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Gouzenko felt cheated « Douglas Fisher

Fisher

 

Gouzenko felt cheated

Twice during the winter of 1965-66, Igor Gouzenko and his wife, Svetlana, visited my home.

They came almost out of the blue. The first time there was a preliminary phone call: Would I be at home in the next hour? If so, they’d be around. Mrs. Gouzenko also wanted to know the age of our children. (We had five.)

The latter query baffled me until the two arrived at the door. Both were heavy-set, voluble, well-spoken and gusty. They were laden with parcels: A teddy bear for the youngest, a sweater, board games.

They wanted to meet all the kids and literally overwhelmed them with attention. It was like a sudden drop from the sky of two jovial Santa Clauses. My wife and I were dazed by the suddenness, their warmth, and of course, the wonder. Why?

The reason became clear when we got the children out of the way. I had written several columns in the Telegram critical of the RCMP security service. The Gouzenkos agreed with much of the criticism.

First, they wished to give me their insights into the service, hinged on what they described as their own ill-treatment by the force and by the government. Second, they wanted me to know that the internal threat from the USSR was as serious as ever.

It was hard to separate their grievances with the security service and with the government. They were blunt, with examples, about the long reach of Soviet revenge.
It was clear that Gouzenko was not in a position to take normal work, and they had a large family. Thus they were wards of the state and the state was cheap and ungrateful. Further, the security service had cooled into a frosty, wooden, prevaricating attitude to them. It was, said Mrs. Gouzenko, as though Igor and she were guilty for defecting.

The government issue was more turgid. They had been very disappointed that during the years of the Diefenbaker government, they had had no more recognition. No one had come round to hear their arguments that there had been a massive cover up within the senior Ottawa bureaucracy, organized as they saw it by Lester Pearson and Norman Robertson (clerk of the Privy Council during the spy uproar).

The Gouzenkos were convinced that several mandarins in the highest positions in the land were being protected by the ban against revealing all the documentation Igor had brought to the government and the subsequent proceedings of the Taschereau inquiry.

Despite their allegations, given with confident vehemence, I was unable with the resources I had to uncover anything except an acute touchiness about Gouzenko among senior officials.

Nor would the Mounties talk about it at all, although the clear impression from both groups was that the Gouzenkos were most difficult people, paranoid, rankling with discontent because of the misguided belief that they deserved more rewards.

In our subsequent encounter, the conversation ranged more widely. When I read in Igor’s obituaries the familiar, descriptive phrase “an obscure cipher clerk,” I remembered the genuine erudition of the man. He was both widely-read and intellectual. His wife struck me as shrewd, tougher than her husband, and a keener critic of Canadian affairs.

Our country has been in their debt for a long time.

***

The adolescent in Pierre Trudeau was evident again in his press conference after the First Ministers’ gathering last Wednesday.

Only two months ago, he told us with rugged certainty that “cooperative federalism” was dead. The image was of a firm federal government going it alone. To hell with provincial fed-bashing. He and his ministry were through with essays in cooperation.

Wednesday he was resurrecting co-operative federalism. He didn’t know what reporters had heard from any premier. It had been “a productive meeting.’ A consensus on “very difficult times” had emerged.

Well, they aren’t much harder times than two months ago, but in the interim the unconstructive waste of his remarks on federalism have deepened the general mistrust by the provinces.

Source: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN

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