In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • David Burke
Spying on Canadians: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Security Service and the Origins of the Long Cold War. Gregory S. Kealey. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017. Pp. viii + 276, $70.00 cloth, $29.95 paper

Linking the study of labour and working-class history with a growing interest in intelligence, security, and surveillance history, Gregory Kealey's collection of essays is a welcome marriage of two distinct genres of historical enquiry and writing. Once billed as "the missing dimension of most diplomatic history" by distinguished British diplomat Sir Alexander Cadogan, secret intelligence has made an appearance at long last in social, economic, gender, and labour history. Kealey's initial desire not to mix his research passions–the history of political policing and state repression in Canada with labour history–has given way, and the reader is presented with an insightful history of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Security Service during the long Cold War. Research into the political policing of the labour movement in Canada has had a long gestation period dating back to the Privacy and Access to Information Acts (1985) when, in Kealey's words, Canadians "were empowered to seek government information in a relatively untrammeled fashion" (4).

Kealey is keenly aware that the sympathies of historians of the labour movement often find expression in Marxist terms, and he warns his readers that Marxist scholars have been accused in the past of pursuing a goal that "might be called long range ideological subversion," their aim in Canada "to prove that the rcmp is, in their terms, 'an agent of state repression'" (19). In Australia, the United States, and Great Britain, the publication of official histories of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the Central Intelligence Agency (cia), and the United Kingdom's Military Intelligence, sections 5 and 6, has chaperoned to a great extent subsequent writing on the subject, [End Page 809] marginalizing attempts to portray those intelligence organizations in other than a hagiographical light. Australia is a possible exception. There, the Official History of ASIO followed a number of important books that were critical of the Australian intelligence community, most notably the work of Frank Cain. The refusal of the Canadian government to publish Wesley Wark's official history of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, however, has left the field wide open for academics of Kealey's stature who share a concern that state security post-9/11 has become "ever more pervasive" (7).

Kealey's collection of essays is a good starting point for anyone interested in a historical analysis of Canadian intelligence from 1864 to the end of the Second World War. Interestingly, Kealey comes to the subject as a labour historian and not as an intelligence historian straying into the field of labour history, which, at times, leads him into unknown territory. For instance, Kealey asks his readers to "keep in mind that the evolution of the rcmp as the key Canadian institution in the realm of security intelligence was a series of accidents far more than any considered plan on anyone's part" (143). But his contention understates the part played by the British government and their quest for a uniform standard of security throughout the empire and Commonwealth during the period under discussion. It is worth noting too the British backgrounds of Canada's pioneer spies. It also ignores the very active part played by the cia in Canada as the Cold War began in earnest. While Kealey makes clear that the "Gouzenko affair reanimated Canadian state anti-communism and created or renewed Commonwealth and us security alliances" (5), he stops short of telling us exactly how this happened. Perhaps that is an unfair criticism given that Kealey's chapters are not focused on the short Cold War but, rather, on how the "Bolshevik revolution and the domestic labour revolt of 1917-20 . . . led to a reorganization of Canada's secret service" (169) and gave rise to the long Cold War. Kealey's skills as a labour historian definitely come to the fore here and permit him to prise open the ongoing secret war that existed between Canadian intelligence and organized labour for much of the twentieth century...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 809-811
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.