Food for Thought: PROFUNC, Deviance, and Accountability in High Policing

Posted: April 4, 2013 by Mike Larsen in Food for Thought
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In this unit, we are studying deviance and accountability in high policing. The unit focuses on two case studies – the actions of the RCMP during 1960s and 1970s (in particular, the ‘dirty tricks’ campaign) that led to the creation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and the actions of Canadian policing and security agencies in the post-September 11 context that contributed to the kidnapping and torture of Maher Arar and other Canadians.

For this week’s ‘food for thought’ question, I would like to introduce another case study – the PROFUNC campaign associated with high policing during the Cold War. CBC prepared a report on the PROFUNC campaign and produced a documentary for the Fifth Estate program. Here is a synopsis:

It seems hard to imagine today that a Canadian government would approve a plan to round up thousands of law-abiding Canadians and lock them away simply because they were perceived to be a threat to Canadian democracy.

Conceived in the early days of the Cold War, the top-secret plan called “Profunc” was to be enacted if Canadian national security was threatened. The fear was stoked by the outbreak of the Korean War, which looked as if it might become the precursor to WW3.

In Canada, the head of the RCMP drew up a plan to lock up “Prominent Functionaries,” including known communists and other people deemed to be subversives. The plan is breathtaking in its scale and detail. It listed those who were to be arrested, where they would be interned and how they were to be treated. Families of targeted people were not spared: many wives and children were to be locked away as well.

Incredibly, The Profunc blueprint remained in place until the 1980s. Only today are some people learning for the first time that they and their families were deemed Enemies of the State. The names of those people will astonish most Canadians.

“Enemies of the State’ also explores the targeting of possible ‘subversives’ today and asks what kinds of lists might exist that the Canadian public doesn’t know about.

Food for thought:

1. Watch the CBC Fifth Estate ‘Enemies of the State’ program.

2. Write a post that situates PROFUNC in relation to our exploration of police deviance and accountability.

Specifically, your post should address whether and to what extent the PROFUNC program represents an example of police deviance, and if so, how we can understand this form of deviance (you could draw on Punch 2009 or other resources). The question is more challenging than it may first appear, because the PROFUNC program was initiated and authorized by the federal government.

This post is due by the end of the day on April 10

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