Canadian Mounties made plans for concentration camps

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Jan 26 14:19:27 MST 2000

Canadian Press
Sunday January 23, 2000

Mounties had secret plan to intern 1,000 or more 'subversives'

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," says a 1970
memo from the RCMP.

"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 first 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

A prison in Drumheller, Alta., was to be used for the west, and another in
Warkworth, Ont., for the rest of the country. Women, however, 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.

"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

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.

"And the RCMP Security Service is like an elephant charging in one
direction. . . . It's very difficult for it to change its mindset, to get
away from this red-and-white world and realize there are these other threats."

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.

"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.

In one of the darkest moments in Canadian history, Ottawa interned
thousands of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War for fear they
might help Japan. The internees received an apology and compensation in 1988.

Louis Proyect

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