Right Hon. L. B. Pearson (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, in response to a number of questions asked in the House yesterday concerning the expulsion of two members of the Soviet Embassy staff, I indicated that I would provide all the information that could appropriately be made public. 1 am glad to be able to do that today.
The information on which action was taken in this matter came to the security authorities not only from one of the Canadians approached, but also from other sources which I am sure the House will understand must be protected if our counter-espionage efforts are to continue to be successful, as they were in this instance. On security grounds it is not, therefore, in the public interest to give all the detailed information requested in the House yesterday. This is all the more true in this case since, while the security threat in this instance has been removed, the investigation is continuing. Nevertheless I shall, within the limits set by security considerations, give some additional information to that included in the press release issued on Saturday morning, May 8, which by its terms gave more information than is normally given in respect of matters of this kind.
Let me first explain, Mr. Speaker, the objectives of the Government's decision to expel the Soviet officials and to inform the Canadian public of that action. The objectives were three: one, to bring to an end the activity of certain members of the Soviet Embassy, the intent of which was clearly prejudicial to Canadian interest; two, to make clear to the Soviet Government that actions of this sort by members of their so-called diplomatic staff would not be tolerated; and three, to impress upon Canadians the need for constant vigilance when faced with approaches by Soviet officials. This was a very important objective, indeed, that we had in mind.
These objectives have been met. Canadian interests have not been damaged.
In regard to the two individual cases mentioned in the press release, one Canadian mentioned co-operated conscientiously from the beginning with our security authorities. Far from being motivated by "illicit gain and greed", this conscientious and patriotic Canadian reported to our security authorities the very first approach made to him; and this information is not usually made public. He thereafter worked under the direction of our security authorities in his further dealings with the Soviet official. This action is certainly to be praised, not censured, for it provided our security authorities with invaluable information about Soviet methods of intelligence operations in Canada and the targets against which they directed their intelligence efforts. Certainly there can be no question of prosecution for wrongdoing in this case; quite the contrary.
In the other case mentioned in the communique the circumstances unfortunately were different. The person involved in this case is a civil servant in a very junior position in a non-sensitive department. His place of work is not in Ottawa. The person is at present on sick leave and is in fact gravely ill. The assistance which he gave the Soviet authorities was not related to his work as a civil servant-and he was a junior civil servant. Our security authorities knew of his activities, but for good security reasons did not confront him with them until last week, when the man in question began to give the police some useful information.
Once the decision was made to take action against the foreign officials and to make that action public, consideration was initiated to determine whether charges should be laid in this case. Until that determination is made it is not possible to give further information on this aspect of that case.
Let me emphasize that in both cases our security authorities received assistance, as the press release indicated, from a number of other conscientious and patriotic Canadians.
Questions were asked about the amounts and disposition of the money involved. The money, Mr. Speaker, was paid out to the two Canadians mentioned in the release in rela-
May 11, 1965
Acts of Espionage
tively small amounts but over a considerable period of time. These sums of money were apparently intended to enable the persons concerned to cover the costs of acquiring the information sought by the Soviet Embassy officials. Thus, in the case of the Canadian who co-operated with the police from the beginning, the money he received from time to time was largely spent, with the knowledge of the police, on travel, accommodation, automobile maintenance and related expenditures associated with the tasks assigned to him, and an accounting was made to the police of these expenditures. In the case of the other Canadian the evidence points to a similar use of the sums received, and it is hoped that as the investigation of his case continues more exact information will become available as to amounts involved and the disposition of such sums as well as other information.
There was some implication in what was said in the House yesterday that the issuance of a press release by the Department of External Affairs on this case was unusual. Certainly the amount of information given in this release was unusual and is not customary, as I have said. It is true that a press release of any kind is not always issued. In some cases, indeed, no information of any kind is given.
In 1959 an attache of the Soviet Embassy procured information from a Canadian citizen which led to his recall. No action was taken and no publicity was given to the case. In October, 1960 a secretary of the Czechoslovakian Embassy was declared persona non grata after being found to have been in contact with a Canadian citizen for intelligence purposes. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police at that time recommended publicity as a deterrent measure. The Government directed that no publicity should be given. In December, 1961 an attache at the Soviet Embassy attempted to obtain classified information from a Canadian Government official over a period of 18 months. His recall was demanded and a press release was authorized in this case.
It will be clear then that procedure in these matters, both in regard to action taken and publicity given, varies with the circumstances, and I believe that in security matters this must be the case.
The Secretary of State for External Affairs dealt with this matter in general terms in answer to a question of June 13, 1963 in his tabled reply which appears at page 1333 of Hansard for June 19, 1963. He dealt with those cases which had been made public but indicated that there had been other cases to
which no publicity had been given. His reply went on:
In these matters it is not always in the public interest to provide information, and I am conscious that my predecessor faced these same difficulties when he decided on April 28, 1961, in response to a similar question-
-in the House of Commons-
-to decline to provide details about such cases.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that I have gone as far as I can to give the House all of the information it is in the public interest to reveal at this stage. I believe, Mr. Speaker, I have gone into somewhat more detail than has been the case in similar incidents over the past 10 or 15 years. I feel, however, the importance of this case and the deterrent value of the information in question justifies this action.
Subtopic: STATEMENT ON INVOLVEMENT OF CANADIANS IN RUSSIAN ESPIONAGE ACTS