While Canada Slept

In the 1970s, the RCMP Security Service kept tabs on feminist groups, including one Rita MacNeil of Big Pond, Nova Scotia (hat tip to The Broom).

rita_macneilImage courtesy CTV.ca

An undercover source reporting on a March 1972 gathering of women’s liberation groups in Winnipeg compiled biographical sketches of several delegates, noting MacNeil was in attendance from the Toronto Women’s Caucus.

“She’s the one who composes and sings women’s lib songs,” says the RCMP memo, portions of which remain secret.

— Canadian Press (via CTV), “RCMP spied on Rita MacNeil, feminists in 1970s”, August 4th, 2008.

This is so typical of the Security Service in the 60s and 70s.  For Heaven’s sake, they knew she wrote lousy, tooth-grinding music.  The Mounties could have acted swiftly and prevented dozens of horrific crimes against music, and yet they stood idly by and did nothing.  How very different this nation’s history might have been.  No CBC broadcast hours wasted on Rita and Friends

The other fun items in this report are the assertions of the historians.  To wit:

“They were more interested in the political angles and whether these were leftists that were involved in these groups,” said Hewitt, a Canadian lecturer at the University of Birmingham in England. “And meanwhile there’s this really dramatic social change going on almost right under the noses of the police.”

The memo on the Winnipeg conference describes one session as “consisting of about one hundred sweating uncombed women standing around in the middle of the floor with their arms around each other crying sisterhood and dancing.”

…Hewitt and Sethna conclude the Security Service did not consider a rag-tag band of feminists of sufficient importance to warrant beefing up police ranks. The RCMP simply didn’t take the women they were spying on as seriously as male targets.

“The Mounties couldn’t break free of the sort of sexist stereotypes they had of them,” said Hewitt, author of Spying 101, about RCMP surveillance of Canadian university campuses over the decades.

If I’m reading this correctly, it seems that Hewitt and Sethna are at pains to chastise the RCMP for writing off feminists as mostly harmless; a clear non-threat to national security.  Obviously the proper response to a group of sweaty, poorly groomed women crying sisterhood and dancing must be to instigate a massive COINTELPRO op, even if they don’t pose an existential threat.

News flash, Hewitt and Sethna. Equal pay, sex ed in schools and abortion are not the kinds of things that spur the average Westminster-style democracy into a panicky SMERSH campaign.  No, these things are rather more alarming to certain death cults with a heavy focus on antisemitism and banging raisins in the afterlife.  Just sayin’.

Here are some other things the Dominion’s security intelligence apparatus failed to appreciate before they exploded into the public consciousness:

  • Rubik’s cubes
  • Personal computers
  • Leg warmers
  • Grunge music
  • Bratz dolls

I guess that’s because the Security Service was not the Faculty of Anthropology; they were not particularly interested in massive, peaceful societal change.  The cops tend to be a little more tightly focused on changes that are inherently destabilising and threatening to certain freedoms and principles.  Unless one is a clerical fascist using petrodollars to prop up one’s failing misogynist regime, I’m not sure that feminisim ranks as a threat in any measurable way.

The fact that the Mounties didn’t see a lot of merit in getting worked up over feminist goals and planning is, in the main, a good thing.

Category: Miscellania  Tags: ,
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