RCMP Security Bulletins: The Depression Years, Part 1, 1933-1934


514 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-9695835-1-6
DDC 322.4'2'0971




Edited by Gregory S. Kealey and Reg Whitaker
Reviewed by Steven R. Hewitt

Steven R. Hewitt teaches history at the University of Saskatchewan.


In his epic The Making of the English Working Class, E.P. Thompson noted
that a history of English radicalism could be based exclusively on the
impact of government espionage. RCMP Security Bulletins—one in a
series of several volumes edited by historian Gregory S. Kealey and
political scientist Reg Whitaker—provides ample evidence that the same
argument applies to Canada.

The book consists of a collection of RCMP security bulletins, which at
the time circulated among the upper echelons of both the police and the
federal government. These reports pertained to the activities of those
deemed radical by the Canadian state. Radicals, as defined by the
powerful in the interwar period, consisted primarily of members of the
labor movement and the political left. As the editors note in their
introduction, the documents demonstrate a blind spot on the part of the
RCMP when they were dealing with members of the right side of the
political spectrum. The reader is treated to page after page of primary
documents that detail the operations, speeches, meetings, and travels of
individuals like Tim Buck (the leader of the Communist Party of Canada)
and organizations like the Workers Unity League and the Canadian Labour
Defence League. The book deals with the height of the Great Depression,
1933 and 1934, when more and more people began to protest the lack of
government action in dealing with the economic malaise that enveloped

The value of this work is twofold. First, it is a superb sourcebook for
researchers interested in the activities of both the RCMP and the people
and groups they spied on. Second, the editors employ special symbols to
signify the large number of passages deleted from many of the documents,
demonstrating the continuing problem of restricted access to RCMP
material. The Berlin Wall may have been reduced to chunks for tourists,
but in Canada government officials still feel a need to protect
Canadians from their own past.


“RCMP Security Bulletins: The Depression Years, Part 1, 1933-1934,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/13256.