Anyone with more than a passing knowledge of American history can recall the existence of a gentleman named Joseph McCarthy. His 1947 House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). They looked for communists under every leaf and bed in America. This was the post war period and everyone was suspicious of commies. Quebec outdid the Americans. They passed the Act Respecting Communistic Propaganda. This became Chapter 11 of the Statutes of Quebec, 1937. The Act had two main thrusts. The first was to limit the places that communists could congregate. The second to outlaw communist propaganda.
Section 3: It shall be illegal for any person who possesses or occupies a house within the Province, to use it or allow any person to make use of it to propagate Communism or Bolshevism by any means whatsoever.
Section 12: It shall be unlawful to print, to publish, in any manner whatsoever, or to distribute in the Province any newspaper, periodical, pamphlet, circular, document or writing whatsoever propagating or lending to propagate communism or bolshevism.
The provision limiting assembly and literature raised the spectre of the police. They padlocked University doors because the library had a copy of Marx’s. Thus arose the common name for the Act as the “Padlock Law”.
The Padlock Law was not only limited to communists though. Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis ruled Quebec at the time. He had very set ideas about what was good and what was bad for Quebec. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unions, and Communists, he believed, were bad. The Padlock Law was used by police to confiscate literature from the Montreal Jewish Cultural Center. Protestant missionary groups and non-French ethnic clubs were also targeted. The Law gave the premier a free hand to suspend civil liberties in Quebec and intimidate any group that had a left-wing, or at least anti-Duplessis, agenda.
The law lasted until 1957. John Switzman took a case to the Supreme Court of Canada. Switzman was a devotee of Marx who rented a property at 53 Park Avenue in Montreal. His landlady, Freda Elbling, concerned that the province could impound her property took Switzman to court to nullify his lease. Recognizing that Elbling was more scared of the province than of Switzman or Marx, Switzman argued his case based on the draconian provisions of the Padlock Law. He lost twice in Quebec Courts. Not one to shrink away, Switzman then appealed to the Supreme Court. On March 8, 8 of the 9 judges agreed with Switzman. Finding that the Quebec law went beyond the province’s jurisdiction in limiting his freedom of expression.
The majority opinion was lead by Justice Rand who concluded:
“The object of the legislation here, as expressed by the title, is admittedly to prevent the propagation of communism and bolshevism, but it could just as properly have been the suppression of any other political, economic or social doctrine or theory.”
Thus ended the Padlock Law.
Supplement to this story: Based on the findings against the Padlock Law by the Supreme Court, the Civil Liberties folks in Canada are now trying to use the precedent to stop authorities from boarding up biker dens in Quebec and from seizing contraband (drugs, guns and money). The Civil Liberties Association claims that there is a parallel between the Cold War and the Drug War.
I have read with interest the topic and Mr. Joyce’s comments. There seems to be some items that are missing in the topic. The padlock law was used against Baptists, the Brethren, the United Church and other Protestant denominations, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jews. My mother lived in Noranda, Quebec and told me that 5 Baptist pastors were jailed every summer. The mayor of Noranda had to order the police to release to local Baptist pastor from jail, so her best friend could get married.
The Baptist mission, The Grande Ligne Mission, was stopped by the police from distributing Bibles. This mission agency operated near Montreal. Eugene Forsey, former civil liberties advocate, and former Senator documented this n 1937
No KGB subterfuge here.
David Lewis, former leader of the NDP, and father of Stephen Lewis was a trade union organizer in Quebec at this time. Duplessis went after him. By the way, Lewis was Jewish. He had no connection with the KGB. He was trying organize a union independent of the Catholic unions under the control of the Catholic Church, which forced their union members to accept lower wages according to Cardinal Villeneuve, and Archbishop Gauthier. This is documented in a book entitled ” Maurice Duplessis.”
It was the Jehovah’s Witnesses that took the Province of Quebec, under the premiership of the late Maurice Duplessis, to the Supreme Court of Canada. Witnesses across Canada raised money so Jehovah’s Witnesses in Quebec could take the Province of Quebec to court. Thomas R .Berger in his book, ” Fragile Freedoms: Human Rights and Dissent in Canada.” documents this. It was published in 1981, and revised and updated in 1982.
So where does John Swizman and his housekeeper fit in?
Yes, the Communists and the KGB were fomenting communistic activity, but in Quebec under the leadership of the late Premier Maurice Duplessis made short shrift of that. Nothing was overlooked by the late Maurice Duplessis. He had his personal secret police ferreting out information on EVERYONE!
This again is documented in the book, ” Maurice Duplessis”, published in bothe English and French.
I don’t think modern liberals and the NDP were stooges of the KGB from 1937 to 1956. Duplessis used his personal secret police aginst anyone he considered an enemy of his.
None of this is as simple as most so-called academics make this out. I don’t suppose the Jews in Montreal would bat a damn eye at the “banning” and “confiscation” of Mein Kampf. Scholars, who are mostly LEFT anyway, also REFUSE to acknowledge the FACTS coming out of GLOBAL investigations into those who made up the CPUSA, CPGB and CPC as well as others. These were organizations set up by the TOTALITARIAN USSR within the sovereign territories of other peoples nations to OVERTHROW those nations. This is printed in their own published dogma. We now know that the extent of Soviet subversion and espionage in the West was FAR FAR greater than anything admitted by LEFT scholars. As for Jews and Montreal. They had one of the biggest fraudulent identity and travel document rings in the world running out of New York and Montreal’s Jewish community. I am not trying to paint all Jewish people with one brush as there were some who were vocally anti-Communist. However the facts are the facts and one of those facts is that there are several files at the LAC in Ottawa still CLOSED on this fraudulent document ring which I have discovered also involves many prominent Liberals in Quebec. There was no RED SCARE. The Reds were indeed running things in the West by the 1950’s. Today we call them Modern Liberals and Cultural Marxists. Therefore the Popular Front and KGB Active Measures were a BIG success. Today everyone is a Liar and that is the origin of all that. Marxism bled its way into ALL Western life from Government to Society in General. We fought a WWII for freedom only to hand 1/8th of the world over to dictatorial and totalitarian Communism which murdered 120 Million people and enslaved well over a Billion. Makes the Holocaust look like a Sunday picnic. Well this is if you don’t count the 7 million non-Jews also murdered that we all conveniently forget about.
thanks Bruce this was so helpful!!