Unexplained Role of RCMP In the Norman Case

FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 1957.

[ RCMP dilemma: report to Ottawa or Washington ]

RCMP dilemma: report to Ottawa or Washington, Kaufman, 1957-03-08

The efficiency of Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police has long been legendary, at home and abroad. Canadians have proudly come to expect from it perfection.

How does this legend emerge from the tragic affair of the late HERBERT NORMAN?

In the year 1940 an undercover agent of the RCMP reported to it that HERBERT NORMAN, who had joined the Department of External Affairs a year before, was “a secret member of the Communist party”.

At that time the RCMP made what Mr. GARSON calls “a cursory check” and seemingly decided the report was unreliable or unimportant. The RCMP apparently said nothing about it, did nothing about it, let it sit in dust.

Ten years it sat in the files. Then of a sudden it sent the report down to “the appropriate American security agency” (the FBI). That was October 17, 1950. It has not been revealed at whose request and upon whose authority this report was sent to the FBI. But Mr. GARSON has said that “when Mr. NORMAN’S name was introduced before the Senate Committee in Washington in 1950 the RCM Police files were searched and the item mentioned in the secret agent’s report came to light”. Whereupon it was sent the FBI.

In sending the report to the FBI on October 17 the RCMP said its information was “unassessed and unevaluated”, but “needed to be dealt with”.

It did not take long to assess and evalue [sic] it. By December 1 the RCMP sent along to the FBI a second report which said:
“We have made extensive inquiries concerning the information originally supplied by our (RCMP) secret agent, and have arrived at the decision that the information given is one of either mistaken identity or unfounded rumor by an unidentified subsource. Of the numerous points supplied at the time, the majority have been absolutely determined to be in error; the remaining few have not been confirmed nor does there appear to be any answer to them. The source does not recall the matter. We have therefore deleted the references insofar as Norman is concerned.”

The Senate Committee Mr. GARSON referred to as hearing the name of NORMAN in 1950 was a Senate subcommittee investigating charges made by Senator McCarthy against the United States State Department.

In the Summer of 1951 a Senate committee called the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee investigating the Institute of Pacific Relations heard more of HERBERT NORMAN. Then again, in March 1957, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, this time investigating Soviet activities in the United States, came upon the name of NORMAN and the committee’s counsel referred to security reports “to the effect he is a Communist”. Those reports are believed to include the RCMP reports which in some unexplained way got into the hands of the committee counsel.

* * *

Now, the question of the propriety of the American senators to make public such unsubstantiated but damning charges against a Canadian is one already dealt with by Mr. PEARSON and indeed he has taken the American government rather sternly to task on the point and with some reason.

THE JOURNAL has pronounced dislike of the methods of some American Congressional committees and has often expressed that dislike.

What we are here concerned with however is the activity of the RCMP. And we mention our concern because “the force” has an obligation to us all to be above suspicion.

Do not these questions arise:

  1. Did the RCMP check the report on NORMAN in 1940 and find it groundless, and if it did why did the report remain “alive” on its files until 1950?
  2. If the RCMP didn’t really check the 1940 report in 1940 why didn’t it?
  3. If the report was checked in 1940 and found to have some substance why, as Mr. GARSON admits, was the External Affairs Department told nothing about it until 1950?
  4. If the report was without substance why was it suddenly after 10 years of bearing dust despatched to the FBI?
  5. It took only six weeks to make a new evaluation of the report—to withdraw it in effect; would it not have been better to have investigated first and reported afterwards, having in mind that by 1950 Mr. NORMAN was a senior officer of the Canadian External Affairs Department?
  6. Mr. GARSON says the RCMP reports sent to the FBI were “made available" to the External Affairs Department. Before being sent or after? Was the External Affairs Department given a chance to tell the RCMP that Mr. NORMAN was then Minister to Japan and that his name should not be carelessly handled? Mr. GARSON’S statement does not make clear what “made available” means.
  7. How thorough was the RCMP check in that six weeks between October 17 and December 1? The second RCMP report, including such sentences as ... “the source does not recall the matter”. ... seems to have something less than the accents of thoroughness and finality and invites wonder whether it went far enough in clearing a man it had injured in an earlier and hastier report.

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THE JOURNAL asks these questions because it believes the public is asking these questions and that it would be a mistake to pretend that the efficiency of the RCMP must never be doubted. [...] suggest that the ways of the RCMP should be pried into and that its method and conduct should be laid open to the eyes of the world so it may clear itself of these questions. The RCMP has to deal securely with matters of security and we have confidence it has earned its reputation of high efficiency. But this general confidence enables us to expose what seem to us to be important doubts of the handling of one particular case. Let us hope the RCMP has satisfactory answers or at least that it will guard against any recurrence of what may have been inefficiency.

And certainly THE JOURNAL’S questions directed at the RCMP’s role in the matter are not to divert to the RCMP criticism of the government’s part in the strange story, a part distinguished throughout by good intentions, fumbling and astonishing incoherency.

Source: Editorial, "Unexplained Role of RCMP In the Norman Case," The Ottawa Journal, April 26, 1957

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