A former associate of Douglas’ from his days studying in Chicago was contacted by the RCMP about his former Communist ties. According to the letter, Douglas was an active Communist during his days in Chicago circa 1931.
During his long public career Douglas held many views that would seem shocking today.
In his 1933 master’s thesis, titled The Problems of the Subnormal Family, Douglas advocated the “unfit” be placed on state work-farms and be sterilized to prevent them from having children.
Douglas also advocated anyone who wanted to marry be subject to government testing to obtain certificates of mental and physical fitness. He saw this as a way to keep “subnormal” humans from marrying.
"Because this class tend to intermarry... the second and third generations are nearly always worse than the first. The result is an ever increasing number of morons and imbeciles who continue to be a charge upon society,” Douglas wrote in defence of eugenics.
In the 1968 election, Douglas stated during the leaders debate he agreed with decriminalizing homosexuality. But he added "…we ought to recognize it for what it is: it's a mental illness, it's a psychiatric condition, which ought to be treated sympathetically by psychiatrists and social workers.”
But it was his long ties to left-wing groups that fascinated the RCMP, which seemed determined to prove Douglas was a Communist.
The RCMP began watching Douglas in the 1930s after he entered politics as a Saskatchewan MP for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. The CCF was a precursor to the NDP.
A file dated March 1, 1939, details a speech Douglas gave to a rally of “transients” urging the unemployed to push for greater social assistance.
“He opened his speech at 2:15 p.m. urging all labor hands in Canada to unite nationally under one democratic leader, whom they should choose themselves. Then he went on to point out the benefits that can be accomplished when a united body would approach the government with a view to have legislation passed beneficial to the unemployed and labor in general,” according to the file.
In 1960, the RCMP took note of a letter sent to anti-communist writer Pat Walsh. The letter, from Pastor Kenneth Goff, claimed Douglas had been active in Communist circles when he travelled to Chicago to study in the early 1930s.
“Premier Douglas was a preacher in Chicago about the time that I was a member of the Communist Party and he attended party rallies on the university campus presided over by Claude Lightfoot and Morris Childs. At that time, he was active in many organizations of the Communist Party.”
Walsh made many accusations about Douglas over the years, including that members of his cabinet during the time he was premier of Saskatchewan raised money for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell, three Americans convicted of spying for the Soviets.
The Rosenbergs were executed. In 2008, Sobell admitted to being part of a conspiracy that delivered industrial and military secrets to the Soviets.
Not everyone was convinced Douglas was a Communist. Tim Buck, then president of the Communist Party of Canada, is cited by the RCMP as saying Douglas was friendly with the Communist Party prior to joining the CCF. Buck also claimed despite his socialist lines, Douglas took a “right-wing line” in Parliament.
Douglas was followed by the RCMP almost until the day he died in 1986.
During the Vietnam War era, the Mounties detailed his anti-war statements and contact with other activists. An entry from the early 1970s claims Douglas was contacted by actress Jane Fonda about getting visas for visiting Vietnamese. Fonda went on to visit North Vietnam and speak out against her own government’s military actions, a move that earned her the nickname Hanoi Jane.
In 1974, during the general election, Douglas, who had stepped down as leader but remained an MP, appeared on a list of MPs and candidates being monitored by the national police force.
Despite releasing more information on Douglas, not all files have been released. Many sections of the detailed notes remain blacked out, other parts removed completely.
At several points in the hundreds of pages submitted to the court, an otherwise blank page will simply say several pages have been removed under the Access to Information Act.
The reasons for removing the pages, standard practice under the law, are not provided.
NDP Leader Jack Layton told QMI Agency he still wants to see everything the government has on Douglas released to the public.
"Like many Canadians, we are deeply offended that the RCMP was monitoring a respected Member of Parliament,” Layton said. “Former NDP Leader Tommy Douglas was the father of medicare in Canada and has been voted 'Greatest Canadian', New Democrats request that the full record be released by the government immediately."