OTTAWA, Aug. 1 (Xinhuanet) - Canada's military grilled hundreds of immigrants and refugees who settled in the country at the height of the Cold War for valuable information, says a new study by a historian from the University of Toronto.
The Joint Intelligence Bureau, a section of the Defense Department which handled secret information on economic and military matters, set up an interrogation unit in 1953 to debrief newcomers from Hungary, Poland and other countries, the Canadian Press (CP) reported Monday, citing a report by history professor Wesley Wark.
From 1953 to 1963, a total of 2,000 immigrants, most of whom came from East European countries, provided intelligence under the program. It was the closest Canada came during the era to developing a covert intelligence-gathering organization based on the human sources, Wark writes.
The program was seen as a means of helping Canada earn its place with allies at the western intelligence table, the study quotes 83-year-old Reg Weeks, a retired veteran of Canadian military intelligence, as saying.
"In those days we were very highly dependent on the Americans and the Brits," Weeks said.
In early 1952, Weeks led a pilot project that involved questioning of 76 people. The project also included reports from two Poles who provided information on airfields and repair depots near Warsaw and on some types of Polish aircraft "previously unknown to the Canadian military," the study says.
Immigration officers at selected outposts in Europe and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officials overseas who vetted applications for emigration to Canada brought candidates to the interview section's attention, the study says.
Military attaches in Europe were also informed of the program and requested to keep their eyes and ears open for potential sources in the immigration stream.
In 1962, bureau officials began debriefing officers posted to the United Nations mission in Kashmir and, later, those attached to the UN observer mission in Vietnam, the study adds.
The interview program also handled intelligence from other sources, including Canadian travelers and foreign defectors. Information was included in a Joint Intelligence Bureau series called Items of Current Intelligence and in individual reports that summarized material from selected interviews, the study says.
The study, obtained by the Canadian Press under related laws, were prepared for the federal government, the wire service said. Enditem