This Just In:  Hon. George Drew, from speech at Pembroke, Ontario (9 July 1953)

Drew Condemns the Internment without Trial of Arcand and his men

Hon. George Drew, 14th Premier of Ontario

Hon. George Drew, 14th Premier of Ontario

George Drew’s speech of July 9th, 1953 arrived in my inbox on July 9th, 2019, and July 9th, 1953 is my birthday, so maybe this is a good omen.  In his draft Memorandum and Request for redress dated 1957, Adrien Arcand referred to this Drew speech.1  I was lucky to be able to get it from Drew’s own archives in Ottawa.  Drew was the 14th Premier of Ontario from August 17, 1943 – October 19, 1948.

That Drew should have made the speech is particularly interesting.  Justice Minister Louis Saint-Laurent tried to send Drew to the camps as well in WWII!  He charged him under section 39B of the Defence Of Canada Regulations.  Drew defended himself, and won.2 (I like him already.)

The Drew speech will be included in the upcoming eBook that I owe you.  Here it is (emphases added).

Part of Speech of Hon. George Drew,
Pembroke, July 9, 1953

One of the points in our program—and a very important point (it) is—includes the promise that we will restore the rule of law.  We believe that there should be no interference with the freedom and work of the individual by order-in-council or still worse at the whim of any government official.

At the root of our free democracy is the principle that no man or woman shall have their freedom threatened or their right to work denied except under a known law3, defining the offence and enforced only by our free and impartial courts.

The present government abandoned that principal long ago.  During the last war, in this free Canada of ours, men were put in concentration camps without any charge being laid against them.4 They were denied any access to the courts.  They were refused their historic right to defend themselves and to be regarded as innocent until their guilt was proved.  Later it was found that innocent men had been held for long periods.  They were offered no redress.

Now we are seeing a less severe but equally unjust procedure which denies the rule of law.  In the name of “Screening” we have seen witchhunts by the government in different government agencies.  For months the government refused to permit the National Film Board to take any pictures in places where some measure of security was involved.  They placed innocent and highly efficient men and women under a cloak of suspicion while they searched for what—Communist activities, which they say they are unable to define.

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Then with a great show of satisfaction they declared that they had cieansed the board of offenders who are guilty of no offence which this Government will define by law.  The same sort of witchhunt has been carried on elsewhere.

They passed an order-in-council to deal with Communism among sailors6 on vessels operating on the Great Lakes.  Again there was no definition of the offence.  Again men were denied the right to work which is the right to live.  And again it was for something the Government says it is unable to define.  Who knows whether the men dealt with are innocent or guilty.  There was no trial.  No court made a decision.

That is the kind of witchhunt we have promised to stop.  Our party stands firmly against Communism.  Make no mistake about that.  We believe in the rule of law for which men and women have fought and died, in years gone by, that freedom might be secure.

We are told that there must be no interference with ideas.  That is our position.  This Government is denying men and women the right to work because of ideas.  Our contention is that the positive act of working to destroy our democracy in the service of the Kremlin5 or any other foreign government should be declared an offence by law.  Only our courts should have the right to deal with the freedom of any individual.  The present witchhunts must come to an end and firm steps be taken under a known law, passed by parliament, to deal with agents of an international conspiracy to destroy our freedom.

The government can hardly deny that it knows that active organizers of the Communist Party, under any name they choose, are servants of the Kremlin.  The Government has published a report on

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Communist activities prepared by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police which makes that clear.  Their activities are described as treachery.  We believe that particular form of treachery can be defined. At a time our young men are fighting that international conspiracy on the field of battle we think it must be defined and the fight against Communist and other treacherous activities of that kind dealt with under the rule of law.

I am surprised to read reports of a statement by the Prime Minister that the government is unaware of Communist activities in agencies of the government.  They told us of this in the House of Commons.  That is why they have been “Screening” a number of government agencies.

There is however a particular reason for surprise because the press has been carrying detailed stories of Communist activities for some time.  If the Prime Minister has not been informed by the Minister responsible I would have expected that he would hear about it through the press.

Canadians who understand this menace were shocked to learn just over a month ago that a Communist-led union which had been expelled by the Canadian Congress of Labour because of its Communist activities is in a position to paralyze our vital uranium industry.

Among the mines and other operations where this union has been organized is the Federal Government’s own uranium operations.  At the head of that organization is a man now called Harvey Murphy.  He is a European born Communist who was trained at the Lenin Institute in Moscow where they specialize in political warfare and sabotage.  His agents, and the government knows their names, have

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been organizing in the government owned operations which are intended to provide our most vital military requirement.

If the government does not know about those activities then this is an added proof that it is incapable to govern.  I am informed that at this very time there is an application by this Communist-led organization before the Labor Relations Board to be certified as the bargaining agent for the Government owned uranium operation in Saskatchewan.  If it was regarded as important to restrain Communist activities on ships in the Great Lakes it is surely equally important to deal with Communism in Canada’s most vital operations.

The Government is dodging this issue by a smoke screen of appeals to the priceless name of freedom.  We will respect the true principles of freedom.  We will pass a law to define an offence for which this Government has not hesitated to send men to concentration camps without a law. We will protect the freedom of the individual by making certain that only by a decision of our courts will this law be interpreted. We will defend the freedom of Canada at home as well as abroad by taking the steps necessary to protect ourselves against treachery of this kind.  We will restore the Rule of Law.7


1. See Memorandum and Request, second paragraph, where Arcand prefaces the Drew quote at Pembroke as follows at page 14: “The Hon. George Drew, speaking in a public meeting in Pembroke, Ont., on the 9th of July 1953, stated …”.

2. “Drew is politically and physically brave.  He once saved a man from drowning in Lake Ontario.  An hour before appearing in court on a charge of infringing section 39B of the Defense of Canada Regulations, he slipped and broke his war-shattered left arm.  He appeared in court with the arm unset and unattended, spoke in his own defense for some 20 minutes.” (Maclean’s, “George Drew” by Pierre Berton, October 1, 1948. Anecdote: I was a fact-checker for Reader’s Digest (Westmount office, Montreal) in the early 1970s.  I had to take apart books and articles, sentence by sentence, and verify each alleged fact with three independent sources to prove or disprove it, and recommend corrections.  Only one writer ever crossed my desk who never needed correction.  Pierre Berton.

3. The concept of being subject to “known” law seems to derive in UK and thus in Canada, from the principle of promulgation advanced by Saint Thomas Aquinas.  Webster includes a definition of promulgate stating, “to make known or public the terms of (a proposed law)” and “to put (a law or rule) into action or force”.  In other words, law must be known in advance to allow the public to comply.  (Or, also in Canada, to contest it as void or ultra vires.)  The Orders in Council of William Lyon Mackenzie King banning the National Unity Part of Canada and then “declaring” Arcand and his men members of an illegal association (by surprise while they were imprisoned), were not “law,” but a trap.  Arcand and his men were not allowed to comply in advance because it wasn’t passed as law, which in Canada undergoes debate in the Legislature and is promulgated when passed.  Mackenzie King was notorious in his day for ruling by decree using Orders in Council, which is what George Drew is referring to when he promises to restore the “rule of law” as opposed to Liberal dictatorship.  In other words, when Arcand, in his 1957 Memorandum and Request, talks about “tyranny” and “despotism”, he isn’t kidding.  He’s talking about the Liberals, who then as now have no liking for Parliament or democratic procedures.  AAB

4. Drew possibly means the charges laid were not proved in court before the men were interned, arbitrarily.  AAB

5. This being 1953, and Fred Rose being in jail for espionage, Drew must be alluding to the obvious… that Communists can hardly take office in Canada (their oaths being void) since they work for a foreign power geared to overthrow the country.  AAB

6. Not on the Great Lakes, but a great story otherwise on point.  In my article, “Blockbuster: The Testimony of Patrick Walsh to the Un-American Activities Subcommittee (1953)” at my Anticommunist Archive, I said of Pat Walsh—a great Canadian defector from the Communists:

“Walsh, under Communist orders to get on a ship and become a member of the Canadian Seamen’s Union, is accompanied to the dock by his fellow Communists.

Shortly before the Mont Rolland lifts anchor to sail out of Montreal, the Communist strong-arms board the vessel, grab the hired galley boy with his baggage and throw him off the ship.  In his place, our man Walsh is brought aboard.  The Reds put Walsh in charge of Communist propaganda amongst the crew.  For his full-time Communist activities, Walsh receives the pay for the job of a galley boy, a job he now holds in name, but never does.  In his place, Communist sailors from deckside visit the galley each day on orders of Walsh’s fellow agitators.  The conscripted seamen obediently swab and paint the galley, and peel Walsh’s potatoes for him!  Walsh, a former student of Fred Rose (Soviet spy), hands free, teaches Communism to the sailors.”

7. In a footnote on page 160, in the section Labor/Travail, segment VIII “Critics of Government Repression”, Reg Whitaker, author of Official Repression of Communism During World War II (published January 1, 1986), offers more on George Drew’s opposition to internment by decree.  “Even George Drew, usually in favour of repression of Communists, spoke out eloquently against internment without trial:  Toronto Telegram, 7 November 1940 and Saturday Night, 16 November 1940.  Drew himself ran afoul of the regulations by criticizing government war policy, although the Liberals finally thought better of acting against a leading Tory.  PAC, Brooke Claxton Papers, Claxton to King, 12 October 1940: FRS, Vol. 30, file 13, 14 January 1940; Cook, ‘Freedom in Canada,’” 45-6.

At page 143, Whitaker also footnotes “Montreal Star, ‘Probe of Reds Urged by Drew.’ 15 November 1939; WLMK/M&N, Vol, 355, File 3814, J.A. Gibson, ‘Re: Defence of Canada Regulations,’ 23 May 1940.”  AAB

Source:  The file title of the George Drew typewritten speech transcribed above, in the files of the National Library and Archives of Canada, is: “Speech.  Pembroke [General election issues] – Manuscript 9 July 1953”.  It is archived in “362 ( 3 B ) SPEECHES 9-21 JULY, 1953,” “The Hon. George Drew fonds, p000000128.pdf Volume 315, File 361”, 5 pages.  The fifth page is covered in apparently randomly scribbled names of people and organizations.  I haven’t given you a “part” of the speech, I’ve given you everything the Archives gave to me, this “part” seems to be all they have.

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