PROFUNC: The link between the federal government and police deviance

Posted: April 11, 2013 by paul552 in Uncategorized
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In terms of high policing, CSIS (The Canadian Security intelligence service) can be considered as the primary national intelligence agency of Canada. The organisation was formed in 1984 and its official mandate was to protect national security from domestic and exterior threats, which during that period was the “communist threat” of the Cold War. Prior to the formation of CSIS, the RCMP Security Service was the sole agency in charge of national security and it was disbanded in the 1980’s, following the revelation of illegal tactics such as the “dirty tricks” campaign and other major scandals surrounding it, made public by the McDonald commission. The RCMP security service was involved in targeting unions from 1973 to 1983, with special emphasis on rooting out “Communists” which later became a scandal, though CSIS was not immune from scrutiny as it had its own fair share of controversies. In 1987, MP Svend Robinson, a New Democratic Party candidate, alleged that CSIS was involved in violating the civil liberties of the public as they had targeted and infiltrated the Communist party of Canada and the Communist party of Quebec for surveillance.

The PROFUNC (Prominent Functionaries of the Communist Party) plan was devised in Canada by the RCMP Commissioner Stewart Taylor during the early years of the Cold War and it was approved by Stewart Garson, the Federal minister of Justice in the 1950’s. Though this secret contingency plan was never initiated by the government it remained in place as Canada’s national security strategy for 33 years. Deviant tactics such as “profiling” was adopted by the RCMP to target individuals they deemed to be a threat to “national security”, which included prominent Canadian public figures, and their names were kept in sealed envelopes in RCMP archives which were regularly reviewed and updated for decades. The plan targeted 16,000 people for possible internment which would include harsh treatment, military discipline and the prospect of getting shot if they resisted arrest, and 50,000 people for active surveillance. The Federal Solicitor General, Robert Kaplan unknowingly terminated the programme in 1983, when he received complains from elderly Canadian’s with communist affiliations who were having trouble crossing the border, as he was unaware at the time that he put an end to one of the most controversial national security programs in Canadian history.

Critical theories that have their roots in radical political movements such as Marxism and anarchism can be used to analyse this event. According to critical theories, the RCMP officers involved in the PROFUNC plan would not be considered as deviant (i.e., departing from a norm) but can rather be considered as police officers following the norms and performing the duties that they were originally created to do. In modern capitalist economies, the “elite” Capitalist class consisting of governments and multinational corporations, have always viewed the “communists”, as a dangerous class who needed to be made subservient to capital. Modern day police which had its origins in Europe, were given the task of “ensuring the peace and quiet of the public and private individuals (capital class), purging the city of what may cause disturbances ( reformers such as the “communist class” in this case), procuring abundance (private profit) and having each and everyone live according to their stations and duties”(Shantz, 2012). In this case the “elites” such as the Federal government of Canada saw the rise of communism in the 1950’s as a threat to the Canadian capitalist economy and the RCMP were merely planning on carrying out and enforcing their original tasks, for the capitalist elites in the highest echelons of government. These tasks would include ensuring class inequality by rooting out Canadian citizens who were the “communists” in Canada, arbitrarily detaining them for indefinite periods thereby purging them from society, hence preserving the private interests of the Capitalist class. In order to justify their actions and gather public support, the illegal detainment of such individuals by the RCMP would occur under the pretext of vague terms such as “National security reasons” and the “threat of communists”.

The three-level typology of police deviance/corruption coined by Maurice Punch can be used to explain the notion of deviance occurring in this case. “State domination” that comes under the broader context of  the “Externally driven” typology, explains the fact that the police are linked to the state and their illicit aims, and they act on behalf of the state against terrorists, political opponents, left-wing movements etc., by forming clandestine units, death squads and advancing violence against such opponents of the state. As the PROFUNC program was initiated and authorized by the federal government and the RCMP had complied with this plan by conducting surveillance and creating plans for arbitrary imprisonment of Canadian citizens, it clearly indicates that police deviance occurred as a result of advancing the illicit aims of the Canadian federal government. During this period the ideology of communism was considered as a threat to the capitalist way of life in Canada, and the Federal government would have to neutralize the threat if it evolved and challenged their private capital interests. A clandestine RCMP unit authorised by the Federal government was involved in this task and the fact that they had plans to engage in deviant practices such as suspend civil liberties of the public, clearly portrays the illicit nexus that existed between the police and the state. On an individual level, the deviance among such officers can be explained using Punch’s “ideology combatants” typology of police officers. Such officers are engaged in a conflict with an “ideological component” and they resort to utilizing devious means in a war they perceive to have righteous ends against an enemy that threatens their way of life and norms in society. A politically and ideologically driven cause replaces the normal crime fighting cause. The RCMP officers that were involved in the PROFUNC program would see the “communist threat” as an ideology that threatened the norms and way of life in Canada and in order to achieve the “righteous end” of preserving the capitalistic economy in Canada, “devious means” such as illegal surveillance, mass arbitrary detention and the use of force would have to be used.

In Conclusion, though the prospect of implementing the PROFUNC program or a similar program that violates the “Charter of Rights and Freedoms” at a massive level would be considered as a nightmare by the Canadian public today, legislations such as the “security certificate” which allows the state to target non-citizens in Canada that are alleged to be “terrorists” through arbitrary detention, deportation to be tortured etc., still exists that pose a risk to the civil liberties of the Canadian public.

References

David Vienneau, T. S. (1988, Mar 30). No spying on labor report says. Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.kwantlen.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/435726579?accountid=35875

MP assails CSIS for infiltrating communists. (1987, Oct 1). The Gazette.Retrieved from http://ezproxy.kwantlen.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/431550145?accountid=35875

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. New York, New York: Routledge.

Shantz, J. (2012). Crime, Punishment, Power: Sociological explanations. Iowa, Iowa: Kendall Hunt.

The Fifth Estate. (2010, October 15). Enemies of the State. CBCnews. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/2010-2011/enemiesofthestate/

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    This is an outstanding post. I appreciate the inclusion of a more robust sociological analysis. Excellent contribution.

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