Newly obtained records show the FBI kept secret files about Pierre Trudeau for three decades, from his early days as an intellectual rabble-rouser in the 1950s through his tenure as prime minister.
The files, released to the Citizen, reveal the Federal Bureau of Investigation maintained an active interest in Mr. Trudeau, even passing clandestinely gathered information about his 1973 trip to China to Nixon administration officials.
The records touch on Mr. Trudeau's years as an activist, key events and issues of his early political career, threats made against his life, security arrangements for visits to the U.S. and even the 1974 loss of then-wife Margaret's pocketbook.
Mr. Trudeau died last September at age 80 following a bout with prostate cancer.
The FBI files, totalling 161 pages, were released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, which permits disclosure of records about deceased persons.
Numerous pages were withheld in their entirety or in part under provisions of the Act that exempt material related to national defence or foreign policy, the identity of confidential sources or the privacy of individuals other than Mr. Trudeau.
As a result, it is difficult to determine the nature and significance of some of the information. Under the legendary J. Edgar Hoover, who served as FBI director for almost half a century until his death in 1972, the police force opened files on many people suspected of being Communist, homosexual or otherwise threatening to the established order.
Numbered codes indicate some of the material on Mr. Trudeau was gathered under the rubric of foreign political matters, foreign counterintelligence and domestic security.
The earliest record is a confidential January 1952 letter to Mr. Hoover from the FBI's Ottawa liaison office, the contents of which were withheld from release. A copy of the letter was sent to U.S. officials in Paris.
Though barely into his 30s, Mr. Trudeau had evidently caught the bureau's attention.
In the late 1940s, he had travelled widely, at one point being imprisoned briefly in the Middle East upon being mistaken for a spy. After returning to Canada, Mr. Trudeau actively supported striking asbestos miners in Quebec. He then went to work for the federal government in the Privy Council Office.
Mr. Trudeau was accused of Communist leanings by a Quebec priest for visiting and writing about the Soviet Union in 1952. The trip has been cited as the reason Mr. Trudeau was among thousands of Canadians barred from freely visiting the United States under a controversial American immigration law. (It is unclear, however, whether the 1952 letter to Mr. Hoover is related to these incidents).
During the 1950s and early 1960s, Mr. Trudeau established himself as a leading Quebec intellectual, teacher and writer. He was first elected to the House of Commons in 1965.
Several passages in FBI memos from 1960 and 1967 were blacked out.
In April 1968, just four days after Mr. Trudeau became Liberal leader, the FBI combed its files for references to him at the request of U.S. officials in Ottawa, turning up several letters and memos.
Later that year, the FBI's Chicago office forwarded to Washington a news clipping about Mr. Trudeau mulling the idea of establishing diplomatic relations with Communist China.
Among the records disclosed by the FBI are those dealing with inflammatory opinions voiced by Americans distressed at Mr.. Trudeau's apparently liberal attitude toward communism and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
The Canadian Castro, a 1968 article from the New Jersey-based Herald of Freedom newsletter, portrayed Mr. Trudeau as a "radical socialist" who posed a threat to the United States.
A 1970s telephone recording run by a fringe Florida group claimed he "adores Mao Tse-tung and wants to make Canada over into a Red Chinese-style communist slave state."
In preparation for Mr. Trudeau's March 1969 visit to Washington, State Department officials asked the FBI for information on suspected members of Cuban Power, a group that had carried out terrorist attacks against Canadian establishments in the U.S.
A 1972 memo originating in Mexico noted a news article about Mr. Trudeau's invitation to a "controversial" former Catholic monsignor to take part in a conference on revisions to Canadian legislation.
On three occasions in 1973, the FBI relayed information concerning Mr. Trudeau to officials in the administration of then-president Richard Nixon, including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The contents of one of these, an October 1973 memo, were largely withheld but it is clear that "a confidential source" -- apparently working for the Canadian government in Hong Kong -- furnished information concerning Mr. Trudeau's recent visit to China.
Other records sprinkled throughout the files deal with Canadian political affairs, including a 1969 Royal Commission on state security, RCMP interest in U.S. draft dodgers, a 1970 Commons vote on assertion of Canadian jurisdiction over Arctic waters and the results of the 1974 general election.
Other memos show Mr. Trudeau was the subject of at least four death threats in the early 1980s, originating in Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles and Savannah, Georgia, respectively.
Margaret Trudeau's pocketbook, apparently lost during a U.S. visit, showed up in Rhode Island in the summer of 1974. It was turned over to the FBI, which duly filed a report.
Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.