ……..probably acting or part of it is to slowdown as we maybe moving a little fast into the future with the old rules.

  8. hayate said on January 22nd, 2011 at 6:51pm #

    Canada has a rightwing, ziofascist guv right now. Oppression of the left is only natural for zionists and fascists, so how could things have been any different. Everybody knows fascism is by it’s very nature oppressive. The problem is that too few people realise how much zionism and fascism are 2 sides of the same capitalist coin and that zionism by it’s very nature must be oppressive. One can not have zionism without fascism eventually creeping in and one can not eradicate fascism without junking zionism first. Almost all modern day rightwingery/fascism that has any clout is zionism by another label.

  9. Rehmat said on January 22nd, 2011 at 7:31pm #

    Amir Khadir, the Quebec MPA is being chased by pro-Israeli thugs for attending in December 2010 – a protest organized by Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) that were held outside of the Boutique Le Marcheur, a shoe store in Montreal, because the store sells shoes made in Israel.

    Amir has been labeled “an Islamist” and “anti-Semite”.

    Amir’s parents left their native Iran after the Islamic Revolution when he was 10-year-old. A doctor by profession, Amir in a 2010 provincial poll – was declared the most popular politician by gaing 45% of the total votes. As a youth, Amir was member of anti-Khomeini movement (PMOI), which is considered a terrorist organization by Ottawa and Washington.

    Amir’s other famous acts were – He wrote an open letter to French Jewish President Sarkozy to pay US$23 billion compensation to Haitian for over century French loot of that nation. He also threw his shoe at the picture of Israeli puppet, Canadian PM Stephen Harper.