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The Mounties planned to round up more than 1,000 "subversives," including young children, at the outbreak of a third world war and place them in internment camps, newly disclosed documents show.

The Cold-War-era plan, abandoned only in 1983, targeted leading Communists who were to be locked inside three federal prisons in Ontario and Alberta.

"The present number of persons who would be arrested as subversives in the event of a national emergency are 588 males and 174 females," a 1970 memo from the RCMP says.

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"The type of person involved is not likely to be violent, dangerous or inclined toward escaping."

The documents, obtained under the Access to Information Act, show that the war internment plan was drawn up in the late 1940s but was revived and expanded from 1969 to 1971.

The RCMP had 762 people on their to-be-interned list in 1970, including 13 children under the age of 11 and 23 between the ages of 12 and 16.

Most were from the Toronto area, though no names are included in the released material.

The group was primarily made up of people deemed "prominent Communist functionaries" by an RCMP Security Service program known as Profunc.

Those under 17 were likely the children of the target internees, and were referred to disparagingly by the Mounties as "red diaper babies."

The plan was to round up these so-called subversives quickly and place them in temporary custody while three federal prisons were emptied of their inmates.

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A prison in Drumheller, Alta., was to be used for the West, and another in Warkworth, Ont., for the rest of the country. Women were to be placed in the Joyceville, Ont., penitentiary, near Kingston.

"Mothers with babies at breast will be accommodated in the Joyceville Institution hospital area and . . . their children must in the first instance be placed with relatives or with Children's Aid Societies," says one 1969 document.

The existing prison population across the country would be thinned out by freeing non-violent inmates with less than a year left in their sentences. By shuffling the remaining prisoners, the three Alberta and Ontario prisons could be vacated within 10 days to become internment camps.

The Mounties had approval to lock up 762 people in 1970 but argued they would likely add more after cabinet invoked its extraordinary powers under the War Measures Act.

"There are approximately another 300; although not approved at present, they would no doubt be approved in time of war."

Rules for the camps were detailed in an RCMP manual that outlined procedures for everything from mail censorship to punishment.

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"Punishment Diet Number One shall consist of water as required and one pound of bread per day," says an edition of the manual from the 1960s.

"Punishment Diet Number Two shall consist of water as required and, for each day, eight ounces of bread for breakfast . . . four ounces of oatmeal, eight ounces of potatoes and salt, for dinner and eight ounces of bread for supper."

The internment plan was abandoned at the order of the justice minister in 1983, the documents show. The reasons are not specified, though it may have been linked to the creation in 1984 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service which took over many RCMP Security Service functions.

The revival of the Communist internment plan in the late 1960s may have been the Mounties' response to student protests, black power and Quebec separatist agitation, says a historian.

"There's this mindset going into the 1960s where Communism is a top threat," said Steve Hewitt, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan who is writing a book on the RCMP and subversion.

A retired Security Service officer said Canada faced a genuine threat from Communist subversives, but not so serious as to require an elaborate internment plan.

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"It was a serious case of the RCMP Security Service carrying a huge tar-and-feather brush much too far," Peter Marwitz said from Ottawa.

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