THE ADVOCATE 615
VOL. 76 PART 4 JULY 2018
By Ludmila B. Herbst, Q.C.*
CANADA’S RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
Intrigued by recent investigations into Russian interference in the U.S.
presidential election or possible Russian use of a nerve agent on U.K. soil?
Then you may be interested in a Canadian antecedent: the Royal Commission
“to investigate the facts relating to and the circumstances surrounding
the communication, by public officials and other persons in positions of
trust of secret and confidential information to agents of a foreign power”
(the “Royal Commission”).
The Royal Commission was established in 1946, sparked by Soviet cipher
clerk Igor Gouzenko’s claims of a Soviet spy network in Canada. Information
that Gouzenko provided is sometimes described as triggering or signalling
the onset of the Cold War, alerting western democracies to a new
threat hard on the heels of World War II. A plaque near the Ottawa apartment
building from which Gouzenko and his family were whisked to safety
heralds the “Gouzenko Affair” as a “national historic event” that “brought the
realities of the emerging Cold War to the attention of the Canadian public”.1
As always, however, there is more than one side to the story. Some commentators
see the Royal Commission as having engaged, with little ultimately
to show for it, in “one of the most thorough abuses of individual
rights ever conducted by an organ of the Canadian state”.2
SOVIET EXPANSIONISM AND THE FIFTH COLUMN
Gouzenko arrived in Ottawa to work at the Soviet embassy in 1943, to code
and decode messages for the military attaché. By September 1945, at the age
of 26, Gouzenko had resolved to try to remain in Canada with his wife and
* Ludmila B. Herbst, Q.C., is the assistant editor of the Advocate and has read many spy stories.