Chapters in Books

The Norman case has remained controversial for over 50 years. This has resulted in the publication – right up to the present – of a number of books and articles that reexamine and reassess the evidence. In doing so, some of them return to the 1930s, an era of great change in the world. Because it was such a politically-charged time, reminiscences and accounts from that pivotal historical moment all need to be scrutinized carefully for a political bias. Published speeches and recollections by Lester Pearson, who had a career both as a civil servant in the Department of External Affairs and as a politician, ultimately Prime Minister of Canada, are also included. Political memoirs are often self serving defenses of past actions. In Pearson’s case, you might wish to probe the issue of how full and frank are his reminiscences of the events that culminated in the suicide of Herbert Norman.

One particular document, Emma Woikin’s explanation of why she gave information to the USSR, which was given before the Kellock-Taschereau Royal Commission in February 1946, is a unique type of source, testimony to a royal commission. Lengthy parts of the commission’s evidence were published in book form. Before they testified, suspects had been taken into custody by the RCMP and interrogated for days in secret. Among those who were held incommunicado was Woikin, a young Canadian woman of Doukhobor cultural background. Put yourself in her position, facing such pressure without the benefit of a lawyer and without having spoken to friends and family for many days. Her testimony later was used to help convict her of violating the Officials Secrets Act. The published royal commission report containing Woikin’s testimony became a potent Cold War bludgeon against communism.