Kellock–Taschereau Commission

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The Kellock–Taschereau Commission (officially the Royal Commission to Investigate the Facts Relating to and the Circumstances Surrounding the Communication, by Public Officials and Other Persons in Positions of Trust of Secret and Confidential Information to Agents of a Foreign Power)[1] was a royal commission appointed by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King on behalf of the Government of Canada under Order in Council PC 411 on 5 February 1946 to investigate the "Gouzenko Affair", allegations set forward by Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko that a spy ring of Canadian Communists was handing over secret information to the Soviet Union. Notable among the thirteen accused of passing over secrets were Fred Rose, the Labor-Progressive Party Member of Parliament for Cartier, and Sam Carr, a senior organizer of the Labor-Progressive Party. The commission was headed by two judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Robert Taschereau and Justice Roy Kellock. Counsel included President of the Canadian Bar Association E.K. Williams, D.W. Mundell, Gérald Fauteux, and John Robert Cartwright.

The Commission was hurriedly convened when rumours in Washington suggested journalist Drew Pearson was about to disclose that Canada was secretly investigating Russian spy rings that might extend into the USA. Several Canadians named in Gouzenko's documents were immediately arrested and sequestered until summoned before the royal commission.

Evidence before the commissioners suggested at least two Soviet espionage networks were active in Canada in wartime, one targeting the Manhattan Project.[2] About 20 Canadian suspects were tried in 1947-48 for espionage. Ten were convicted and punished in a range from five years imprisonment to a $500 fine, seven were judged not guilty and two more acquitted on appeal. British nuclear scientist Alan Nunn May was arrested in England in March, 1946 and pleaded guilty; British nuclear scientist Klaus Fuchs remained at work undetected until identified by Venona in 1949.

The impact of the Kellock–Taschereau Commission was far-reaching, first because people implicated in Gouzenko's documents were secretly arrested and denied legal advice, under emergency wartime regulations, and an "Emergency Committee for Civil Rights" assembled to defend them. Executive members included C.B. Macpherson, Leopold Infeld and A.Y. Jackson. Their advertisement in the Toronto Star said the Commission endangered the "basic rights of Canadians" and did "violence to the rights of free men." They compared the Kellock–Taschereau Commission to the trial of Lt.-Col. John Lilburne during the English Civil War of 1649, stating "the methods of the Commission are not new. They were used against Englishmen in 1649 and against Canadians in 1946."[3]

Whatever the implications for civil and legal rights, the "Gouzenko inquiry" provided the first judicial evidence in North America of proved Communist spies, among the first events of the Cold War, and prompted both increased investigation (which discovered such spies as Julius and Ethel Rosenberg) and McCarthyism. In the Literary Review of Canada, Margaret Atwood listed the report of the Kellock–Taschereau Commission as one of Canada's 100 most important books.[4] Many later writers on espionage cite its evidence as the first detailed narratives of how Soviet agents cultivated sympathetic acquaintances so as to turn them into active spies on secret topics. Gordon Lunan, one of the spies most harshly punished (5 years in prison) later published personal memoirs.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ June 27, 1946. Ottawa : E. Cloutier, Printer to the King, 1946.publication.gc.ca
  2. ^ Summarized in The Gouzenko Transcripts, ed. Robert Bothwell and J.L. Granatstein (Ottawa: Deneau Publishers n.d.(1982)).
  3. ^ Toronto Star. June 1946. "The Methods of the Kellock-Taschereau Commission" http://www.historyofrights.com/PDF/cru_rcespionage_ad.pdf
  4. ^ Margaret Atwood. 2006. Literary Review of Canada http://reviewcanada.ca/reviews/2006/01/01/the-lrc-100-canada-s-most-important-books/
  5. ^ The Making of a Spy: a Political Odyssey (Montreal: Robert Davies 1995), revised and expanded 2005 as Redhanded: Inside the Spy Ring that Changed the World (Maxville, ON: Optimum Publishing, 2005).

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