Surveillance of Canadian communists: a case study of Toronto RCMP intelligence networks, 1920-1939

Butt, Michael (2003) Surveillance of Canadian communists: a case study of Toronto RCMP intelligence networks, 1920-1939. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (16MB)


The following study examines Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) interwar surveillance, harassment and repression of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC), primarily in Toronto from RCMP "O" Division, but also extends the discussion to include features of counter-subversion operations elsewhere, particularly in southwestern Ontario. These counter-subversion operations traversed three periods of activity: the early years 1920-28: an interlude/ intelligence crisis which led to a debacle in 1931; and a period of reestablishing the intelligence network and an intensification of its countersubversion work from 1932 -1939. Each period in question was characterized by specific types of intelligence network 'organization' and 'operation'. -- My study of the rise, fall, and recovery of "'O" Division's core inter-war Toronto CPC intelligence network, examines the context in which the transformation took place linking it to the region's industrial and political order. I explain why intelligence networks, like the organizations they seek to infiltrate and the individuals whose activities they try to monitor, are anything but static and instead function as a part of the communities in which they live and face similar constraints. Intelligence networks expand and contract and shift both their investigative and operational focus. Their field investigations are malleable; their size, scope, and activities change for economic reasons and to meet both 'real' and 'perceived' threats. As local constructs intelligence networks are often best studied as a series of interactions established at the Divisional level. -- The expansion, contraction, and transformation of "O" Division's key Toronto intelligence network influenced the types and quality of the information they secured. How intelligence networks functioned and how effective they were reflected the extent to which intelligence personnel adapted. Through much of the inter-war period "O'' Division relied heavily upon the work of secret/ special agents. Sometimes, however, less obtrusive and more distant forms of surveillance activity best suited the needs of intelligence personnel. A great deal depended upon their abilities. Success was also dictated by many other factors such as the abilities of CPC stalwarts and their subsidiary organizations. Only by paying close attention to these issues can we gain a more complete and accurate historical record of Canada’s intelligence past.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 10246
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 387-405.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 2003
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Communists--Ontario--Toronto--History; Intelligence service--Ontario--Toronto--History; Police patrol--Ontario--Toronto--Surveillance operations.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics