Canadian News

CSIS destroyed secret file on Pierre Elliott Trudeau instead of sending it to the national archives

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service destroyed a secret file on Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1989 instead of turning it over to the national archives. This was only recently discovered, three decades after the act.

Siddak Ahuja Montreal, QC
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The Canadian Security Intelligence Service had destroyed a secret file on Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1989 instead of turning it over to the national archives. This was only recently discovered, three decades after the act.

According to the National Post, CSIS says the secret file on the former prime minister was scrapped because it fell short of the legal threshold for retention by either the service or the archive.

This news has disappointed historians across the nation, especially after learning of it thirty years later.

“It’s just outrageous, there’s no other word to describe it,” said John English, who wrote an acclaimed biography of Trudeau. “It’s a tragedy that this has happened, and I think the explanation is weak.”

Steve Hewitt, who has spent years chronicling CSIS, called the act “a crime against Canadian history.”

“This wanton destruction cries out for parliamentary intervention to ensure that historically significant documents held by government agencies are preserved instead of being made to disappear down an Orwellian memory hole,” said Hewitt.

In 1988, the CSIS was directed to sort through its heap of files to “uncover subversives out to disrupt the established order.”

Some RCMP records, such as files on Quebec Premier Rene Levesque and NDP leader Tommy Douglas, were sent to the national archives. Others, including those of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson were destroyed.

Security records on individuals become eligible for disclosure under the Access to Information Act only 20 years after a person’s death. Until then, even the existence of a file is secret due to privacy and national security considerations.

Rumours of a file on P.E.Trudeau, Canada’s third-longest serving prime minister, have existed for years. This recent finding confirms those suspicions.

The US’s FBI, which has worked closely with the RCMP, kept an eye on Trudeau for more than 30 years. When P.E. Trudeau died in 2000, his American dossier was released in America under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

Since it takes months to process a similar application in Canada, the Canadian Press recently requested the former prime minister’s RCMP file from Library and Archives Canada and CSIS prior to the 20th anniversary of his death next year. The archives replied that it does not have a Trudeau dossier, as CSIS said the file was destroyed on Jan. 30, 1989.

CSIS declined to elaborate on the rationale for purging the Trudeau file.

What do you think about CSIS’ destruction of the files? What do you think was hidden in those files? Let us know in the comments below!

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