Canada Kept List of Dissidents to Lock Up in Time of Crisis

Posted by admin on Nov 6th, 2006

Canada Kept List of Dissidents to Lock Up in Time of Crisis. Historian uncovers plan to detain as many as 2,500 in camps. BY DAVID PUGLIESE; November 6, 2006 – OTTAWA CITIZEN

The federal government had detailed lists of political activists and subversives it planned to arrest in the aftermath of a nuclear war or other national emergency, keeping such plans on the books until at least the early 1980s, according to records obtained by an Ottawa historian. Anywhere from 700 to 2,500 people, including babies, would have been held in internment camps, including one in Gatineau Park, before being shipped off to more permanent detention facilities.

Cold War historian John Clearwater obtained the records through the Access to Information Act while researching his new book. The book, Just Dummies: Cruise Missile Testing in Canada, is being released today. Mr. Clearwater’s book details Canada’s decision to allow the Pentagon to test cruise missiles over the country in the 1980s and the protests against that. The book also reveals how an undercover RCMP officer infiltrated a peace camp set up on Parliament Hill and that the Canadian government allowed the U.S. to test its controversial neutron bomb at the Nicolet military proving ground in Quebec. No actual bomb was detonated during those tests, which were designed to see how the weapon’s components functioned in cold weather.

In addition, the book details how the Liberal government feared the U.S. would hit Canada with crippling trade sanctions in the 1990s if British Columbia followed through with its threat to shut down the Nanoose training range on Vancouver Island. Mr. Clearwater, the author of two other books on nuclear weapons in Canada, said the federal government was shaken by the widespread opposition to cruise missile testing.

Although he knew the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service kept close tabs on peace groups during that period, Mr. Clearwater said he was surprised by the extent of the government’s plans during the Cold War to round up Canadian citizens it saw as subversive. Government plans to detain individuals were developed in the late 1940s and updated annually until the early 1980s, Mr. Clearwater notes. The first discussion of such a plan appears in 1948 when, on Dec. 15, the cabinet’s defence committee discussed the detainment of 2,500 people.

Mr. Clearwater was able to obtain the detainment records but because of federal privacy laws, the government would not release the names of those targeted. The military was given the job of transporting the prisoners to camps, but the RCMP was the main organization in charge of rounding up political prisoners and organizing the program.

At one point, it was decided that children of internees would be placed in foster homes or with relatives if the RCMP felt the relatives were not a political threat. Only a baby still breastfeeding would be allowed to stay with its mother. Plans changed over the decades, said Mr. Clearwater. The 1969 version of the plan called for the immediate arrest of 611 men and 189 women in the event of a national emergency. A further 279 people were on a secondary, but not yet approved internment list.

Under the 1969 plan, the majority of people were to be picked up in Ontario with the second-largest group coming from British Columbia. In 1970, the list was narrowed to 588 men and 174 women. The prisoners would be held in camps before being sent to federal jails. That year, the Penitentiary Service of Canada notified the RCMP it required at least
seven days between the notice of a national emergency and the receipt of the first prisoner.

This was to allow for criminals to be processed and released to make room for the political detainees. To do that, the government planned to “release all inmates in medium and minimum security with less than one year of sentence to serve,” the records note. Subversives arrested in the Ottawa area would be held in a facility in Gatineau Park before being shipped to a federal prison. People arrested in the Toronto region would
be temporarily housed at a girls’ school in North Bay.

Quebec prisoners were to be sent to a penitentiary near Montreal and the RCMP had began contracting with a bus company to transport those individuals. Men in western Canada would be sent to the jail at Drumheller, Alta., and in the east to a facility in Warkworth, Ont. All women were to be interned at the prison in Joyceville, near Kingston. The government estimated a nuclear war would last about 10 days. The RCMP
allowed for a seven- to 10-day period to round up potential subversives, Mr. Clearwater said.

The federal police force did not see the political prisoners as making too much trouble once in custody. But the RCMP warned government that could change “if the basis for internment is broadened,” the documents reveal. Some of the plans extensively detailed how life would unfold in the camps. Detainees would be allowed to bring two suitcases, but all money would be taken and held by the camp administrator. Internees who violated camp rules could face solitary confinement for up to 20 days or “Punishment
Diet Number One,” which consisted of water and bread.

Silence would be the rule in the camps. “No internee shall converse with any person, other than an officer, guard or staff member,” according to one of the guidelines produced for prisoners. Mr. Clearwater said when it came to cruise missile testing in the 1980s, the Liberal government spent much of its time trying to mislead the public over the true extent of the country’s involvement. But there was no way that Canada could have refused to test the weapon, he added. “The U.S. saw this as a test of our resolve to be its d fence partner,” he said. “We simply couldn’t refuse.”

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