Newly-released files disclose the RCMP kept early New Democrat organizers under close surveillance and attempted to block one NDPer’s appointment to a United Nations post. Records of the now-disbanded RCMP Security Service were disclosed under Access To Information.
In 1959 police appealed to cabinet to block a UNESCO appointment for Dr. Ed Mahood, a Saskatchewan school superintendent branded “a chronic troublemaker”. Mahood’s daughter yesterday described the surveillance as “unbelievable”. In one instance, a police informant kept watch on Mahood at a 1957 dinner party in Saskatoon. “My father was never a member of the Communist Party,” said Dr. Sally Mahood, of the University of Saskatchewan family medicine faculty.
“This is crazy, to think that people like my father were considered a threat to the state,” Mahood said. “My father fought in the Second World War. He came back as a committed social democrat. I don’t see what the RCMP hoped to find in following Ed Mahood.”
He died in 1995 at age 82. Mahood was a former Moose Jaw alderman who’d campaigned for Parliament in 1962 and ’63 as an NDP candidate in Saskatoon. “I don’t think ideas are dangerous no matter where they are on the political spectrum,” Sally Mahood said. “It makes you wonder, sixty-five years from now whose names are going to be showing up in the files?”
RCMP targeted the New Democratic Party as a “political vehicle” for communist subversion. The disclosures follow a 2013 Federal Court of Appeal ruling that sanctioned the concealment of volumes of secret police files on Tommy Douglas, founding leader of the NDP who died in 1986. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service opposed the release of records by the federal archives.
In the Saskatoon case, records indicate Mahood was denied a UNESCO appointment to Sierra Leone in 1957 – no reason is stated – and in 1958 applied for a position with the United Nations Agency in the Middle East.
Saskatoon’s then-Conservative MP Henry Jones in a secret 1959 letter to cabinet urged that Mahood’s appointment be blocked. “He is very left wing,” Jones wrote then-foreign minister Howard Green, noting Mahood was politically active and opposed to Canadian involvement in NATO. “It does seem that better Canadians could be found. If nothing can be done about the appointment, your officials in this area might appreciate being warned of this chronic troublemaker.”
The foreign ministry agreed: “The Minister feels strongly persons of doubtful repute either personally or politically ought not to represent Canada, especially in the Middle East,” Green’s office wrote in an August 31, 1959 letter marked SECRET. Objections were based on the RCMP file on Mahood “which would place him in the fellow-traveller class,” the letter states.
Police files indicated Mahood attended a 1957 dinner party with organizers of the Canadian Peace Congress, described by the Mounties as a communist front; co-sponsored a 1955 Regina meeting in support of a U.S. woman whose husband was jailed for conspiracy to commit espionage; and was an outspoken advocate of disarmament.
“It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?” said Sally Mahood. “My father used to joke the RCMP were keeping tabs on him. I think he had a sense they were watching; this was the McCarthy era. I doubt if he had any idea how closely he was being watched.”
Documents suggest then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s office refused to block Mahood’s overseas appointment. “The decision regarding the expert to be appointed rests with the requesting country or agency and not with the authorities of the country from which the expert is recruited,” reads one 1959 memo. “Once selected, the expert is appointed by UNESCO, and becomes an official of that organization for the duration of his assignment. This procedure is similar to that followed by the United Nations.”
Dr. Mahood said her father was permitted to work with the United Nations Relief & Rehabilitation Administration in Jerusalem in 1960-61. The RCMP in a 1962 report Threat To Canada From Communist Subversion said the NDP was a target of Soviet agents.
“As a result of Communist penetration of the labour movement and the affiliation of certain trade unions with the New Democratic Party, the Communist Party of Canada will be in a position to channel its demands for the nationalization of large corporations through these other agencies,” Threat said. The RCMP counted 27,000 Communist Party members in Canada in 1962 including 16,254 “activists” – including public employees and longshoremen – and 452 “Communist teachers”.
Threat described the low membership figures as deceptive: “The surprising strength of the Communist Party of Canada is to be found in its rigid discipline.”
By Tom Korski