I’ve provided a few excerpts from BC’s own, independent journalist John Sawatski --Ottawa correspondent for the Vancouver Sun and winner of the Michener award for his investigation of the history and adoption of lawless RCMP tactics-- from his 1981 book “Men in the Shadows”.  It’s available at your local library. david.


According to John Sawatski;


·        Solicitor General Francis Fox testified that “the (RCMP)  Security Service had been doing illegal things for 20-30 years”. (page 283)

·        Mounties are not told, as claimed, to abide by the law. Quite the opposite. The 1970 memo of Nadon's predecessor, RCMP Commissioner Len Higgitt, made it clear that the Force supported illegal activity as a policy. E Special was created for one purpose and that was to perform clandestine activity. (page 281)

  • The politicians were largely afraid to question or attack the RCMP.  And for an overwhelming reason. Public reaction, from opinion surveys to letters to the editor, suggested that Canadians supported the RCMP despite illegal acts. During the parliamentary debate the Opposition parties received criticism from constituents while the government got letters of congratulations for defending the RCMP. It was this unquestioning public support for the RCMP that caused Opposition parties to mute their criticism. (page 281) (Of course the public knows neither the depth of, nor the full consequence of, this policy of police lawlessness either. I’ve included brief excerpts from John’s book as an insight until I have the opportunity to write my own account of the shocking deeds I’ve personally witnessed in this age of the “New World Order” where police discretion to break the law is now enshrined in Canadian law and its public policy. david)


Excerpts from page 254-5 “The Rise Of E Special”.


Without ever realizing it, the RCMP had adopted illegal activity as a fundamental investigative technique. If the force was unable to recruit an informer within a targeted group, it resorted to breaking and entering its premises for a clandestine look a through the files. It happened so slowly and out of such seeming necessity that nobody stopped to consider it. Occasionally a Mountie refused to go along, and he was considered an oddball and shunted aside. His values and loyalty were questioned, and he was transferred out of the Security Service. For the most part, illegal activity was accepted with enthusiasm since it was exciting, was good for one's career, and contributed to the fight against communism. The Force recruited l8-year-old babies to out of high school and taught them morals in a closed and peculiar environment. At first they were given minor roles, which were   increased with their experience and status. Given the circumstances, the perceived threat, the dedication, the conviction of rightness, the RCMP'S propensity to obey orders, the closed environment, the lack of sophistication, the excitement, and the desire for advancement within the Force, it is not surprising that a group of honest and decent individuals en masse accepted illegal activity so casually.


Specialization arrived in the l960s. The Security Service became more sophisticated in technique and attempted more exotic operations. But more important, the electronic era of eavesdropping had arrived and bugging became commonplace. Eavesdropping in those days was not forbidden by law and the Force needed no prior authorization to make an installation. But planting bugs required access to the targeted premises and that usually involved an entry   operation that definitely was illegal. The eavesdropping revolution introduced the need for specialists. Planting bugs required electronic experts to select and handle the devices as well as artisans who could drill holes in the wall and quickly and expertly cover them up. Locksmiths were also needed. The RCMP responded informally at first as individuals seemed to create niches of expertise in little groups across the country.


 Excerpts from page 244, an example cited by John was “Operation Ham”.

That Monday night the dry run that started in a snowstorm two weeks earlier was finally completed. With the assistance of the lock expert from Ottawa the master cylinder of the lock on the front door was removed completely and replaced by another lock. In case the owner came by his key would not fit the door and he could not enter during the operation. He would be forced to leave and thereby give the Ham team time to vacate the premises. But, just in case the Ham team was interrupted, it kept handy an 18 inch metal bar with which to club any intruder. Despite all the sophisticated briefing and preparation, one rule stands out over all others: if you become compromised, don't get caught. The metal club accompanied E Special on every clandestine operation.


Dirty Tricks in Vancouver (an incident highlighting the RCMP’s willingness to use mindless violence.)


In early October 1971 three Mounties from Ottawa arrived at the brand new building for the headquarters of the British Columbia Security Service (RCMP) at 1177 West Broadway St. in Vancouver. Their task was to attack a local group, the Partisan Party members, as they walked home on their nightly trek carrying their most sensitive files for safe keeping, in order to steal their files. They were instructed to “rough them up without quite killing them”. The idea was to knock them unconscious or to break a limb –in any case to do enough damage to put them into the hospital.


Excerpts from Page 268;


The Partisan Party was formed in April 1971 and adopted an anti-violence posture. For its office they used a second-story space in a green barn-like warehouse at 399 West Third Ave in Vancouver's manufacturing district. The space was large, easily big enough to put out its newspaper, and rent was only $66 a month because there was no heat. Around the corner less than a block away, some party members lived in a communal house. Each night they locked up the office and carried home the most sensitive material in a box of files and index cards. However, this daily file-transferring routine would not last   much longer because the party was moving its headquarters to the Strathcona district next to Chinatown as part of its policy of integral     into the community. The new office would have two live-in residents and the files would always remain on the premises. The attack on the Partisan Party would have to occur before the move if this weak link in security was to be exploited. The three Ottawa roughnecks arrived in Vancouver one week before the move. During the briefing in the Security Service's offices, only about eight blocks away, they were told to launch the attack at night. Two of them were to hide around the corner waiting for the Partisans to move into the darkness between lampposts. At the appropriate moment they would jump the Partisans from behind;   one would grab the files and run while the other stayed and fought. The third Mountie would rush from across the street to help administer the beating. The task would not be finished until all the Partisans --there were usually three or so-- lay helpless on the street.


A rented car that could not be traced would pick up the fighters and whisk them away. There would be no witnesses because the area was always deserted at night… A back-up surveillance team would keep watch to ensure that the Vancouver police or other passers-by were not in the vicinity.  If disaster struck and they were somehow caught and arrested, the three Mounties would give no hint that they were with the RCMP or that the Force was in any way associated with the incident. It was precisely to avoid being recognized in the event of capture that they had been brought from Ottawa. They had false names and carried no identification. Their cover story was they were Easterners coming to British Columbia for logging work and had stopped over in Vancouver for a week of fun before heading north to job-hunt. The operation was strictly a disruptive tactic designed to scare the Partisans. It possessed no intelligence objective at all since the Partisan Party, although only six months old, was already thoroughly penetrated electronically and otherwise. The office was bugged, and all conversations within the premises were being monitored. (It was through the eavesdropping device in the office that the three Mounties knew precisely when the Partisans would be leaving the building with the files to go home for the evening.) Also, the telephone lines were tapped so that the Security Service heard both ends of each phone conversation. Every scrap of information in those sensitive files the Partisans guarded so assiduously was known, including all the party's secrets. The Security Service knew about the party's every action within 24 hours, whether it involved calling together a strategy session, writing a letter, or adding another subscriber to the newspaper subscription list…


Public Disclosure, page 279


 The RCMP SS was lucky the APLQ break-in had not been exposed at the outset. The operation was professionally inexcusable. The Force escaped public scrutiny only because the target lacked credibility and because the established news media in Montreal failed to pursue or even carry the story. Moreover, the RCMP was still a holy cow. Even after Watergate in the United States Canadians held to the RCMP legend and refused to believe the Mounties could do the same things…


The first trouble emerged with the arrest of Constable Robert Samson following the July 26, 1974 bombing attempt on the Mount Royal home of Steinberg's supermarket chain executive Melvyn Dobrin. The bomb exploded prematurely, while still in Samson's hand, shredding the fingertips on his left hand and lacerating his neck and chest and permanently damaging his left ear and eye. Samson, whose RCMP assignment was to follow the activities of the APLQ, stayed away from work claiming he was injured while working on his car. The Security Service visited the hospital and then tipped off Montreal police that Samson might be the bomber, fully realizing he might talk. He was not protected by Commissioner Higgitt's policy of giving legal and financial support to Mounties caught performing illegal act: since the bombing attempt had nothing to do with his RCMP duties: Samson had been free-lancing on his spare time for a Mafia type from Sherbrooke. At his trial Samson claimed in closed session he had done worse things for the RCMP than plant Bombs.


Eight months later the Vancouver Sun published a copyrighted story outlining the conspiratorial origins of the APLQ break-in that Samson was acting under direction from higher authorities and that headquarters in Ottawa knew about it shortly afterward. It was the first public evidence of a Watergate in Canada since RCMP management had been for the first time implicated in methodical illegal activity. Canadian Press refused to carry the story. A question was planted in the House of Commons and not one reporter in the Parliamentary Press Gallery reported it. 


Commissioner Maurice Nadon was surprised at Samson's confession and ordered an investigation[1]. Nadon was an honest and well- meaning policeman who had never spent a day of his 36-year career in the 'Security Service and knew nothing of the APLQ break-in. The Commissioner knew that most policemen stretch and even break the law, but was bewildered at the report that three police forces had combined to carry out the raid. This indicated formal planning, organization, and liaison. CIB's (criminal investigation bureau’s) illegal activities had been on a less grandiose scale. Had Nadon, like some of his predecessors, spent time in the Security Service and become indoctrinated in the practices of illegal acts, he would not have been disturbed and might have attempted to stonewall Quebec legal authorities who were investigating.


Nadon received a report within days and later passed it to the Quebec Solicitor General, who decided that Don Cobb and his two counterparts from the Quebec and Montreal police forces would face a pre-enquette (preliminary hearing) on whether charges should be laid. In Quebec Sessions Court on May 26, 1977, all three pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of failing to obtain a search warrant. Judge Roger Vachon gave them conditional discharges, which freed them from the taint of a criminal record and allowed them to resume work for their respective police organizations.


The national news media picked up the story only after the three officers pleaded guilty. The fact that three officers, not just lower- ranking members, were involved meant the break-in was not the work of a few overzealous policemen after all. The Quebec government appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by Quebec City lawyer Jean Keable to investigate the affair, and dug out new information, which the news media used. The Keable Commission pursued its search aggressively and demanded access to confidential Security Service information that the RCMP and, for constitutional reasons, the federal government did not want released. Ottawa later successfully challenged in court the commission's mandate and reduced its effectiveness.



[1] The manner in which RCMP Commissioner Nadon ordered the internal investigation can be questioned. The individual who recounted many of the events was none other than Don Cobb, the officer who had approved the operation and had been promoted to chief superintendent and made responsible for the Security Service in Quebec. Furthermore, the officer responsible for the internal investigation was Superintendent J. A. Nowlan, who had been in charge of ' E Special; hardly an untainted figure when it involved investigating clandestine arts. However, it is possible that Commissioner Nadon did not know about E Special at the time. As for Cobb, despite his conflict of interest, he wrote a forthright account in which he readily acknowledged his responsibility and urged the Force also to come clean.