When we come to the Trudeau era it is significant that the ongoing 'useful tradition of collegiality' referred to previously by Professor Granatstein, by which the top mandarins in the civil service were switched around like musical chairs, accelerated rather than diminished. This not only applied to the members of the Privy Council but to the Crown corporations as well. A typical case is that of Jean-Louis Gagnon, a long-time personal friend of the Trudeau-Marchand-Pelletier triumvirate.
Jean-Louis Gagnon's long pro-Soviet record has been the subject of many questions in the House of Commons over the years. Yet Gagnon has been appointed repeatedly to top-level positions such as Co-Chairman of the Bilingual and Biculturalism Commission, Director of the ill-fated Information Canada, Ambassador to UNESCO, and finally Commissioner of the Canadian Radio & Television Commission (CRTC). On 26 November 1979, John Gamble (MP for North York) asked these questions in the Commons (see Hansard):
In a special Supplement to its June 1960 issue, The Canadian Intelligence Service published a report in which I document what can only be called as the 'incredible' case of Jean-Louis Gagnon. I publish below excerpts from this Report:
Mr. John Gamble [York North]: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State and Minister of Communications. Is the Secretary of State and Minister of Communications aware that a certain Jean-Louis Gagnon, as a member of the CRTC, was observed while in Paris by the French security forces in the company of a known KGB agent who was apprehended transmitting missile secrets to the USSR?
Is he further aware that the said Jean-Louis Gagnon was a card carrying member of the communist party and, if aware of these circumstances, does he consider it appropriate that this gentleman, occupying this sensitive position moulding communications policy, should retain his present position?
Hon. David MacDonald [Secretary of State and Minister of Communications]: Mr. Speaker, I should point out that it is not as Secretary of State, but as Minister of Communications that I will be responsible for questions related to Mr. Gagnon. Accusations similar to what the hon. member has said have been made before. As I understand it, there is nothing in Mr. Gagnon's career that would make him ineligible to serve on the CRTC. Indeed, he has given outstanding service on that body.
In its 19 March 1960 issue, the Star Weekly Magazine published an article by Kenneth Leese entitled 'HE'S MONTREAL'S FIGHTING EDITOR.' This followed closely on the heels of a similar article written by Leslie Roberts in The Montrealer. Both of these articles refer, of course, to Jean-Louis Gagnon, the present managing editor of La Presse, the largest French-language daily in North America and Canada's second largest daily newspaper.
Trying to follow the distortions of truth in both these articles is like trying to wrestle with fog. First, I will give a background account of my own personal acquaintanceship with Jean-Louis Gagnon, so that the reader may have the proper perspective of this article and be able to judge if both Kenneth Leese and Leslie Roberts have been deliberately misled by Gagnon.
I first met Gagnon in 1935 when we were both in the Valcartier Camp Unemployed Project. Gagnon was a member of the Young Communist League at that time, and had been sent there by Professor Stanley B. Ryerson, the editor of the Communist publication Clarte in Montreal. Ryerson was then known under the name of 'Comrade E. Roger.' This was the same Ryerson who later became one of the top leaders of the Communist Party in Toronto and whose sister, Edna Ryerson, is a school trustee on the Toronto School Board. Ryerson had just returned from the famed Sorbonne University in France, and Gagnon became one of his many 'prize' recruits.
We came out of Valcartier Camp together and were prominent in organizing the Quebec City unemployed from 1935 to 1938. Quebec City newspapers of those years abound in descriptions of our meetings. Those were the days of the 'Popular Front', and Gagnon succeeded in infiltrating the nationalistic separatist movement which centred around the publication La Nation (founded, incidentally, by Paul Bouchard, and not by Gagnon as Leese states in his article).
Gagnon became Secretary-Treasurer of L'Union Nationale Ouvrière (UNO), an unemployed organization controlled by the Separatists in 1936-37. He was also writing in La Nation, and succeeded in creating a Communist cell of four members. When this secret cell (code name 'Politburo') was exposed by Paul Bouchard, who accidentally found a document that one of the cell members had thoughtlessly forgotten, these four Reds and Gagnon were expelled publicly from La Nation as Communist infiltrators. All of these five were then in turn expelled from the UNO when they tried to 'take over' this unemployed organization. All of this is public knowledge and was published in newspapers in Quebec City at that time. Needless to say, the Gagnon group did not dare sue Bouchard for libel because he had the secret document in his possession, in which the conspiratorial activities of the Gagnon group along Communist infiltration lines was clearly outlined. During this time I was learning to speak French and was only a simple member of the UNO, but because I was identified with the Gagnon group I was also 'expelled' from the UNO.
After this event, we received a visit from Stanley B. Ryerson, Dave Kashtan and Emery Samuel, three top Commie 'functionaries.' Ryerson analyzed the situation ensuing from the failure of the Quebec Communists to infiltrate the Separatist organization, and it was then decided that Gagnon would infiltrate the 'bourgeois' press. The very next morning he was hired as a 'reporter' for Le Journal!
In 1939 when war was declared, the Communist Party was outlawed and, following a strategy that had been decided on beforehand, all of the Communists went 'underground.' Gagnon, however, had succeeded so well in infiltrating the 'bourgeois' press that he became editor-in-chief of the now merged L'Événement Journal and received strict Communist Party orders to 'play his role and avoid internment.' Leese conveniently forgets to mention that Gagnon only advocated a pro-war policy the same day the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany - and this was in accordance with an acrobatic flip in the 'party line': overnight, the slogan 'imperialist war' was changed to 'war of liberation.' During all these years I was in continual contact with Gagnon, either at meetings or through written correspondence when I was a union organizer in the Abitibi district in 1938-39. I knew Gagnon as a hidebound, blinkered Stalinist, a dues-paying member of both the Communist Party and the subsequent Labour Progressive Party which replaced the outlawed CP after 1942.
From 1935 to 1940 Gagnon had been involved in so many Red 'fronts' that he became a master of intrigue and duplicity. He could be a 'respectable' newspaper editor one day, and the next he could arrange a secret meeting between Communist leader Tim Buck and gullible sympathizers of the Soviet cause from the 'bourgeois' Upper-Town. His many talents equipped him for such diverse tasks as trying to blow up the monument to the Boer War Veterans one night, and the next night blandly speaking about English Literature to a Kiwanis gathering.
But it was during the vital war years of 1942-45 that Gagnon was to surpass himself in Red intrigue and Soviet espionage. He was much too valuable and well-trained for the Communist bureaucracy to leave in Quebec City. Precisely because his Commie background was unknown to the Montreal public at large (but not unknown to the Provincial Police anti-subversive squad, which conveniently had been'disbanded' by the Godbout Government in 1941), he was ordered to Montreal by Fred Rose and Stanley Ryerson, and before long he had become a darling of the CBC, where the Communists were solidly entrenched during the war years. He publicly appeared at Communist meetings on the same platform as Fred Rose; and, with the help of secret Communists in Ottawa he was soon 'attached' to External Affairs, another Red breeding-ground in these years when hundreds of known and secret Communists were infiltrating the civil service.
At the time the Communists had wide influence in Washington under the protective wing of the Alger Hiss-Harry Dexter White groups. With Dr. Raymond Boyer and Frederick Vanderbilt Field as 'sponsors,' Gagnon was able to infiltrate higher echelons, and his deceptive win-the-war speeches convinced many honest Liberals that 'this young man' was going places. We shall see what places he went and the almost unbelievable manner in which he was able to hoodwink even the usually suspect British Intelligence Service. Alger Hiss was a novice compared to Gagnon when it came to 'playing roles' along Commie infiltration lines. This is why Hiss is passe and Gagnon is still 'playing roles' successfully as a secret Communist amongst the Provincial Liberal organization in Quebec, and as managing-editor of a 'capitalist' newspaper, La Presse.
One incident stands out vividly in my mind and gives an insight into the secret of Gagnon's success as a Communist infiltrator. In 1952 I was returning from a meeting of the National Committee of the Canadian Peace Congress in Toronto, and met Gagnon in the diner of the train going to Quebec City. The diner was practically deserted and we could talk freely. Somehow the conversation turned to the Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers affair - and, of course, Gagnon did not know that he was speaking to an RCMP Special Branch undercover agent. In his eyes I was one of the outstanding Communist fellow-travellers in Canada. He understood the fact that I was not, like him, a card-carrying member only because of tactical considerations. Consequently, he had no need to guard his words with me. 'Hiss made one big mistake, Pat,'he confided as he looked around the diner, 'and that mistake was when he sued Chambers for libel.'
A few years later Gagnon was to prove that he would not make a similar mistake. When I publicly called him a Communist in 1956 and produced a photostat of a letter of his which he had once written to me, showing beyond any shadow of a doubt that he was a Communist, he refused to
be goaded on to sue me for libel - although he did bluff a libel suit on a few prominent politicians who had repeated my statements. But, significantly, when the time for the trials came along Mr. Gagnon failed to show up and the suits were dismissed. He knew only too well that I could easily prove he had been, and was still, a Communist.
A number of Liberals were disturbed by the references in the press to his Communist record. As the Quebec Liberal Party was trying to recoup its lost political prestige, and Gagnon was the virtual head of the Provincial Liberal publicity department, many sincere anti-Communist Liberals were convinced that he was more of a liability than an asset to the Liberal cause. Some of the more outspoken Liberals were always urging Gagnon to sue newspapers for libel whenever any reference to his Communist past or to his participation in the Gouzenko affair was mentioned.
But Jean-Louis Gagnon knew all the details of two of the most famous trials of recent history: the libel suit of Oscar Wilde against Lord Queensbury (in which Queensbury turned the defence into a prosecution which led to Wilde's imprisonment), and the Hiss-Chambers trial (in which Chambers was instrumental in turning his defence into a prosecution which led to Hiss' imprisonment for perjury). Somehow these two trials had become an obsession with Gagnon! He was not, too, the only 'Liberal' involved, and the same situation that existed in Democratic circles in the USA was being paralleled in Canada. As Chambers said in his book, Witness (page 473): 'Every move against the Communists was felt by the liberals as a move against themselves. If only for the sake of their public health record, the liberals, to protect their power, must seek as long as possible to conceal from themselves and everybody else the fact that the Government had been Communist-penetrated.'
To get back to our conversation in the diner in 1952, Gagnon stated that he was 'better protected' than even Alger Hiss, who even after conviction enjoyed the support of the Secretary of State and Supreme Court Justices! After a furtive look-around, Gagnon exultingly whispered across the dinner table, 'What I have more than Alger Hiss had to protect me from exposure is the fact that I did work for British Intelligence at one time.' Obviously he thought that nobody could ever believe he had been a communist because of the fact that he had worked for British Intelligence during the war.
The mere fact that Gagnon was first recommended to the British Foreign Office by Donald Maclean (the Soviet agent in the British Foreign Office who later fled to the Soviet Union) is rather significant. And the fact that whilst in London and other cities he seemed more interested in looking up Soviet contacts than in carrying out the work he was paid for (radio programs for the BBC, British double-checking of North African 'contacts,' etc.) was one of the reasons the British Intelligence dropped him like a hot potato. His pro-Soviet past was even too unsavoury for the French in North Africa, and neither he nor his wife was allowed to stay in Algiers after the Allied landings.
While I was working for the RCMP Special Branch, I was continually given specific instructions to supply as much information as possible on Gagnon's underground Communist activities, and the late Superintendent, John Leopold, expressed disgust when the name of Jean-Louis Gagnon was 'omitted' from the final report of the Royal Commission pursuant to the Gouzenko revelations. In one of the Gouzenko documents it was plainly indicated that Jean-Louis Gagnon had supplied the 'Dday' date [June 5th-6th] to Colonel Zabotin after Gagnon had received this information from the famous 'missing papers'.
I quote now extracts from a most revealing letter (the original is in French) which Gagnon wrote to me in 1940:
'I haven't got a drop of national glory in my veins, but I have a lot of hot red blood that demands vengeance.
'I believe that revolt is the law of the slave, and one must die according to his law - but I do not believe any more that there are races that are born to reign or to dominate.
'Nationalism leads to useless wars; class struggle leads to the liberation of the oppressed. The class struggle is a liberating factor.
'I believe that we will find ourselves, inevitably, on the same side of the barricades; because, first of all l believe that one day there will be barricades, and finally because I believe that lead [bullets], fire and blood will suffice to ensure our agreement.
And that is the pro-Red background of Mr. Gagnon, who held so many top posts under the Pearson and Trudeau 'Liberal' regimes.