Mr. Pearson in Trouble

It was with genuine regret that this newspaper felt it necessary, last Friday, to point out the contrast between two statements by Mr. Lester Pearson—the one of April 10 (repeated April 12) in which the External Affairs Minister denied that the information used to smear the late Herbert Norman had come from any Canadian source; and the one of April 17, in which he admitted that some, at least, of that information had come from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In reply, Mr. Pearson tells us it was not until after April 12 that he learned an RCMP report of February, 1940, sent to the United States Government in October, 1950, had found its way into the hands of the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, being used by that subcommittee both in 1951 and 1957 to brand Mr. Norman as a Communist.

Accepting Mr. Pearson’s explanation, we published it, precisely as received, on Saturday—but with as much regret as we published the editorial which called it forth. For between the lines, the letter of the External Affairs Minister reveals him to be a victim, like Mr. Norman, of his own Government’s inefficiency and misconduct.

The significance of the February, 1940, report is not just in the manner of its making (by a “secret agent”) nor in its utter worthlessness (when finally checked, not one word of it stood up) but also in its date. As many Canadians will recall vaguely, and as this newspaper recalls with unpleasant clarity, many shocking things were done during those mid-war years by a so-called Liberal Government and by so-called Ministers of Justice. In the name of “security”, people without number were wrongly smeared—and interned, and dispossessed—as pro-Communists or as pro-Fascists.

It would have been an act of common decency, after the war, to destroy all security reports compiled by the RCMP during that shabby, hysterical period. And from the position in which the Government now finds itself, it would have been an act of wisdom. For it was a report—or rather, a tip—preserved by the RCMP from 1940 to 1950 that, so far as anybody can judge, brought about the tragic end of Canada’s Ambassador to Egypt.

It seems incredible that such a document, purportedly dealing with a rising young member of Canada’s foreign service, should have rested in the RCMP files for ten whole years without the External Affairs Department knowing anything about it; more incredible that the report was never checked for accuracy during that time; most incredible of all that no check should have been made before passing it along in the Federal Bureau of Investigation at Washington.

But incredible things can happen, have been happening, all too often in a Government made arrogant and irresponsible by an excess of power, held over an excess of years.


Source: Editorial, "Mr. Pearson in Trouble," Globe and Mail, April 22, 1957

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