50th anniversary of War Measures Act (II) – Police power above the civil power: The true nature of Canadian democracy

Second of a series on the issues and goals of the “October Crisis” and the forces in motion, reposted from TML Weekly.

Demonstration outside Tanguay prison in Montreal, January 1971, calls for the release of political prisoners detained under the War Measures Act.

Media disinformation about the invocation of the War Measures Act in 1970 tends to focus only on some events which were taking place in October 1970 and discussion on whether or not Pierre Elliot Trudeau over-reacted or if there truly was a state of apprehended insurrection at the time. Information brought to light in 2010 about the RCMP’s secret plans, first devised in 1950, for indefinite detention and internment of thousands of Canadians, code-named PROFUNC (PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party), was used, amongst other things, to suggest that the phenomenon of the police being above the civil power was a thing of the past.

The synopsis of “Enemies of the State” aired by the CBC’s Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada’s Enquête on October 15, 2010, which exposed the “PROFUNC”, plan began:

“The secret contingency plan, called PROFUNC, allowed police to round up and indefinitely detain Canadians believed to be Communist sympathizers.”

“It seems hard to imagine today that a Canadian government would approve a plan to round up thousands of law-abiding Canadians and lock them away simply because they were perceived to be a threat to Canadian democracy.”

The following is an excerpt from the statement issued by CPC(M-L) on October 16, 2014 commenting on this view:

“This attempt to portray the events of October 1970 and the PROFUNC plan as unimaginable today and the mass raids and arrests as the doings of a police force that just got a bit carried away in the past fails utterly in the face of the mass arrests, raids and dirty tricks of the police and horrendous acquiescence of the courts to the activities of the police before, during and after the G8/20 protests. It is an amazing statement given that Canadian citizens and residents of Canada were handed over to torture, the thousands of people whose names appear on no-fly lists, the thousands who are considered terrorists by virtue of being Muslim or Pakistani, or Arab, etc. or whose opinion clashes with that of the Harper government over the right to resist Zionism and the crimes carried out by the state of Israel.

“Both the invoking of the War Measures Act in 1970 and the revelations about PROFUNC, declared to be ‘the most draconian national security program in Canada’s peacetime history’ are presented as anomalies, departures from the norm of Canadian ‘democracy,’ but sadly this is not the case.

“In fact, the ‘debate’ is not really about the past at all but about the present and it is to cover up that the police continue to be above the civil power. This is not an aberration. It reveals the true nature (of the civil power), the actual essence of the Canadian democracy. The only difference is that in the past, civil liberties were suspended occasionally and now in the name of the war on terror, a permanent state of emergency has been declared to warrant the redefinition of what a democracy looks like and acceptance of a permanent state of exception.

“One media outlet goes so far as to tell us that the majority of Canadians prefer ‘peace, order and good government’ even if it means giving up or suspending civil liberties. If civil rights are given up in exchange for peace, order and good government, what is peace, order and good government? Either it means nothing or it is a regime in which the police power is above the civil power, and it is the police which determine when rights can be suspended.

“Another debate suggests that the problem is to strike the right ‘balance’ between rights and security. What then is the definition of a right if it can be suspended? Who determines the conditions under which it can be suspended? According to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms ’rights’ have ‘reasonable limits.’ This means they are yours until you need them. This is in contempt of the very definition of a right which belongs to you by virtue of your being and which can be neither forfeited nor forsaken in any way, only affirmed and enforced.

“Even without special powers, in Canada the right to conscience is routinely violated. Far from being a departure from the norm, the persecution, arrest and jailing of the militants of the communist and workers’ movement are features of what is called the Canadian democracy.

“In the period after the Second World War, despite the fact that the existence of the Communist Party and membership in it were not considered offences under the criminal code, Anglo-American democracy declared communism to be the enemy of democracy. This was the basis for the RCMP lists of thousands of communists and communist sympathizers it slated for indefinite detention. Apart from the arrests carried out during the War Measures Act, more than 2,500 arrests of members and supporters of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) took place in the 1970s in an all-out effort by the Canadian state to smash the new party which had come into being. None of those arrests were carried out by invoking any special powers. Instead they were part of the RCMP’s dirty tricks to portray the members of CPC(M-L) as petty criminals and destroy the organization. The RCMP carried out a campaign to frame and deport the founder and leader of CPC(M-L), Comrade Hardial Bains, and deprive him of citizenship for 30 years. The persecution of other Party comrades carries on to date.

July 3, 1970, shortly after the CPC(M-L)’s founding, 150 police raid its Montreal bookstore, Progressive Books and Periodicals, ransacking the store and arresting 24 people. A number of those arrested are photographed in front of the store after their release.

“All of it shows that so-called safeguards known as civil liberties which we are led to believe protect us against impunity on the part of police agencies have always been subjected to ‘reasonable limits.’ Besides the persecution of progressive people, workers are legislated back to work, etc. On top of this, under some conditions, ‘exceptional circumstances’ are declared to justify the use of instruments like the War Measures Act as took place against the communist and workers’ movement in both the First and Second World Wars, and for purposes of expropriating fishing fleets and houses of the Japanese using the pretext of internment, as well as in October 1970.

“All of it reveals the class nature of the democratic institutions this debate seeks to hide and that so long as sovereignty is vested in the prerogative of the crown which represents the monopolies and defends their interests, not in the people on a modern basis, this problem will only get worse. The fact that government ministers did not even know about the PROFUNC program shows the contempt in which the ‘civil power’ is held. Both Warren Allmand and Robert Kaplan, solicitors general in Trudeau governments, admit to this when they point out they knew nothing about PROFUNC.

“What the declaration of the War Measures Act in 1970 and PROFUNC actually show is not that the police were above the civil power in the past but that what is called the civil power is a form of police rule to protect the rule of the monopolies and their interests at home and abroad. The rulers portray these interests in a manner which claims that the role of the state is to defend the public good and that the state is neutral in the clash of class interests.

“Due to all the wrong-doings of the RCMP, in 1983 legislation creating the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to take over security and intelligence from the RCMP was introduced in Parliament. CSIS came into being in 1984. But far from changing the essence of the Canadian democracy in which the police are above the civil power, this never ceased but in fact increased. Since the creation of the CSIS both the CSIS and other police agencies act above the civil power as clearly revealed by the Maher Arar and other cases in which Canada has been involved in torture, rendition to torture and other crimes against humanity. In the case of the Afghan detainees handed over to the Americans and to torture shortly after Canada’s involvement in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, even the Prime Minister was informed one week after the fact. A memo came to light about secret deals between Canadian and American special forces which specified that they must be kept secret from even the Prime Minister.

“In this regard, while the CBC and Radio-Canada ‘revealed’ all kinds of things about the PROFUNC plan, they failed to point to the current integration of Canadian and U.S. police, intelligence and armed forces, let alone the handing over of information about Canadians to U.S. spy agencies to be placed on no-fly lists, terror suspect lists, rendered to torture, etc. All of it shows that the PROFUNC phenomenon is a thing of the present, not the past. This is a problem which comes under the heading state terrorism, not democracy. […]”

(Statement of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), October 16, 2014)

PROFUNC – Canada’s Secret Plan for Indefinite Detention

In 2010, the CBC’s The Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada’s Enquête programs exposed a plan to indefinitely detain thousands of Canadians believed to be communists or communist sympathizers in the event of a “national emergency.”

PROFUNC, which stands for PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party, was a top-secret plan first devised in 1950 by RCMP Commissioner Stuart Taylor Wood. It listed 16,000 suspected communists and 50,000 sympathizers to be spied on and possibly indefinitely interned.

The plan was kept secret even from the Solicitor General who was responsible for the RCMP.

The CBC/Radio Canada program interviewed Robert Kaplan, who was Solicitor General of Canada from 1980 to 1984. Kaplan apparently inadvertently brought an end to the program in 1983 when he ordered the RCMP to stop whatever actions were responsible for elderly Canadians being barred from entering the United States. Kaplan stated that he heard about the program only when informed about it by the Fifth Estate. He told the CBC that he was appalled to hear that the Canadian government had been involved in such a plan: “I just can’t believe it had any government authorization behind it,” Kaplan said.

Information gathered under the PROFUNC program was used when the War Measures Act was declared in 1970. Trudeau had declared an “apprehended insurrection” but according to retired Lt. Julien Giguère, head of Montreal police’s anti-terrorism squad at the time, their list of FLQ sympathisers had only 60 names. This list was considered too short in light of the claim of an “apprehended insurrection.” So, according to Giguère, both the Sureté du Québec (SQ, provincial police) and the RCMP provided more names, leading to almost 4,000 raids and 500 arrests.

Damage to CPC(M-L)’s Progressive Books and Periodicals in Toronto during a December 1, 1970 raid by the Metro Toronto and Ontario Provincial Police, led by the RCMP. Besides ransacking the bookstore, police also attempted to start a fire using the hot water heater.

The CBC program described PROFUNC as one of the most draconian national security programs in Canada’s peacetime history. It said that those on the list could be detained indefinitely, would be subject to “severe discipline” and shot if they tried to escape.

The lists included prominent Canadian public personalities and ordinary people – men and women, and their children – whose identities were kept hidden in sealed envelopes kept at RCMP detachments across the country. An arrest document known as a C-215 form was created for each potential internee. Files included personal details such as age, physical description, photos, vehicle information, and housing, and even the location of doors to be used in potential escapes, the CBC said. The lists of targets included the children of the men and women to be detained. The information was regularly updated, from 1950 when the program was created until 1983 when it is claimed it was disbanded.

PROFUNC provided for the RCMP to begin a massive roundup on what was designated M-Day, or Mobilization Day. Police commanders were secretly briefed on preparations for the day. The plan included special teams to be deployed in residential neighbourhoods, taking up tactical positions and rounding up the “targets” who would then be transported to temporary “reception centres” and later to permanent prisons or detention camps.[1] Children would either be sent to relatives or interned with parents.

The CBC reported that internees also faced harsh punishment if they broke the strict rules of the camps, such as the following: “No internee shall converse with any person, other than an officer guard or staff member, unless he is permitted to do so under these regulations or is given special permission to do so by an officer.”


1. While the plan changed over the years, a 1951 document listed the following reception centres and internment camps to be set up across the country.

Reception Centres

Halifax: Canadian Immigration Detention Headquarters

Montreal: Department of Labour Hostel

Toronto: Casa Loma

Winnipeg: Normal School

Port Arthur, Ont.: Port Arthur Country Club

Regina: Grandstand Exhibition Grounds

Edmonton: Canadian Immigration Quarters

Calgary: Northern Electric Building

Vancouver: Canadian Immigration Building

Internment Camps

Kelowna, BC: A female-only facility housing 400 BC and Prairie internees.

Chilliwack, BC: A male-only camp for 400 British Columbians

Lethbridge, Alta.: A facility accommodating 400 male internees from the three Prairie provinces

Neys, Ont.: A camp for 400 men from Ontario.

North Bay, Ont.: A male-only facility for 400 Ontarians

Niagara Peninsula (St. Thomas or London area), Ont.: A facility for 400 women from Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes

Parry Sound, Ont.: A co-ed camp, numbers not specified.

St. Gabriel de Brandon, Que.: 400 men from Quebec and Maritimes.

(“PROFUNC – Canada’s Secret Plan for Indefinite Detention” – TML Weekly, October 16, 2010.)


Source: TML Weekly Information Project, Supplement, No. 38, October 10, 2020

In this series

50th anniversary of War Measures Act (I) – The significance of the proclamation of War Measures

50th anniversary of War Measures Act (II) – Police power above the civil power: The true nature of Canadian democracy

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