RCMP Security Bulletins: The Depression Years, Part IV, 1937


560 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-9695835-8-3
DDC 322.4'2'0971




Edited by Gregory S. Kealey and Reg Whitaker
Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University, the
author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable Kingdom,
and the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste. Marie.


this series: RCMP intelligence gathering was so inept that one marvels
governments waited until 1984 before transferring responsibility for
intelligence to CSIS.

In 1937, Spain was in the midst of its civil war. Hitler had
remilitarized the Rhineland in defiance of the Versailles and Locarno
treaties, and Italy had consolidated its grip on Ethiopia. Ontario had a
provincial election, and Oshawa experienced its notorious strike at
General Motors. The RCMP security bulletins demonstrate no sense of
proportion between the dangers and RCMP surveillance thereof.

The fact that Canadian Communists supported the Loyalist (Republican)
cause in Spain was a matter of great concern. Mackenzie King did not
want Canadians to go to Spain, and Communists helped them go and fight.
Norman Bethune, who returned from Spain in 1937, received considerable
attention. Canadians nowadays regard Bethune as a humanitarian medical
doctor, not as a security threat.

Given Stalin’s cruelty, it was appropriate to monitor Communist
activities. Yet Communists failed to win a single seat in Ontario’s
election, and Hitler was a greater threat to Canada than was Stalin. In
1937, the RCMP’s intelligence branch devoted most of its attention to
Communists and labor unions. There is only one mention of Nazi
activities in Canada. Most references to Germans or Germany deal with
Communist opposition to Hitler or to Mackenzie King’s shaking hands
with Hitler. The Marxist historian, Stanley B. Ryerson, receives almost
as much attention as Germany. The RCMP monitored the Finnish-language
VAPAUS and other Communist newspapers published in Canada, church
delegates who attended or hosted leftist gatherings, and attempts to
form labor unions. There are extensive reports of May Day activities and
meetings of the unemployed. By contrast, activities of those at German
and Italian consular posts were of no interest whatsoever.

Organizations with limited budgets must establish appropriate
priorities. The RCMP clearly failed to do so.


“RCMP Security Bulletins: The Depression Years, Part IV, 1937,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/4425.