Fred Rose (politician)

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Fred Rose
Fred Rose standing.jpg
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Cartier
In office
August 9, 1943 – January 30, 1947
Preceded by Peter Bercovitch
Succeeded by Maurice Hartt
Personal details
Born (1907-12-07)December 7, 1907
Lublin, Russian Empire
Died March 16, 1983(1983-03-16) (aged 75)
Warsaw, Poland
Political party Labor-Progressive
Residence Montreal, Quebec

Fred Rose (born Fishel Rosenberg) (December 7, 1907 – March 16, 1983) was a Communist politician and trade union organizer in Canada. He is best known as the only member of the Canadian Parliament ever convicted of spying for a foreign country.

Early life[edit]

Rose was born to a Jewish family in Lublin in what is now Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. He emigrated to Canada as a child in 1916.

Communist activism[edit]

He became involved with the Young Communist League of Canada, and then joined the Communist Party of Canada while working in a factory.

Rose was jailed during the 1930s for sedition, and won the hatred of Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis for writing about the close connections between the Duplessis government and the fascist governments of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He was a close associate of Dr. Norman Bethune, who served first in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and later in China.

Election poster

Political candidate[edit]

Rose was a candidate for the Communist Party of Canada in the working class Montreal-area riding of Cartier in the 1935 federal election, coming in second with 16% of the vote. He ran in the Quebec general election, 1936 in the riding of Montréal–Saint-Louis for the Communist Party of Quebec and came in third with 16.8%.

Election to parliament[edit]

Early in World War II, the Communist Party of Canada was formally banned and many of its leaders interned. After a major public campaign the CPC was legally reorganized as the Labor-Progressive Party. Rose won election to the House of Commons as an LPP candidate from Cartier in a 1943 by-election. He won with 30% of the vote in a tight four way race, beating among others, David Lewis of the social democratic Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). Rose was re-elected in the 1945 election with 40% of the vote. Most of the riding's immigrant Jewish population voted for Rose, who benefitted from the perception that the Soviet Union was the main hope for saving Europe's Jews from Hitler; his main rival, Paul Massé, of the anti-war Bloc Populaire, who came second, was supported by the French Canadian population of the constituency.

As a Member of Parliament, Rose proposed the first medicare legislation and the first anti-hate legislation.

Gouzenko affair[edit]

Fred Rose was caught up in the world political sea change following World War II, when the Soviet Union, a major wartime ally, was now perceived as an enemy. In July 1945, Igor Gouzenko, a young cipher clerk in the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, was recalled to his homeland. Rather than return home, Gouzenko defected with documents claiming to show evidence of a massive Soviet spy ring operating in Canada. Rose was alleged to lead the ring, which was composed of up to 20 Soviet spies.

Few took Gouzenko's accusations and evidence seriously at first. Later, as the Cold War began to heat up, a Royal Commission on Espionage was established, headed by two Supreme Court justices, Roy Kellock and Robert Taschereau. Scores of people were rounded up under the Defence of Canada Regulations of the War Measures Act, held incommunicado for weeks on end, without legal counsel and barred from all contact with the outside world. Meanwhile, the Royal Commission issued a stream of press releases about the "Red menace". Prisoners were forcefully told to incriminate themselves and others under the penalty of contempt of court.

In September 1945, Soviet embassy clerk Igor Gouzenko defected with documents that revealed an elaborate espionage operation to acquire American atomic research files. Fred Rose was a major player in the scheme. His co-conspirator, Dr. Raymond Boyer, testified that Rose was involved in the operation, which was perhaps only thwarted by Gouzenko's defection. Rose was found guilty of conspiring to turn over information about the explosive RDX to the Soviets, and was sentenced to a six-year prison term.

In a highly charged political atmosphere, Rose refused to testify at his trial, which was designed, he said, to "smear honest and patriotic Canadians". Nevertheless, in later years, Rose indirectly admitted his guilt, saying, "I made one mistake in my life and I paid for it". He was sentenced to prison for a term just one day longer than was required to deprive him of his elected seat in the House of Commons.

Rose wrote to the Speaker of the House, Gaspard Fauteux, on January 24, 1947:

Mr. Speaker: If the will of the people is to prevail, if justice is to be done, there can be no question of my expulsion from the house. To the contrary, I should be in my seat in the House of Commons and not in the penitentiary. Parliament is the highest of Courts. Through its actions in my case it will decide whether hysteria is to continue or whether reason and justice are to prevail. Respectfully, Fred Rose, M.P.

His letter was returned to him at St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary, without his fellow MPs having read this appeal. On January 30, 1947, he was expelled from Parliament

Later life[edit]

Rose was released from prison in 1951 after four and a half years with his health broken. Attempting to find work in Montreal, he was tailed from jobsite to jobsite by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), who pointed out to employers and workmates that he was a convicted spy.

In 1953 he went to Poland to attempt to set up an import-export business and to obtain health treatment he could not afford in Canada. He worked for many years as English-language editor of Poland, a magazine of Polish culture and civilization designed for sale in the West. While living in Poland, his Canadian citizenship was revoked in 1957, and he was unable to return to Canada to lead the fight to clear his name.

His appeal against revoking his citizenship was denied, although in 1958 Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Ellen Fairclough amended the Citizenship Act with the Fred Rose amendment so that such a removal of Canadian citizenship could never happen again. Years later, former federal cabinet minister Allan MacEachen acknowledged the pages of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King's diary dealing with Rose had gone missing, as had most of the other records dealing with his case.

Electoral record[edit]


Canadian federal election, 1935: Cartier
Party Candidate Votes %
Liberal Samuel William Jacobs 13,574 65.27
Communist Fred Rosenberg (Rose) 3,385 16.28
Independent Liberal Paul-Emile Goyette 1,531 7.36
Reconstruction Salluste Lavery 1,362 6.55
Conservative Herman Julien 945 4.54
Canadian federal by-election, August 9, 1943: Cartier
Death of Peter Bercovitch
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Labor–Progressive Fred Rose 5,789 30.42
Bloc populaire Paul Masse 5,639 29.63
Liberal Lazarus Phillips 4,180 21.97 –66.57
Co-operative Commonwealth David Lewis 3,313 17.41
Independent Moses Miller 109 0.57
Total valid votes 19,030 100.0  
Labor–Progressive gain from Liberal Swing +0.40
Canadian federal election, 1945: Cartier
Party Candidate Votes %
Labor–Progressive Fred Rose 10,413 40.84
Liberal Samuel Edgar Schwisberg 8,935 35.04
Bloc populaire Paul Masse 6,148 24.11


Quebec general election, 1936: Montréal–Saint-Louis
Party Candidate Votes %
Liberal Peter Bercovitch 2,024 58.83
Union Nationale Louis-Gédéon Gravel 773 22.47
Communist Fred Rosenberg (Rose) 578 16.80
Independent Union Nationale Éphrem-J. Cuerrier 65 1.88

See also[edit]