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Tommy Douglas, leader of the New Democratic Party, speaks to an election campaign rally at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto on Nov. 4, 1965. (Boris Spremo/Boris Spremo/The Globe and Mail)
Tommy Douglas, leader of the New Democratic Party, speaks to an election campaign rally at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto on Nov. 4, 1965. (Boris Spremo/Boris Spremo/The Globe and Mail)

Gerald Caplan

Standing on guard against Tommy Douglas Add to ...

So the ugly truth has finally emerged, after all these years. Tommy Douglas - our greatest Canadian. Tommy - father of medicare. Tommy - funniest, most loveable politician this country has ever seen. Bah humbug. The Mounties, as we've just discovered, got their man again. And another god has failed.

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We have learned from the powerful research of Professor Franz Kafka that if the state is after you, you must be guilty. If you're not guilty, the state would not be after you. What you are guilty of is purely irrelevant and often unknown. But you're guilty of something. There can be no question Tommy was guilty of something. Why else would the Mounties have spied on him for 50 years?

Those who knew Tommy personally, as I once was proud to say I did, will not be surprised. There was always something suspect about the man. All those foreign Robbie Burns quotes. All those parables of dumb mice voting for either white or black cats. (You can judge for yourself here.) It's now clear they were all secret codes sending messages to Tommy's fellow revolutionary terrorist subversives about the most recent decisions of the Central Committee, like introducing medicare.

And what about that tommyrot (as it were) that he used to spout about some new Jerusalem. Listen to this bit of socialist realism:

Bring me my bow of burning gold:?

Bring me my arrows of desire:?

Bring me my spear: O clouds, unfold!?

Bring me my chariot of fire!?

I will not cease from mental fight,?

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand?

Till we have built Jerusalem?

In England's green and pleasant land.

Bows and arrows? Spears? Chariots of fire? Nor shall my sword sleep? Say it ain't so, Tommy.

Personally, I am greatly relieved that the RCMP dossier on Tommy, some 1,100 pages, has been released with huge portions censored. CSIS demands this massive censorship, pretending that disclosure threatens national security and diplomatic relations, and - yes, believe it - that it might cause turmoil and insurrection. Since this argument is so self-evidently insane, we can see that it's meant as a device to protect Canadians from the sordid truth about a folk legend who deceived them for over half a century.

Fortunately for Canada, during his entire political career, from the moment he was still an unknown impoverished politically active Baptist preacher in Saskatchewan during the Depression, until his death in 1986, Tommy Douglas was spied on by the Mounties. As the repeatedly re-elected premier of Saskatchewan and then as national leader of the NDP, who had more power to undermine the very foundations of Canadian capitalism that the RCMP is sworn to protect by all means necessary?

From his thousands of speeches and many writings, they were able to collect invaluable secret information that was otherwise known only to the millions who heard him speak or who read his words. But only the Mounties had the resources to decipher the real message embedded deep within Douglas's deceptively sincere calls for a more just society for all Canadians. We now know this was one of the greatest hoaxes in Canadian history, equalled perhaps only by the notion that the Harper government is fit to govern.

Full disclosure No. 1: I knew Tommy pretty well. When I was federal secretary of the NDP, he had an office in the building and we spent long sessions chatting about the rich pageant of life. That's when I first suspected that he had other agendas. It was in the way he kept using words like socialism and social justice and inequality that I knew something was going on here. Frankly, I didn't know it pointed to insurrection. But turmoil, yes.

Disclosure No. 2: The Mounties also kept a file on me, which I retrieved under the Privacy Act some years back. I was lucky to get it. By the end of the Cold War, the Mounties had illicitly collected fully half a million dossiers on Canadians guilty of almost everything imaginable, especially being "left-wing" or "liberal." (Apparently hardly any members of the Liberal Party were ever included in this category.) But CSIS had by then destroyed 150,000 of them.

Mine survived, I suppose because of the treasure trove of damning information about me that the Mounties had unearthed from their confidential sources, especially the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Teams of Mounties rigorously combed these papers each day looking for articles with my name in it. (Of course they could have just asked my mother, who told anyone she ever met of my exploits. I assume today the RCMP and CSIS use Google to spy on us; so much easier.) Meanwhile, other teams of Mounties were busily listening to Tommy's speeches and reading his writings. I visualize a huge non-descript government building somewhere in Hull filled spectacularly with tens of thousand of red-jacketed Mounties monitoring the clandestine activities (like making speeches at public demonstrations) of the other 500,000 guilty Canadians on whom they spied. It makes you wonder why there was a single unemployed person during those years.

Of course to be fair, it must be acknowledged that the Mounties' undercover operations actually worked. Capitalism was saved. Socialism is a lost cause. And above all, insurrection was prevented, if we agree not to count the election of Stephen Harper.

But we are not, alas, out of danger yet. The Canadian Press is appealing to a Federal Court to open the entire Tommy dossier, without the censorship, and the Harper government and CSIS are vehemently opposing the challenge. And let's be realistic here. CSIS must be entirely unconstrained by legal or constitutional niceties in its ability to spy on us for our own well-being.

Have no doubt: there are other Tommys out there, feigning patriotism and devotion to the betterment of Canadians, perhaps even hatching clandestine plans to promote such menacing proposals as a higher minimum wage or universal dental care. Some may even be preparing to criticize the government of Israel. But fear not. Our secret police are standing on guard for thee.

Gerald Caplan is a former New Democratic Party national campaign director and is author of The Betrayal of Africa

 

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