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When we come to the Trudeau era it is significant that the ongoing “useful tradition of collegiality” referred to previously by Prof. 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 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 November 26,1979, John Gamble, M.P. (North York) asked these questions in the Commons (see Hansard, Nov. 26, 1979):

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 U.S.S.R.?

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.

The Canadian Intelligence Service, in a special Supplement to its June 1960 issue, published a report I had prepared, carefully documenting this incredible case of Jean-Louis Gagnon. Following are excerpts:

Communist background and activities

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 Clarté 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 wife, 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. And 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.

“Infiltrate the ‘bourgeois’ press”

After the expulsion of Gagnon and the four other Reds from both La Nation and the UNO unemployed organization, we received the visit of Stanley B. Ryerson, Dave Kashtan and Emery Samuel, three top Commie ‘fonctionnaires.’ Ryerson analyzed the situation arising out of the failure to infiltrate the Separatist organization by the Quebec Communists, and it was then decided that Gagnon would infiltrate the ‘bourgeois’ press. And the 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 preconceived plan, all of the Communists went ‘underground.’ However, Gagnon had succeeded so well in infiltrating the ‘bourgeois’ press that he became editor-in-chief of the now merged L’Évènement-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 in accordance with the acrobatic flip in the ‘party line’ which overnight changed the slogan “imperialist war” 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 C.P. 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 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 apparatus 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.

Also, at that 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 again higher.