[Section 5a: Immediate Reactions]

Minding Your Business

By George Bain

Globe and Mail, 12 April 1957

While it has been making a great show of protesting to the United States against what was done to E. H. Norman—and I suggest it has been mostly a show, intended mainly to impress Canadians before an election with the sturdiness of purpose of their government—the Canadian Government has done less than justice to its late ambassador to Egypt.

The Canadian Government has within its power to lay out, point by point, the facts upon which it decided in 1951 that Mr. Norman’s loyalty and integrity were in all respects beyond doubt, and it has not only failed to do so, but it has refused to do so.

It has refused on the ground that it is well-established policy not to disclose information relating to security investigations. This, however, is a case so different from any other which has occurred—the man is dead, apparently driven to suicide by the seeming hopelessness of escaping from allegations made in a foreign nation—that there is eminent reason for saying that ordinary policy does not apply.


I have been trying for a week to get from the Department of External Affairs the answers to the specific allegations which were made against Mr. Norman by the U.S. investigators. This has produced nothing except reasons why it is impossible to do so, none of them particularly convincing. I do not believe that the confidence which the Government expressed in Mr. Norman in 1951 was unfounded. I believe that a combination of red-tape, stupidity and plain, everyday gutlessness has stopped the Government from giving the answers which could have cleared away the doubts of those doubters who are so unfortunately prevalent today.

Recognizing that the Canadian Department of External Affairs might not wish to get into an international argument with a minor and not particularly reputable subcommittee of the United States, I have asked to have the information upon which Mr. Norman was cleared in 1951 made available not for attribution to the department. In other words, to take personal responsibility for the facts presented. This has had an effect in penetrating the blackout.


The subcommittee recently made mention of the fact—assuming it was a fact—that Mr. Norman was secretary of the American Friends of the Chinese People and executive secretary of its affiliate, the Canadian Friends of the Chinese People. The subcommittee said these were Communist-front organizations. The names of them don’t mean a thing to me—and probably don’t to most Canadians—but I do know that the Chinese people were our allies in the Second World War and that there was nothing reprehensible in being a friend of the Chinese people in the early 1940’s. Canadian security authorities must have examined the facts relating to these organizations and Mr. Norman’s membership in them, and there is no valid reason why the facts might not have been given the public.

*   *   *

Look at the sort of alleged evidence upon which the subcommittee made its case of Communist-affiliation against Mr. Norman. He had been connected in some tenuous way with a group at Harvard in 1937 which made a study—one could imagine its being a quite interesting study—of American capitalists from a Marxist viewpoint. A witness at his marriage in 1935 was someone who had been identified as a Communist. “...His Government discovered certain Communist connections, specifically with Israel Halperin, a Canadian citizen of Russian parentage, who was one of the principals implicated in the exposed military intelligence operation in Canada...”

The last is a quote from the transcript of evidence of the committee, and is one part of its testimony which is open to being checked without the unavailable help of the Department of External Affairs. True, Israel Halperin was one of those involved in the spy trials here in Canada. It is also true that he was acquitted.

*   *   *

The Canadian Government’s protest to the United States yesterday, which won it headlines in most newspapers in Canada, was 90 per cent a sham. As External Affairs Minister Pearson himself conceded, the sort of security information which Canada threatened to cut off from the United States wasn’t the sort of information the Senate Internal Security subcommittee had used against Mr. Norman anyway. Yesterday’s note, and Mr. Pearson’s tough little speech that went with it, were aimed almost entirely at domestic consumption. The aim was to make a show, not in the reasonable expectation of anything tangible resulting from it, but to make Canadians feel their Government was taking stern steps to protect their interests.

The fact that there is not really anything effective it can do to prevent such things as the Norman affair happening in the United States does not make any more worthy its making a sham of having sought to do so.

*   *   *

What it could have done, and what simple justice demanded that it do in behalf of its slandered servant, was to make public forthright, factual answers to the questions which had been raised by the subcommittee in the United States.

But the forthright defence of someone who has been accused of being a communist may not win a political party any marks in some parts of Canada—and I think of Quebec—and one can assume that to be the reason the Government has chosen to direct its attention to maundering about the evils of some U.S. committee, rather than to cleaning the name of the individual. And in doing so it has been guilty of the worst sort of gutlessness.

Source: George Bain, "Minding Your Business," Globe and Mail, April 12, 1957

Return to parent page