Posts Tagged ‘high policing’

RCMP ≠ PRO-FUNC

Posted: April 11, 2013 by tysonnesdoly in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.”
― Karl Marx (Karl Marx Quotes)

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            North America is referred to as a “developed” nation compared to nations such as South Africa, Afghanistan and Russia (UN, 2011). However, I feel like this is something that we as Canadians have, directly or indirectly, taken advantage of. I believe we have an attitude that we are invulnerable to any type of large scale political repression. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened for close to 30 years after the 50’s. During this time, the RCMP and the Canadian government put together a list labeled “PROFUNC,” which stood for, “Predominant Functionaries of the Communist party.” This list was to be used to detain all suspected communists supporters and ‘sympathizers,’ including their families, and hold them in any case of a ‘perceived’ national emergency. This list included approximately 16,000 supporters and 50,000 sympathizers***. The RCMP had conducted surveillance of these individuals and is alleged to have even been involved in forms of intimidation to the individuals and their families. To learn more on this subject click here.

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            This behaviour by the authorities is very obviously deviant as the allegations that justified the disregard for these people’s rights were solely based off of their ‘legal’ opposition to the current government. It is, however, difficult to focus on an individual form of police deviance to really understand it. A form of deviance that best describes this case is the “Ideological combatants” (Punch, 2009). The premise behind this form is that the political influence behind the police is the main driving force behind police actions. The fact that this initiative was authorized by the federal government supports the theory that it was an effort to take extreme measures to prevent a real democratic revolution. The responsibility of the deviance falls on not only the frontline officers, but of the organization and government structure as a whole. Obviously, the orders filter down from the top and end up at the constables who carried out the “beat work.” Just because the officers were ordered to conduct themselves in this way, doesn’t mean it was legally or morally justified. Take the “Nuremberg defense” used by Nazi soldiers after the holocaust, for example. Just because they were “taking orders,” doesn’t necessarily mean they are free from any type of responsibility (Eichmann). Police officers are held at a high standard of ethics regarding the discretion used and when it comes to violating the rights of individuals, politics has no place.

            The treatment of Capitalist opposition at the hands of the RCMP from the 1950’s to the 1980’s was a dark time in Canadian policing history. To understand this form of deviance, one must not follow blindly with the ideologies of the ruling class. The individuals affected by the PROFUNC initiative have the absolute right to freedom of speech and the right to think independently. We as Canadians must ensure that we do not take for granted the democratic rights available to us and must make sure to keep all levels of law enforcement and government accountable; as they are ultimately at the mercy of the public, not the other way around.

Bibliography

Eichmann, A. (n.d.). The Trial of Adolf Eichmann. Retrieved 2013, from Remember.org: http://www.remember.org/eichmann/ownwords.htm

Karl Marx Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved 2013, from Good Reads: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/54019-the-oppressed-are-allowed-once-every-few-years-to-decide

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing. London; New York: Routledge.

UN. (2011). Human Development Report. New York: UNDP.

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Prominent Functionaries, also known as, PROFUNC was a national security initiative that lasted over 30 years (1950 -1983). The plan was to spy on and intern suspected communists along with their sympathizers. The RCMP would go as far as going undercover and pretending to be friends with some of the suspected communists to gain intelligence. The state essentially perceived some Canadians as a national threat just for being associated with someone having certain political beliefs which is actually completely legal. The RCMP targeted anybody with party membership, family connections or associations that suggested sympathy with communist Canadians.  Jimmy Laxer, son of Robert Laxer was drawn up in this documentary as an example of a child who suffered due to his parents beliefs. Jimmy Laxer reported that he felt like he was being watched as a child because of his family. One can only imagine the effects this anxiety could have on a child. The fact that this was going on with approval from the Canadian government and without anybody knowing about it really made me think about the kinds of things that could be going on today. How could something of this nature be approved by our government? I find it interesting that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into law one year before PROFUNC ended.

The police deviance in PROFUNC can be understood with the help of Maurice Punch. PROFUNC would be a typology of deviance referred to as “system failure with a societal impact” (Punch, 2009). The Government of Canada approved this program, therefore making it an issue of the state. The implications of this decision causes Canadians today to think twice about just how much trust they put into our police officers and government. PROFUNC is representative an example of police deviance as it captures how the state can allow and approve corrupt practices such as spying and interning on a societal scale. PROFUNC, an externally driven form of corruption conveys state domination as the police that are linked to state or local politicians following orders and carrying out the state or local politician’s illicit aims (Punch, 2009). In this case, spying on anybody associated with left wing communist Canadians. The RCMP must act on the states illicit aims, more specifically communism. This helps us understand how PROFUNC would be a system failure. It’s important to note that Intelligence does not necessarily have to be 100 percent true. An assumption can be considered intelligence; however the RCMP does have to act with complete discretion and is not supposed to act on assumptions. The case of Maher Arar illustrates how minor assumptions can have serious consequences. Maher Arar was caught speaking to a terrorist of Muslim decent and was arrested and sent to Syria, where he was tortured for one year.

This biggest thing to understand about PROFUNC is that the federal government approved it. This factor greatly magnifies the significance of this program. When thinking about people like Jimmy Laxer who suffered anxiety as a child due to his parents believe I can’t help but feel empathetic. Canada prides itself as a nation of freedom and equality, are the beliefs of communist Canadians really more important than upholding the standards Canada claims to have?

References

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

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption. New York: Routledge 2011.

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